The following are a variety of stories where student-led advocacy for schools yielded visible results. Meaningful Student Involvement is always successful, because it infuses the process with learning and growth that might not be visible. Sometimes, though, it is reassuring to see outcomes. In the following stories, students struggled through countless battles and made it through, counting numerous wins and losses, and changing schools for themselves, their peers, and their communities.

Youth Fighting for History

A student-led organization called United Students, part of Youth Organizing Communities, won several concessions at a high school in Los Angeles, California. They include successfully changing policy to enforce the implementation of five Ethnic Studies classes, the addition of three more guidance counselors, and the elimination of a policy that required students to go to detention for being late during their class time.

Campus Youth Center

Youth Together organized to create a Youth Center on a high school campus in Oakland, California. The young people are currently involved in the hiring process for Youth Center staff. They are also meeting with Oakland school board members to gain long-term financial support for the Youth Center. They are now organizing for the development of a Health Clinic as part of the Youth Center.

National Day of Action for Racial Justice in Schools

Californians for Justice Education Fund student members demanded that the district superintendent give all students their transcripts and a report on their progress toward meeting graduation and state graduation requirements. The superintendent agreed to the students’ demands and the first reports went out this year. Students in CJEF also conducted research to identify racial inequality in their schools—in areas of college access, student discipline and the quality of resources and conditions of their learning environments. In the past, they also held a press conference to release a CFJ report called “Still Separate, Still Unequal.”

Taking Citywide Action

Kids First Youth Organizers united with students from Youth Together and other youth groups to make presentations, develop messages, coordinate actions and collect over 3,500 postcards to win free and affordable transportation for low-income students in the AC Transit service area. They also organized a student-led educational forum and citywide protest of high-stakes testing in the Oakland Unified School District. Over one hundred students, parents/guardians, teachers and elected officials came together demanding equitable funding based on need rather than test scores.

South Central Students Against Billboards

Students successfully campaigned to reduce the number of alcohol and tobacco billboards near there school. The billboard company paid to replace 120 billboard ads with anti-tobacco ads that the youth created. High school students of the South Central Youth Empowered Thru Action (SC-YEA) group pressured the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to re-open repair and construction contracts granted by a $2.4 billion school bond.

National Youth Activist Gathering

Youth Action hosts an annual National Gathering for Youth Organizing in different parts of the nation, with one focus being on schools. The event brings together over 200 young people to share strategies, learn skills and examine challenges youth organizers face.

After-school Program Power!

Students created the Indianola Math Games League, in Mississippi, which is an after-school program to improve students’ math skills; and getting the school board to build permanent science labs at the predominantly African American Merritt Middle School.

Philly Students in ACTION

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, over 2,000 students walked out of school and demonstrated at City Hall to demand increased school funding, convincing city council to give an extra $15 million to the schools. Students from one high school got approval from the principal and ran professional development workshops for all of the teachers in their school on how to make learning interactive. In addition, students won the teachers union’s support for a plan that would change the way professional development is done in their school.
On Martin Luther King Day, a group of 25 Philadelphia Student Union members organized an overnight hunger strike at the State Office Building to protest discriminatory school funding policies. This helped to get two bills introduced that provide a real opportunity for major school funding change.

College Prep = Graduation Success

Students at another high school in Philadelphia successfully brought college prep classes to all of their learning communities. Because of this, graduation rates have increased significantly.

Students Against Testing

1800 students and parents staged a demonstration at the capitol building in Albany, NY in an effort to ease the strict new high school graduation requirements around the Regents exams.

 

STAYING STRONG

All students and adult allies should stay strong while they move forward to support, build, sustain and improve student advocacy. SoundOut provides a variety of resources – learn more throughout our site!

 

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Published by Adam Fletcher

Adam is the founding director of SoundOut. An author, speaker and consultant, he has worked with K-12 schools, districts, nonprofits and others for more than 15 years. Learn more about him at http://soundout.org/Adam