Teaching Young People to Have a Voice
The Newark Trust for Education honored six Newark public high school students with the first annual "Trust Your Voice" awards for providing critical feedback to the district as part of an effort to improve the city's comprehensive high schools.
The students participated in a series of meetings during the last six months at the Trust's Broad Street offices under the auspices of the High School Policy Advisory Group.
The meetings were convened by the trust and facilitated by Mark Comesanas, Supervisor of Curriculum & Instruction, Office of College and Career Readiness at Newark Public Schools and Derrell Price, program director at YouthBuild Newark.
The students discussed how they would "re-imagine" high school and ranged from scheduling, course offerings to school climate and safety. The students offered feedback to school leaders across NPS comprehensive high schools.
"As principals, vice principals and guidance councilors participate in a process to redesign their schools, we hope the students' recommendations will be included in future plans as well," said Trust President and CEO Ross Danis.
The students, Kevin Morrison, of Fast Track Success Academy; Ruth Rodriguez, a junior at New Jersey City University; Yaritza Duperoy, an eighth grader at Luis Muñoz Marin Elementary School; Anthony Green, of YouthBuild Newark; Tyree Thomas, a student at Essex County Community College; and Briana Winbush, a senior at Newark Leadership Academy, received their awards January 31 at the Trust's second anniversary celebration.
Trust board member Junius W. Williams said students are rarely part of the equation when it comes to molding their education.
"Young people aren't given that opportunity. They're taken for granted to be the recipient of education as opposed to being part of the educational process," he said.
"We teach young people to have a voice that can—and should—be amplified."
Williams is the director of the Abbott Leadership Institute at Rutgers-Newark, whose Youth Media Symposium sets out to cultivate youth leadership, educational advocacy and media skills. The Symposium also encourages students to examine issues they believe are creating low achievement and high dropout rates, as well as to develop ideas that address them.
Green, flanked by family members, credited Trust Your Voice for allowing him, his peers, and future students to have a voice the Newark education community.
"The way I see it, it's important for the adults to guide us, but the most important voice is the student's voice, because the student goes through the schools every day," Green said.