Center for Urban Education

Strategy 7. Engage Students in Social Action to Address Problems

Student voice is an important component of any school climate improvement work. When students are partners in naming problems and generating and helping to implement solutions, they feel more ownership over the school community, become more engaged, and develop stronger relationships with peers and adults at school. Further, students are experts on the school environment in ways adults often are not. Having students involved can help teachers, administrators, and student support staff understand issues in new ways. There are also clear benefits to getting students involved in solving problems beyond the walls of the school. Tackling social issues through service-learning, community service, organizing, and other means of action confers positive academic and psychological outcomes for young people. 

Student voice is particularly important during this time. Empowering students to help navigate problems both within and without the school can help schools identify creative strategies for addressing the pandemic and racial injustice. Additionally, many students may feel disconnected and disengaged in the present circumstances, and participating in collective action may help ameliorate that alienation. Specific practices that schools might consider include:

  • Forming a student advisory council or inviting student members to participate in adult teams tasked with crafting re-opening and racial justice plans and otherwise addressing the challenges of the day.
  • Implementing student voice strategies like youth participatory action research (YPAR) in schools, including in the regular curriculum.
  • Connecting and networking with outside organizations that specialize in student voice work to help facilitate opportunities for students.

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