These students want their voices to be heard

One Stone, a private school in Downtown Boise, is staging a national summit this week in support of youth leadership in education. The summit is called “Hands Down. Voices Up!” and is driven and led by students.

About 130 students and adults from across the country are convening at JUMP and the One Stone campus for the three-day event.

To document the event, One Stone students will blog regularly about their experiences. Blogs will be posted below. Check back regularly for updates.

By Basil Wright

“Let’s remember to put our hands down, and our voices up – stop waiting for our turn and start changing the world. Let’s get ready to experience the power of student voice. We are the change makers, hands down!”

As JD, one of the student leaders on the Hands Down. Voices Up! team, said those words, all of us knew we had started a movement, something much bigger than any of us. And with that, the final day of Hands Down. Voices Up! – a three-day summit about empowering student voice – was finished, and what a life changing experience those three days have been.

I came in to the summit not knowing what to expect. The first day there was a kickoff. We met that afternoon at One Stone and started with a few introduction activities. With a common interest in student voice, we quickly got to know each other and by the end of the night we were using our student voice for karaoke.

Excited and ready for the summit, the next day I arrived at JUMP in downtown Boise. This day of the summit was focused around using our voice for good. What surprised me about this was the surplus of experiences I got to hear about. Speakers talked about how their voice in high school propelled them to make an impact on the world, and the sessions looked at what it meant to do good and how you could use your student voice to achieve that good.

For the third and last day of the summit, we implemented what we had been talking about. We split off into groups and focused on nine topics we were passionate about, including: child neglect, gun control, education inequality, suicide prevention, racial inequality, false imprisonment, mental health, climate crisis and access to affordable hygiene products.

My group was working on the climate crisis. The insight and creative ideas I heard from my teammates was inspiring. We worked together to lay out a plan for pollution prevention. After we finished, all the groups shared. I got a chance to see what the other groups had worked on and it was powerful.

In just three short days, this group of students went from first meeting to using their voice to spread good in the world. This summit was much greater than the sum of its participants. This was the start of a movement and we are the change makers, hands down!

By Viveca Beall

Today is the last day of the Hands Down. Voices Up! Summit at One Stone. A day to reflect on the previous day, and continue building our connections with youth and education stakeholders from around the nation.

Viveca Beall

To start us off after a delicious breakfast, Tanner Johnson talked about should vs. must. A topic that everyone in the room could agree with. “ Should is everyone but you. Should is your teachers, friends, family, and people at your school. Must is the feeling in your stomach that says you must have this, you must do this. Whatever makes you smile, makes you so happy, that is your must.”

His talk made me want to go share about my own “musts” and why they are important to me.

Next, to get the ball rolling, 10 learners from different states all spoke about a topic that they believe to be a problem in the world. We heard learners speak on the topics of child neglect, gun control, wrongful incarceration, mental health, self-love, climate change, education inequality, suicide prevention, racial inequality, and feminine hygiene.

These learners took their time to read and study up on their topics, and gave passionate speeches to everyone. Some speeches caused more tears than others, but all speeches created a powerful impact on the crowd.

It’s sad knowing that this is the last day of Hands Down. Voices Up! For many, there is not enough time dedicated to the topic of student voice in their learning communities.This is something that needs to be rectified. This is why we are hosting this summit.

In my time talking and listening to the individuals at this summit, I have learned that everyone has one common goal they can act on right now: equality of voice for learners and educators.

Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard no matter the age. We’re not there yet. But we can be.

How can you help students feel they have an equal voice in their education?

By Alec Batten

“TODAY WAS AMAZING!”

This phrase has run through my head a lot recently. The past few days have been an awesome whirlwind of activity at the Hands Down. Voices Up! Summit. It has been powerful to be united with other youth and adults under the banner of student voice.

This morning, we dove deep into the idea of “What is good?”, “How can you do good?”, and “Why does good matter?”

For me, doing good is both in the small things, and the big things. Finding joy in service and in coming together for the greater good — and for something larger than just yourself. Doing good also means doing the thing you know is right even when it’s hard. It has been inspiring to spend some time with others who want to dive deep in these topics so we can make the world a better place.

I feel like this movement for student voice is truly coming together. In the afternoon, we explored the mindsets and attitudes we must take into this venture to spread the voices of students.

We heard from Chelsea Schiller, an alum of the One Stone after school program, who challenged us to envision the future and asked us what practical steps we would take to get there. We also heard from Kate Simonds, another One Stone alum. Kate was selected as one of the presenters for the first TEDxBoise. Her talk – I’m 17 – about the power of believing in students, has since gone viral with more than 3.3 million views.

We spent the afternoon in breakout sessions around empathy, ideation, and collaboration to gain the tools we’ll need for this movement.

Tonight, both students and adults will come together to watch the film RISE: Voice of a New Generation. The film will be used as a tool in discussions this evening about student voice. The documentary features One Stone as an example of how student-led education can change lives, and the world.

I really love seeing this summit come together. With the adults backing us up, students have managed the show. This culture shift of youth taking the lead has created the kind of unique and meaningful experience made possible with authentic student leadership. It has been impactful to see both youth and adults come together over the last day to practice and inspire good.

I am super excited for tomorrow when we put it all into action. I’m ready, are you?

By Viveca Beall

Excitement has been buzzing in the air for weeks. Finally, the day has arrived.

Today marks the first day of the Hands Down. Voices Up! Summit at JUMP in downtown Boise.

Viveca Beall

This morning, as I watched everyone arrive, I was nervous and excited. I couldn’t wait to see what everyone thinks of this event. We have students and education stakeholders from Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Missouri, Florida, Indiana, California, Washington state, Washington, D.C., New Mexico, Texas, and Idaho. To think that people from all over the country believe in the power of students enough to travel to this event is inspiring.

With smiles all around, while talking to new people, this morning has kicked off with an amazing start. Chelsea Schiller, a consultant for the design of health technologies, helped set the tone for the first section of the event — Inspire Good. “I believe in what I said in my talk this morning,” she explained. “We, as a nation, need to include younger voices in the development of our society.”

In looking around at the crowd following her talk, I can say that her sentiment resonates with the attendees.

One teacher that I interviewed is from Missouri. When I asked her how she felt about being part of Hands Down. Voices Up! this morning she shared, “I was in awe. I have never been in a place where I talk to this many students, where they have so much confidence and autonomy.

They see themselves in the future and have visions of the world. It is really difficult for students to talk about where they see themselves in the world.”

I thought what she said was interesting. As a student, I feel that every learner should have confidence in their schooling and this event is a great way to help adults and educators experience that alongside youth so that they can help more students find the confidence to build communities for their future.

Kiana, a student from Workspace Education in Connecticut, shared with me her perspective of student voice. “Student voice is very important, and not everyone has a chance to speak up. If you can, you should take it.” She also shared her excitement around hearing everyone’s stories at Hands Down. Voices Up! over the coming days.

It’s exciting to see all the reactions and to hear the different stories at this event. I’m already in awe by what people have to say, and it’s only the beginning.

How do you feel about student voice, and how do you think students should speak up?

By Alec Batten

It’s time we all passionately shout the anthem “Student Voice!” across the rooftops.

Alec Batten

I have the honor of attending the Hands Down. Voices Up! Summit this week in Boise. The event is staged by One Stone, a local student-led organization with a mission to make students better leaders and the world a better place.

This summit is an education event that supports student voice. It will bring together like-minded students and education stakeholders to empower learners to make positive change. It will be an awesome experience with 130 people from around the country, more than half of which will be students.

I am looking forward to the excitement and collaboration between different groups of people coming together to emphasize genuine student empowerment. Think about the change that is possible when we come together and encourage the power in each student’s voice.

By taking ownership of their learning, students can exercise the muscle of advocating for what matters — so they can change the world. Learners can do this, not only in the future, but in the now.

In this summit, we are going to participate in activities ranging from talks to workshops to networking with some of the most creative people in the education space. Throughout this process, we will focus on innovative learning, culture building, and change-making to forge a national movement dedicated to giving students a seat at the table and a voice to shape their future.

I am stoked to be involved with others who are changing the world one student at a time. I can’t wait to see this summit form into the national movement it will become. My voice is ready.

— Alec Batten, a student and board member at One Stone High School. He is involved in the planning and leadership of this conference.

One Stone and Idaho Education News receive grant funding from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. 

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