Students voice their opinions, create change

Ryan Longenecker, sophomore, facilitated a planning session at the 2015 RISE Conference at Waukee High School in Waukee, Iowa.

“Student voice is students being in the driver’s seat of their own education,” said Ryan Longenecker, a sophomore.

Longenecker is an example of a student who makes use of his own voice and advocates for student voice in and out of school. The idea of student voice is that students should speak up about issues in their schools and should be listened to. According to this philosophy, since students are the reason for the education system in the first place, it is unfair that education decisions almost solely rely on opinions of lawmakers and school administrators.

Students can get involved with student voice through joining RSVP, the central student voice club at BHS. Known for consulting the opinions of student advisories in stages called Summits, some of the most popular changes made through this club include the lengthening of passing times to ten minutes between most blocks as well as the inclusion of more technology in the classroom.

However, Longnecker’s involvement extends beyond that of most other students. He is a part of the RSVP Lead Team, and is a student representative at district school board meetings. Outside of the school district, he is part of a non-profit student voice organization called Iowa Student Learning Institute and is the President-Elect of the organization for next year, even though he will only be a junior.

Longenecker said he first got involved in what he describes as “the student voice movement” when a teacher invited him and other students to attend an IowaSLI conference in the fall of 2014. After the conference captivated his interest, Longenecker continued to stay involved with student voice by participating in Project Tuning at the middle school, in which students are encouraged to critique teachers’ project ideas in an open and honest way.

“I would like to see more awareness of student voice [here at BHS],” Longenecker said.

There are only two BHS student representatives on the school board, and neither are voting members. Longenecker would like to see these circumstances change.

To discover the power of their own voices, Longenecker encourages students to attend their school board meetings, which are open to the public, and the free IowaSLI events.

“Don’t be afraid that people won’t listen to what you say,” Longenecker said, “Students need to remember that they have a voice, [and] they can effect change no matter what circumstances they are in.”


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