A student-led conference was held this past April. The purpose of this conference was to push educators and provide an awareness of personal and institutional inequities negatively impacting students in our schools. The conference was held virtually and schools from across the country participated in the planning of the event.
The vision was to empower students from across the nation to lead discussions, to share their story and to provide learning for educators on students’ personal experiences to impact change in how our schools operate, are designed, and function to be equitable, open access and be free of bias. The idea came from conversations with the League of Innovative School superintendents on how to engage students in helping educators with social justice, stemming from the plethora of social injustices witnessed in 2020.
This experience was designed by students across the country to provide authentic professional learning opportunities for educators of all backgrounds. The very students this nation’s educational system is currently undeserving will inspire reform in those who are responsible for providing access to possibilities.
We had four students from Ridgewood High School participate with the planning of this conference, Aaliyah Schein, Jeremiah Serrano, Alyssa Arnautovic and Taylor Chan.
Ridgewood High School senior, Taylor Chan, decided to get involved with the SEE Summit because she was interested in the opportunity to bring attention to unseen problems in schools.
“I wanted to challenge myself to talk about issues that are often polarizing and uncomfortable and develop ways to make them more approachable,” said Chan.
Planning meetings were held virtually through Zoom because the participants represented districts across the nation. Meetings were either full group meetings to navigate the design thinking process for the conference or as focus groups, to really hone in on the topics at hand.
Taylor Chan noted that the meetings were one of her favorite parts of the Summit.
“My favorite part of this experience was our weekly team meetings. I enjoyed getting to know the other students and hearing their stories. I liked learning about how similar and different our experiences were, no matter whether we were talking about serious topics, such as school curricula, or having more lighthearted conversations about prom and college,” said Chan.
The SEE Summit Leadership Team put out the following statement:
“We are honored to have such a passionate group of educators and students tackling this challenge head on. This has never been done before, so please stay positive and committed to our purpose. We want schools across this country to better serve the children who arrive each day with dreams for their lives. This group will be the inspiration. The students in this group will create countless opportunities for millions of underserved children for years to come. Together, let’s be the reason for a better tomorrow!”
One last take away from the SEE Summit, Taylor Chan had was about the importance of individuals acknowledging the importance of their impact.
“I hope that students know that they can be the catalyst for change in their communities. There are adults that hear them and are willing to bring their hopes to life. As for educators, I hope that they know the difference they can make in the lives of their students. They are the one that pass along the lessons and values that students take with them after school; they shape the future,” said Taylor Chan.