Three Takeaways from "#CenteringStudentVoices: Shaping the Landscape We’ll Inherit"
Indianapolis high school students share powerful insights on navigating current events during a recent livestream conversation hosted by TFA Indy. #CenteringStudentVoices
February 16, 2021
“The whole point of this conversation is not about adults taking from students. It’s about adults listening and hearing students. It’s not about youth speaking; it’s about youth being heard…[that’s the] difference between tokenizing youth and true adult-youth partnership. It takes a lot of courage and trust for [these] students to be with us.”Amar PatelExecutive DirectorTeach For America Indianapolis
Students are most impacted by education; they have the most to gain, and the most to lose. At TFA Indy, we believe that student voice must be at the center of decision-making in our education system. Their experiences and perspectives must shape what education and learning ought to be and look like today and in the future.
Our #CenteringStudentVoices series seeks to elevate student voice and hold space to allow the Indianapolis community to hear from students on the issues that impact them directly. In our first live discussion, “Navigating Current Events: Shaping the Landscape We’ll Inherit,” high school students Tramya Burden, Autumn Joshua, and Shariah Miller share their thoughts and experiences on navigating current events. Below are a few of the powerful takeaways from our February 10 conversation with them. Watch the recorded live stream or listen to the audio stream for the full conversation.
Our next live conversation with students will be held on Wednesday, March 10.
Takeaway #1: They're more engaged in, and knowledgeable about, social issues - because they have to
“It gets thrown in our faces...we don’t have a chance to dodge it.”Tramya BurdenFreshmanBelieve Circle City High School
All three students on the live discussion confirmed that they're more engaged in social issues because of recent events including the pandemic, increased media coverage of police brutality, the Black Lives Matters movement, and higher local crime rates, to name a few. One of the major reasons why? Because they can't escape it.
"You can't do anything but speak out," shared Tramya. "It's happening to everyone around you...We are forced to learn these [issues], it gets thrown in our faces. We don’t have a chance to dodge it."
While they hold great understanding for what's happening around them, the students shared repeatedly that they feel dismissed by the adults in their lives because adults say they are "too young." They feel frustrated by this experience and would really like to feel heard and respected. Autumn said: "[Adults] say they hear you, [that] you'll understand when you're older. I perfectly understand at this age now...A [better] response would be listening and saying, 'I understand and respect your views.' Not, ‘You'll understand when you're older.’"
On the upside, they named ways their schools have created the conditions to affirm them and their gifts, and make learning relevant by allowing them to learn and problems solve around issues they care about.
Takeaway #2: Financial security is a priority in their future
“I want to get to that point where I see a quarter in the street and keep walking.”Shariah MillerSophomoreKIPP Indy Legacy High School
What do students want for their futures? Autumn, Tramya, and Shariah discussed career aspirations, college, "breaking the family cycle," and, critically, financial security.
Shariah is committed to graduating from high school and pursuing college: "I want to be at a point [when I'm] living comfortably financially. I want to get to that point where I see a quarter in the street and keep walking...Usually when you see a quarter on the street, you want to pick it up, because you think you need it. I want to think, 'I don’t really need it at the moment.'"
Tramya and Autumn also see college as a means to attain the future they want. Tramya named that she's doing everything she can to break her family cycle, graduate, and go to college. She is committed to "do my thing now" because "if I slack off now, it's harder to get there in the future."
In addition to college, Autumn is determined to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor: "My goal is to be a doctor. A lot of people in my family say they want to, but they haven’t been encouraged or pushed to go all the way through with school. My goal is to graduate school and be what I said I want, and not just settle for something because I felt I was too tired to finish."
Takeaway #3: They've gained greater self-awareness during the pandemic
“You learn so much about yourself that you didn’t know before...you find on social media other people doing the same thing and coping that can really help you.”Autumn JoshuaFreshmanBelieve Circle City High School
All three students named exhaustion and mental health challenges as heavy burdens brought on by the pandemic while attending school (whether in person or virtual). When asked to point to something joyful they've experienced in the past year, they all agreed that time spent at home has also allowed them to be more reflective and self-aware.
"It gives you time in the world to help yourself, fix the problems you're going through," explained Autumn on taking time for herself, as well as finding community and coping tactics through social media.
Shariah shared how the quarantine allowed the opportunity for her to have an outlet to reflect on and express her emotional state: "May of last year, I felt like during quarantine I was starting to work on myself. It was really cool for me to identify different things within myself [to work on]. I identified a lot with mental health and became a lot more aware. With all the issues and social drama last year, police brutality, crime, I felt myself and saw myself being more vocal on certain subjects within our society that I just couldn’t help talk about."