For many years, I have worked to engage young people in the many decisions that affect them in school and outside of it. I hear many people in education talk about supporting “youth voice” or student centered education. Yet is education student centered if student are not given a voice in creating it? I believe “youth voice,” without corresponding actions from adults, or without meaningful opportunities for young people to be part of solutions, is a hollow promise.
Today, I was fortunate to attend a national conference in DC to improve and share the success of Afterschool education/learning.
The theme of the conference, “Closing the Opportunity Gap with Afterschool & Summer Learning” doesn’t fully describe the range of topics covered, from data, to science and art, to improving program quality, to finding and sustainability. Nearly every state has a network of Afterschool programs, and the conference is held by the national network of these state networks. Yet one major voice was missing at the conference, the voice of young people.
While this is a disappointment, it is also an opportunity for me and a number of other educators at the conference to change this for the future and so, if the young people of the Cooperative Catalyst are willing, I would ask you some questions. I will share your answers with adults who administer these programs and I will report back with my findings. I am also trying to create active roles for young people who would like to get more involved in the future.
I would love to get your views on Afterschool programs in and out of schools.
What is your general experience in Afterschool?
What activities are engaging?
What could school learn from Afterschool?
What barriers keep youth from participating?
What should adults remember as we work with youth to improve Afterschool programs?
What’s great; what needs improvement?
What questions should I ask the adults on your behalf (besides “where are the young people in this room right now”,?)
Any additional ideas, visions or suggestions are also welcome!
Greg Williamson is the Director of Student Support at the Washington State education agency and long time advocate of youth voice and youth action.