Brandywine School District in Delaware is focused on elevating and empowering student voices across three high schools. This project is in its third year in partnership with UP for Learning. A dynamic group of youth facilitators lead Student Voice Advisories at Mount Pleasant High School, Brandywine High School, and Concord High School. The goals of the Student Voice Advisories are to: foster a cycle of individual and collective continuous feedback from students and caregivers to positively influence educational and equity outcomes, engage in consistent authentic partnerships with students, honor and value student voice, agency, and action to fully engage in shared leadership and levels of decision-making, and ensure student representation exists in relevant spaces with intentionality, demonstrating access for young people to directly and indirectly inform and impact policies and practices.
On September 20th, UP for Learning hosted a working dinner to onboard four new youth facilitators who demonstrated enthusiasm and commitment to their Student Voice Advisories in the previous year. The evening was filled with tasty food, engaging conversation, deep reflections on what empowered leadership feels like, and more. Chainie Yates, Alyssa McDonnell, Elliot Roseo, and Araceli Scottus participated in this evening session to build their understanding of their role as a leader and facilitator moving this work forward in their communities. These new youth will join previous youth facilitators Lola Fenning and Cate Williams to continue to facilitate meaningful student voice empowerment.
These youth facilitators took the lessons from the working dinner and put them directly into action the following day. In collaboration with UP for Learning and their adult leads in Brandywine School District (Adrienne Stansbury, Dr. Yolanda McKinney, and equity champions at each high school) these youth facilitated site-based meetings at the three high schools. These meetings started off with community building and a grounding into the poem “An Invitation to Brave Space.” Groups then participated in a visioning activity, brainstorming strengths and areas of growth for their school communities related to student voice. We started with the group at Brandywine High School, followed by Mount Pleasant High School, and finished the afternoon with Concord High School. Many new youth were onboarded, and set goals to recommit to the work from the following year and prioritize recruitment of a diverse team. It was a dynamic day!
The Brandywine School District work is also expanding to include a middle school team. On October 24th, several of the high school youth facilitators will co-facilitate a training for middle school students focused on leadership and student voice. The following day, all three high school Student Voice Advisories will gather to collaborate, connect, and work on actions towards change in their district. These full group gatherings provide the advisories time and resources to work effectively towards change on a district wide scale. Adults from each of these schools will attend the retreat day as well to partner with these large groups of youth on bringing about data-driven change. Brandywine School District has started off the year strong with their dedication to student voice and empowerment! They are an engaged partner that UP for Learning is excited to collaborate with.
By Executive Director Lindsey Halman and Program Director Katie Ingraham