Program Director Harry Frank has been working with the youth and adults on the Student Voice Committee at Bellows Free Academy St. Albans for two years. This week, UP’s Communication Director Christie Beveridge sat down with him to talk about the history of the team, their current work, and their goals going forward. 

How did the team come about?

The seed for the Student Voice Committee came from Superintendent Bill Kimball’s keen interest in bringing young people to the table. He has been superintendent of the district for three years, and from the beginning has wanted to hear from students about their hopes and concerns. When he began in his role, he launched a series of listening sessions, which became a Superintendent’s Advisory. In partnership with UP, this group has become the Student Voice Committee, and it is now in its second year. Last year, UP Youth Program Specialists Maisie Franke and Max King visited the school and facilitated three sessions to help support the establishment of the group and build connections. 

What has the team been focusing on this year? 

Among other initiatives, the team has been working on creating a schedule that reflects students’ needs and interests. There are also representatives from the team who attend all school board meetings, and who take part in many district committees. The superintendent, principal, and Personalized Learning Coordinator attend every meeting, so there is a great deal of administrative support. The team meets every week, and they have a lot of capacity to facilitate and understand their own work. The structure we create enables them to have conversations with each other that they are not having, such as discussions of leadership styles and activities where they can practice facilitation skills. 

What are their next steps? 

The team is mentoring student voice groups in the middle and elementary schools. They also want to focus on increasing avenues of student support and youth mental health in the district.