Millions of Americans head to polling places this month to make their voices heard. Few rights are considered more sacred. Yet, this election takes on special meaning because of the amplified voices of students—most of whom are not yet old enough to cast their own votes. The February school shooting tragedy in Parkland, FL, sparked an explosion of activism by students who continue to inspire us with their persistence, commitment, and eloquence.
Like all of us, each student aspires to personal success, however they define it. “We have some ambitious goals,” said Billy Wermuth, a Pennsylvania senior who serves on NASSP’s Student Leadership Advisory Committee and addressed policymakers at a Capitol Hill briefing in April. “But just as important, on our way to those goals, we are becoming more vocal advocates for our schools, for our communities, and for our generation. Our public schools have prepared us for this moment.”
That’s right. Student advocates like Wermuth or the teens in Parkland—or any informed citizen, for that matter—do not suddenly hatch in response to an incident. As the students describe it, their experiences in various classes—coupled with participation in debate team and other activities facilitated by adults who valued them and believed in them—helped shape them and built their confidence. As Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Ty Thompson illustrated at the 2018 National Principals Conference, their voices are loud and strong because of public schools. Their public schools taught them crucial knowledge and skills, then empowered them to use their knowledge and skills in the “realest” of real-world settings.
Those students remind us of our shared call to cultivate student voice. Indeed, NASSP’s commitment to student voice is nearly as old as the organization itself. As the home of the National Honor Societies and National Student Council, we started talking about student empowerment long before it was a trend. In fact, NASSP just released a new edition of our guide for cultivating student voice called Raising Student Voice & Participation, or RSVP. Visit www.natstuco.us/rsvp for details.
As school leaders committed to the success of each student, your creativity in empowering students builds our nation’s future. Thank you for all you do. And, as always, thank you for allowing NASSP to play a part in your work.
Executive Director, NASSP