Powerful Leaders: Reflections on Student Voice

By Aidan Donahue
December 2, 2016

I have always been interested in public policy and government. I grew up watching the news on Sunday mornings and every day after school. I always knew that I wanted to be involved and have a voice, and joining Young Voices gave me that opportunity. Young Voices, a Providence based-youth organizing group, trains young people to become powerful leaders who work with local and state policymakers to improve the education system.

Through Young Voices, there have been many opportunities for me to work with students from different schools across Rhode Island and the New England region to create positive change in our public education system. One of my first experiences as a Young Voices student member was surveying more than 2,000 youth from across the state to find out how they felt about discipline policies in their schools. This was the first look I had into what Young Voices did and what they were about. From that point I was immediately captivated.

The opportunities that Young Voices has given me are priceless. This summer, I had an internship at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, which turned out to be one the most exciting experiences in my life! As part of the internship, I helped to coordinate the annual Youth Leadership Institute, a regional youth conference supported by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Prior to this internship, I had no experience in an office or professional setting, so I was excited and a little nervous. Nevertheless, the experience was amazing. Afterwards, I was able to interview a few of the Annenberg staff, and learn about what they did. Through this experience, I learned that education reform is what I want to continue doing through college and career.

Before I can start my career in education policy, my next step is college. As a senior applying to college, being in Young Voices helped take stress and worry off my shoulders. They were an enormous help with college essays, finding scholarships, and the completing the Common App.  As I had little to no knowledge of the college process, this was extremely valuable to me.

Being in Young Voices has been a life-changing experience. I was able to be a part of a strong and loving community, build the skills I know I’ll need to succeed in my future, and learn how to use my interest in policy to make a lasting difference. There is a sense of importance and community that keeps me interested and wanting to stay involved way after high school.

Young Voices was one of the terrific nominees for the Youth Organizing Award – learn more about the award and the other great nominees.

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