Introduction: The Power of Student Voices

UMA FOX

Young people make up 40% of the world’s population. However, we are frequently excluded from the spaces where our voices matter the most. Policy and political decisions are made to impact the future. But they often fail to involve the perspectives of the students who will lead and live in it. By listening to and involving student voices in social decision-making, we could end this unjust contradiction.

 

Section 1:
Issues in Student Communities

A variety of issues impact student communities. Often any social justice or community issue has a disproportionate and exacerbated impact on young people. In this section, student activists highlight the issues they care about. From digitalised gender discrimination, to the treatment of nature, they are diverse in their implications. However, all of these student perspectives are connected in their shared passion, drive, and dedication to exposing the problems in their communities.

 
The Garden Dweller, photograph by B. B. Lisse

The Garden Dweller

BENJAMIN BECHGAARD LISSE

Why Aren't We More Concerned About Teacher Retention?

SARAH SCHECHTER

I am a senior and eight out of eleven, or about 66%, of the academic teachers I’ve had in high school have left. To paint a more striking picture, I can count the number of my teachers who have stayed at my school on one hand. To count my teachers of color who have stayed, I don’t even need a hand: just one finger. 

Crises Contagious

UMMAMA IMRAN

if we're speaking of crises contagious,

that spread through the word of mouth,

Have you heard of the rumor?

she's making it all go south

It's a cry for attention,

she has no intention

 

but to save her future?

 

these allegations aren't fake, not fake till we make them

why?

do you need to get infected 

to adapt to the rules?

why can't you look at others suffering 

and compromise a few of your jewels?

you'll still be rich, a blink

of your acknowledgement

is all we're asking

Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong:
A Cause Worth Fighting For

NOOR RIZVI

For a long time, Hong Kong has boasted the name of “Asia’s World City.” However, racial prejudice and aggressions run rampant in today's society. The inability of our world to respect other cultures, heritages and skin colours is still a problem. This issue is of genuine concern - sparking protest and rebellion, getting attention from international media in some countries, while in others it’s brushed under the carpet as an ugly truth no one is ready to face.

The Digitalization of Gender Inequality

KAMILLA ENGEBRETSEN
LINNEA SANDBERG

The COVID-19 pandemic has set global gender equality at risk of being reversed. While digital platforms and social media have become a core part of our day-to-day lives, violence and grave breaches of girls’ and women’s rights are increasingly moving to digital spaces. Means of advocacy for gender equality worldwide before the pandemic—from marching in the streets, to hanging up posters at night, to grassroots advocacy against child marriage—are now largely limited to channels such as social media and radio. Digital means have the potential to be invaluable tools to promote girls’ and women’s rights, but they are hindered by a rise in digital violence. Women’s and girls’ freedom online and safety are under attack.

Section 2:
The Self and Activism

The personal is definitively political. These stories illustrate the role of personal identity. Often, student experiences in activism are shaped by personal and communal. COVID-19 had a particular impact on changing the composition and actions of student activism. The pieces of this section describe the pessimism, resilience, and motivation COVID contributed to student civic goals. This section also highlights why students take action; the deeply personal nature of social justice issues drives many students to change their communities. Read here about the identities, challenges, and hopes of young people taking action.

 

What If My Name
Did Not Matter?

SAMITA MWANICKY

Maybe if I did not have to conform to social constructed

theories, you might listen to me. 

If I do not have a name, you will not be able to define me,

merit me or judge me. 

You will not put me in a box, or stereotype me or

give me a title.

I will be able to speak freely and you might listen to

what I have to really say. 

My ethnicity, identity, race, looks should not matter.

The Issues I Care Deeply About and What I’ve Learned as a Young Activist

UMA RIBEIRO

As a young activist, I tend to have trouble focusing on one issue or movement, as I want to tackle them all at once. However, in the past year or so of my advocacy, I have found that it is important as activists and advocates to find one or two that are specifically dear to your heart so as to prevent burnout and apathy. Even if you have passion for all the movements you’re advocating for, deep down no activist can deny there is always a couple that they have a deeper connection to. Whether that be because of your personal background and experiences, knowledge of events in the lives of family members and friends, or simply because it touches more of a nerve or strikes a chord within you more clearly and directly, there are always one or those two you know you want to focus on the most.

Inactive Activism;
A Reflection on 2020

GRAINNE CORDON

2020 was the year of the rat, the year that an employee at Zoom got their big promotion, the year that we had to rethink what we wanted. In the beginning, I believed that it was my year. A year to create positive, tangible change. I was wrong: It was the year of the guilty activist. I could not grace the streets in a single physical protest; Instead, I  sat at home and waited for something to happen. I’m still waiting. As I reflect on the highs and lows of the past year, I begin to wonder what I was thinking.

ANONYMOUS AUTHOR

The polar bears are dying!

Sea levels rising!

1.5° we are too late - 

How could we do this? Millions displaced -

Warmest year on record and it’s getting warmer still—

Out

NORAH LESPERANCE

Normally, I would have been so happy to go out and leave my baggage on a trail Inhaling chilled January air would be so rejuvenating, cleansing my insides

 

But now it’s simply a blatant, stomach-twisting reminder 

Of what I’ve lost over the course of a mind-numbing year 

Ignorance is Blissless

JORDAN HO

The adults around me have stopped watching the news. They say it is because of the violence, because of the anger. Every time they turn on the television they click lazily through the channels, switching between images of starving children in Afghanistan to TLC specials to men getting beaten on CNN to dancing cartoons, over and over and over again. Cycles of brutality juxtaposed with innocent entertainment. I can't say I blame them. Ignorance is bliss, after all. If I had the opportunity to escape it, I would probably change the channel too. In fact, I used to ignore everything that wasn’t blissful—and then I grew up and was forced to open my eyes.

Section 3:
Students Creating Change

Students are taking action and directly impacting the world around them, This section highlights the victories of student changemakers. It shows how change can be local, national, or global in its scale. From campaigns to allow girls to wear trousers in school, to artistic movements for pan africanism, students are self-defining “community” and working to change the injustices in their lives. It depicts how change can start small, through family conversations and personal reflection. But it also shows the power, emergence, and importance of students changing the wider world. Get inspired by the words, actions, and dreams of student changemakers.

 

BeEnGayGed

While there is an increasing global acceptance of homosexual rights, Hong Kong is less fortunate. With victories seen in Hong Kong’s neighbours, Taiwan and Vietnam, who have in recent years legalized same-sex marriage and abolished the ban on same-sex marriage respectively, the city seems to be lagging behind the international community on the legal rights enjoyed by the local LGBT+ community in three main areas.

Reminder

EMILY HANSON

It was never normal for those forests in California to be on fire

It was never normal for that same place to be flooded not too long ago

It was never normal when I saw the sun glowing red through the clouds

It was never normal for said clouds to look like a smoky gray

Dreams Into Reality

DEEYA BHASIN

By the 4th grade, advocacy and change-making became big aspirations for little me. Now I am 15, and under the pandemic, my drive has only strengthened. I am transforming my dreams into reality through youth activism. 

Making a change has taught me three valuable takeaways: the importance of faith, the importance of ambition and the importance of persistence. The most challenging lesson I have had to face was patience. However, I learned how patience can be the most essential asset when desiring an immediate change. These takeaways became major motivating factors because I constantly spent time overthinking. I constantly wished to be in charge of vital decisions or to simply take control and fix global issues. Negativity soon became the only by-product. So, I created a positive mantra: “if we want a better future, we must work towards it”. This mantra is what pushes me to keep fighting for change and making a difference.

The Trousers Campaign

ORLA O'BRIEN

This project began way back in my 3rd Year of secondary school. I had been interested in having trousers as a uniform option for the school as cycling to school in a skirt every day was proving difficult in cold, windy weather. I had gone to the Vice Principal about my idea, and he set up a meeting for me with the principal. I presented my proposal and thankfully, she was on board. The process for making a change to the uniform was long, but I was optimistic about it. 

From Shame to Healing:
Starting a Mental Health Initiative
to Combat Stigmatization

NICOLE LAU

As I enter my teenage years, the social issues that are present in my living environment slowly become more visible to me. I have realized that common mental health terms such as “anxiety”, “OCD” and “depression” are easily thrown around, at times in a pejorative way. Due to the influence of how certain social media platforms portray mental illnesses, I find myself present in situations where I listen to teenagers around me mislabel themselves with these terms in order to appear “different”—or as our generation says, “quirky”. The misuse of these terms has strongly distorted their significance and true meaning, hindering those who experience serious cases of mental illnesses to seek help.

It Starts With
A Passion

NATALIE MAGNESS

I am extremely fortunate that throughout my life, I have not ever been subject to any form of discrimination or maltreatment based on my race, gender, religion or socio-economic background. I am grateful to have been raised as an expat in an affluent family with access to a quality education. Therefore I believe it is my duty and a personal goal to advocate for, empower and fight for those who have not been as privileged.

Butterfly Effect

AVERY SMEDLEY

Two summers ago, I wasted my Sunday afternoon driving around with my mother and an unfamiliar woman in our sweaty Volkswagen. We drove all over the city, once searching in vain for streets that did not exist, more than once facing closed doors and less than friendly neighbors. After we dropped the woman back at the canvassing office, I apologized to my mother for wasting her time. She said it was OK, maybe something fruitful would come of it. But we agreed to never again go canvassing, or at least not until we had AC.

Rights Before Reconciliation

ESTELLE AND MARIAM

The issue of reconciliation with Indigenous communities in Canada is one that has long sparked debate and brought controversy into places ranging from the classroom to the courtroom, the dining room table to the House of Commons. Yet there is one place that the movement seems to have been newly ignited, a place that should instill in all of us a renewed sense of hopefulness: social media, home of Generation Z. 

My Journey Through Activism

TAMMY WHELAN

I have learned so many things from being a young person actively advocating for key issues, such as equality in schools through Comhairle na nÓg, the Vote at 16 initiative, and the Leaving Cert 2021 through the Irish Second-Level Students Union. I’ve learned how to use my voice in a powerful and productive way, which I think will be invaluable to me in the future. Through participating in youth activism, I’ve realised that I want to study law in the future so that I can further advocate for young people. I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has realised that young people are quite capable of changing the world once we’re given the opportunity.

LYLA STAUCH

Stop-Start

My Experience With Racism in the UK

DARCEY HADDOW

Racism in the UK tends to be insidious in its nature. Often people of colour in the UK experience systemic racism more than individual racism, which can be more difficult to  identify and reform rather than the violent acts that are reported on in the USA. This has led  to the common perception, within UK citizens, that the UK is not a racist place.

 

The UK has legislation that prohibits racial discrimination and intolerance, a fact that is often  used to distract from the fact that in the UK; a black woman is 5 times more likely to die in  childbirth than a white woman; minorities are twice as likely to have encountered  abuse or rudeness from a stranger in the last week; and 53% of people from a minority  background believed that they had been treated differently because of their hair, clothes or  appearance, compared with 29% of white people. Furthermore, the UK government has imposed a ‘hostile environment’ policy which, according to the UN, encourages xenophobic sentiments, discrimination, and racial inequality.

Environmentalist Starter Pack

DENISE CHEUNG

“Dad, may we go to a vegan restaurant instead? We can all reduce our carbon footprint...” 

“What’s being such an environmentalist for? This is totally unnecessary!”

 

This is what my dad answered, putting a slice of beef into my bowl with his ivory chopsticks. 

Being born in a traditional Chinese family, no one around me knows anything about the environment. Family members would only turn off the air conditioner in order to “save money on the electric bill”. They celebrate festivities with Chinese banquets or a fancy Japanese beef buffet.

A Fervent Journey

MUTUMA MWITI

While growing up, my grandmother told me that “curiosity has its own reason for existence”.  I never really knew what that meant until the year 2018, when my yearning to educate myself on matters concerning African cultures, societies, development of the continent, and leadership structures in the continent began. Contrary to what I had witnessed growing up in a developing African nation,  I refused to believe that a land as rich and diverse as ours could remain the “poverty stricken” and “disease ridden” continent. I asked myself a range of questions that further deepened my curiosity on the topic: How can we strengthen the fundamental pillars that uphold our countries without destroying the foundation that unites us? Why does colonialism still have such a huge influence on our opinions and mindsets today? What has and continues to prevent us from strengthening and developing our communities without international assistance? Although I was unable to synthesize concrete answers to these questions, this curiosity nurtured and nourished by growing passion for Africa and her residents.

Screenshot 2021-12-20 at 7.22.07.png

Be Impossible To Ignore

SOL VARELA CAPURRO

RACHEL STARR

I fight for change because I am lucky to have a voice in our society. I want to use that privilege to create the change that has been necessary for so long because, in this world, only some voices are lifted up and listened to. White, wealthy, male, able bodied, cisgender, and straight voices are often the only voices filling the room. But there are other perspectives – other opinions, other experiences – that need to be heard. There are too many of us that have privilege in our communities, but we don’t use that privilege to create change. We don’t focus on the needs of others. We don’t focus on the voices that are forced to remain silent. There are so many reasons to fight for change, and I am fortunate enough to have what I need to create that change.