Raise Your Voice!

Raise Your Voice! offers diverse student ideas and perspectives about education today.

Part of The Maine Education Project and funded by The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Raise Your Voice! provides a forum for student writers and media producers to share what it means to learn, to grow up, and to make it in the world.

The voices of young people are often some of the least heard in conversations about education. Raise Your Voice! changes that by working with students to bring their ideas to audiences across the state and beyond.

To take part in Raise Your Voice!, contact Education Program Coordinator Dave Boardman at dboardman@mainepublic.org or at 207.423.6934.

Click the headline of each story to read the full text.

Bridge Year Makes College One Step Closer

Feb 26, 2017

Before I started in the Bridge Year Program, I was the shy girl who sat in the back of the class praying that the teacher would not call on her. Now I jump at any chance to talk. I find myself excited to get in debates with my classmates, when before, the thought of speaking out loud was equivalent to jumping off a cliff. I have broken out of my shell and have begun the path that is life.

The Bridge Year Program is a two-year experience that offers 30 college credits to students who take a series of rigorous college-level courses and complete two years at a career and technical education (CTE) center. It’s an opportunity that equals out to the first year of college, providing a jump start on life.

This program is first introduced to students in the middle of their sophomore year. Those who are accepted begin their college classes at the start of their junior year with their cohort. During the course of their two years, students are enrolled in a CTE center, which allows them the chance to explore potential careers. Through the CTE program, students are offered job shadows, scholarships, and college touring trips. Last year my cohort took a trip across Maine to visit colleges like the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Machias, Fort Kent, and Eastern Maine Community College.

Student Filmmaker Calls for Gender Equality

Feb 20, 2017

Only one woman has ever won an Oscar for best director in the 87-year history of the Academy Awards. Just think about that for a minute. Why does this happen? Why are women only roughly 17 percent of directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors in the film industry? That’s insane!

This issue has bothered me for a long time, especially because my dream is to direct movies one day. I brought up this issue once while I was hanging out with a group of three of my male friends. I was surprised by their response. They told me, “The reason that women don’t work in that industry is just because they’re not good at it.” They went on to compare me to a male friend of mine who also makes movies and hopes to go into the industry as well. And it didn’t stop there. They claimed he was better than me despite the fact that I had even beaten him in our school film festival. These were my friends, yet without even seeing my work they assumed that someone else was more skilled than me, just because of my gender.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in making movies. When I was 12, I had watched nearly every Tim Burton movie and was convinced that one day I could make something like that. I carried a little video camera around all the time - this was before the time of high quality iPhone film footage - and filmed my Barbies or animals I saw outside. When I entered middle school, I got my first school-issued laptop and that’s when I learned how to edit for the first time. I never realized I wanted to direct films until the summer of ninth grade, when I filmed a short video on an iPad one afternoon in my garage with the help of my little sister. 

SkillsUSA Links Leaders, Technical Training

Feb 12, 2017

There are lots of different organizations, clubs, and teams that students can join in high school. I have participated in many of them, including the volleyball team, academic decathlon team, and student council. However, arguably the most important organization I am a part of is SkillsUSA, a national organization that promotes leadership and holds technical competitions for middle school, high school, and college students.

To me, SkillsUSA is less of an organization or competition, and more of a family. I have been lucky to be a member for three years, and have served as a state officer for the past two. I can honestly say that the people I have met through SkillsUSA have become like a second family to me. When I show up at meetings I am greeted with hugs and smiles and comments on things that have happened since we last saw each other. SkillsUSA is an organization that is filled with wonderful people and amazing opportunities for students.

Technical education teaches students career skills and prepares them to go out into the workforce in only a few short years. SkillsUSA helps these students become even more prepared for the world of work by integrating leadership and professional skills. 

Community Service Helps Students, Schools

Jan 26, 2017

Volunteering can mean the world to others. It enriches the lives of not only those who are receiving help, but also the lives of those who are paying it forward. Helping others can bring a sense of responsibility to students, and possibly even increase success as adults. As part of high school credit, students should be required to be involved within society and complete a set amount of hours of community service or volunteer services for each year of high school.

Volunteering is not required at my school, but we do have clubs and programs that promote involvement in the community. We have a Civil Rights Team, Youth Voices, and Junior Hospital Volunteers to name a few, but no one is required to participate. Programs outside of school also encourage people to participate. There is no community program that will turn down a volunteer, as help is greatly needed and appreciated. Students should not struggle in finding a good cause to work towards. The examples are all over: cleaning a local park, picking up any trash around school, helping at animal shelters, nursing homes, hospitals, Toys for Tots, and so much more.

I have found that participating in community events has made me a better person. I get to experience the satisfaction of what giving to others brings, and I can explore my future. I plan to be a firefighter and paramedic as an adult, and I am currently involved with a junior firefighter program through North Lakes Fire and Rescue. 

What Matters Now? Just Listen.

Jan 17, 2017

My vox pop, a collection of students' voices, is a window to the inner thoughts of how high schoolers feel about themselves. It shows how the life of a high schooler revolves mostly around who they associate themselves with and their extracurricular activities. This is the time in our lives that has the biggest impression on us, and it is the time we are trying to learn who we are as people.

This audio project was built from my interest in learning how people see themselves. Originally it was self-image piece but as I progressed forward I realized it was becoming a more of a “Who Am I?” project. I guess both approaches fit for the project, but when hearing my peers explain to me how they reflect on themselves, I realized that the way they see themselves is who they are, and what makes them themselves.

Hearing different aspects from different people allow others to understand what high schoolers notice, what they pay attention to, what’s important to them and what they’re focused on. It becomes clear as people reflect on themselves, that most high schoolers are motivated by doing something interactive.

Today's World Needs Involved Learning

Jan 7, 2017

In this quick-paced world, we are constantly surrounded by excitement. People can have news and information on what their friends are doing at the tip of their fingers. But that fast pace doesn't always extend to school. Students today get bored very quickly when they are expected to sit in classes where some teachers show very little enthusiasm.

Teachers should be adapting to make a more intriguing learning environment that moves at a faster pace. On a typical school day, almost all classes are spent listening to 40 minute lectures. In classes such as science, it is easier to engage students in labs. In an English class, teachers can get students thinking by analyzing story plots or finding symbolism in a story. In many courses, real world examples can be used to get students more interested.

As a student, I have always found it difficult to stay engaged in topics if teachers do not make the work stimulating. Not only should they keep the lesson constantly moving, but they should relate what we are talking about to the real world. Doing so would help students better retain the information by connecting it to something meaningful. 

In a Key Moment, a Teacher Matters

Dec 27, 2016

There are moments in life that will forever impact who you are, and you will always remember every little detail of them: the birth of your child, your wedding day or even graduation night. This was mine.

I looked at the clock, needing to focus on something solid, like time. 2:33 p.m. I kept pulling at my sleeves and running my hands through my hair, the nausea slowly making its way from my stomach all the way through my body. The trembling soon followed. I went in one more circle around the group of desks while waiting for her to come into the room. “I can’t do this. I’m going to die.” My strange new mantra. It was one of those head-spinning, chest-pain-from-breathing, this is all just a nightmare, moments.

I was waiting for my English teacher, someone I found incredibly intimidating, which made the situation all that much harder for me. I knew I needed to do this in order to survive the rest of high school. I had been attacked before, punched in the face, pushed into lockers, tripped in the halls for people thinking I was even gay. What if I wasn’t a girl like they all thought? What would happen then? I had tried coming out before; I told my friend “I might think I’m more of a boy than a girl.” He told me I was confused so I didn’t say anything for years after. Not only could coming out now and having another person not accept my gender identity make it uncomfortable to be in her classroom, but I was struggling so much that I wasn’t going to school and, therefore, I was failing classes. At the time, I was harming myself and considering suicide. This moment would break me if it didn’t go right.

Success Comes with Opportunities, Support

Dec 15, 2016

What comes to mind first when we think of the traditional school environment? Desks, lockers, and crowded hallways are all the common answers. Some of us think of homework, books, and tests. But the ideal school lies deeper than that; it’s a combination of the classes taught, the school’s rules, and of course, the students and staff.

Throughout the day at Snow Pond Arts Academy in Sidney, students can be heard playing ukulele, piano, guitar, violin, and many other instruments. Other students work on their dance routines or scenes from theatre class.

Though I came to Snow Pond Arts Academy to pursue acting, I’ve had the opportunity to take dance classes and learn how to play piano, both of which I enjoy and would never have done if I hadn’t come to a performing arts school. Acting has always been something I’ve loved, and having the opportunity to do it every day at school has helped me grow in my ability. Going to a performing arts school has helped me enjoy school rather than tolerate it.

Teachers Who Connect Make a Difference

Dec 14, 2016

I learned a lot in high school, and I’ve got my diploma to prove it. But the lessons that will stick with me the longest aren’t things I read out of a textbook or heard in lecture. The lessons that I’ll remember for the rest of my life came from my teachers’ hearts.

When they connected with me on a personal level and opened themselves up, the topics we discussed offered the lessons I’ll take with me the longest. I can think of three teachers in particular who impacted my high school career by telling me stories about things that happened to them, or to former students they taught in the past. These teachers offered advice about college, jobs, even relationships. These things don’t get taught in the curriculum, but by far they offer the most important lessons in life. Whether it was during a class discussion or a one-on-one conversation, the educators who didn’t strictly stick to the curriculum made the biggest impact in my life.

My advanced biology teacher, Regan McPhetres, gave me a lot of college advice. His stories made me worry a little less about leaving the familiarity of home and moving to a new place with all new people. He also gave me a lot of study tips, and helpful hints on how to speak and put essays together in a time efficient way. I wouldn’t have learned any of that if he had stuck to the curriculum and only taught the information that was in the textbook.

Schools Need to Encourage Student Leaders

Dec 12, 2016

Full of so much promise and potential, student leaders play an important role in today’s society.

We all need role models and guidance to make it in the world, and true leaders are people who participate, collaborate, and are mature enough to overcome obstacles. Those are only three of many characteristics that make up a leader. When some people face challenges, many tend to shut down, but real leaders can demonstrate how to face these challenges and even cope with the stresses that may follow.

There is a form of leadership in everyone, but it just needs to be encouraged by others. In schools, that encouragement can happen by allowing students to develop and share their opinions, engage in conversations and class discussions, and contribute their ideas to the life of a school. Being a student leader is so important, as it shows one can be trustworthy, adaptable, courageous, and willing to take the necessary risks to achieve goals. True leaders will not settle for less.

Teens Have High Hopes for New President

Dec 8, 2016

America has elected its next president, and on January 20, the 45th president, the leader of the "Free World," steps into the Oval Office with a multitude of issues in front of him.

Between January 20 and April 29, President Donald J. Trump will work to achieve his promises during his first 100 days in office. Like other elections, most voters selected either a Republican or a Democratic candidate. Eligible voters voiced their opinions as the younger generations watched.

In the U.S., young people play an important role in the political process. Although not eligible to vote, they drive many of the decisions that eligible voters make. Many of the president’s programs will directly affect youth - both today and in the future. The decisions made in the first 100 days will have long-term impacts on this next generation. Further, these crucial decisions will be remembered by these young people as they move to adulthood - all part of the latest president’s legacy.

Why We Perform: That Special Connection

Dec 5, 2016

I have always loved music.

It’s an amazing tool for so many people. An escape or happy place, it’s an opportunity to reach for the stars and strive for perfection. My personal specialty in music is choral singing, and I have sung in so many groups throughout high school. They have taught me so much of what I know.

In choral singing, your body is the only thing you need to be successful. You do not need a synthetic instrument to make gorgeous music. Instead, you are born with what you need to share that ever so special moment with the audience, that moment where both sides in a concert, the choir and the audience, are proud of the hard work that has been done and can enjoy the incredible work of choral singing.

Joining choir was one of the most influential decisions of my life. I have always believed that things happen for a reason, and it seems like so many of the amazing moments in my life required so many details to come together. Choir teaches a student everything. It’s taught me the values of discipline and perseverance. A choral singer must practice their part, pitch, range, vowel shaping, choral tone, music theory, and then practice, practice, practice even more. If you’re a choral singer, I’m sure that sounds familiar.

Early Start Makes School a Sleepy Challenge

Dec 5, 2016

On most school days, teens across the United States sit in classrooms, heads on hands, slowly dozing into a dreamy abyss.

All students have had the feeling of a heavy head, eyelids slowly fluttering closed while listening to a teacher. Being a teenager myself, I have witnessed many students suffering from sleep deprivation. Every night, students struggle to get a normal amount of sleep. This translates to a daily struggle in the classroom. The problem happens throughout the day, but especially in the morning. Students lose focus and have a hard time paying attention. A sedentary classroom is a perfect opportunity to grab a few minutes of much needed sleep.

Sleep-deprived teens have a hard time focusing while in school, but a lack of awareness in school is not the only problem created by a shortage of sleep. Missing sleep during the week along with bad sleep habits on the weekend presents teens with a host of problems. Young adults are still in the growing process and need enough sleep to regenerate both their minds and bodies. According to some of the latest research, teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors, including smoking, drinking, drug use, and fighting, among others.