Raise Your Voice!

Students have a voice. They have opinions and insights that often aren’t heard in conversations about education. Raise Your Voice!, the Maine Education Project’s student showcase, features young people as they talk about life in school, future dreams and how they’re getting there, stories of what’s working in schools today, and stories of what’s not working so well.

We want to know what young people think about what they’re learning, how they’re learning, and what they’re doing with the skills they're gaining. We’re working with many of these students directly to feature them on our site where they can reach our audience. And we’re working with teachers who are willing to help mentor their students to develop work through the writing process, toward ultimate publication on our site.

If you’re a high school student and you’ve got something to say, contact Dave Boardman, our education program coordinator, at dboardman@mainepublic.org, or call him at 207.423.6934. And if you're a teacher, reach out. We'd love to talk about ways to work Raise Your Voice! into your curriculum.

For more information about Raise Your Voice and the Maine Education Project, contact Education Program Coordinator Dave Boardman at: RaiseYourVoice@mainepublic.org or call 207-423-6934

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.

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

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.