Editor’s note: While School News Network prioritizes student voice in our articles, we know there is so much more to tell. We believe to truly tell the stories that need to be told, we should first and foremost elevate students’ ideas, opinions and experiences. We want to know: What is school really like for them? What do they enjoy? What needs to change? What are issues that need to be addressed? We spoke with 10 high schoolers from seven of the districts we cover, urban, suburban and rural, to get their thoughts on what their everyday experiences are like.
This is the final installment of six parts of our conversation.
- Part 1: What is it like to be a high school student today?
- Part 2: How big an issue is mental health at your school?
- Part 3: What would you like adults to know about what your life is like?
- Part 4: How much of a problem is social media, and how do we fix it?
- Part 5: How safe do you feel in your school?
All districts — After discussing several hard topics, we wanted to end our student panel on a positive note; namely, what these high school students enjoy most about school. Diversity, a sense of belonging and opportunities to discover their passions are the top things they mentioned when thinking about their high school experience. They love to see communities unite for special events and they love being a part of it. Here are excerpts from the end of our conversation.
SNN: What do you like best about your school?
McKenna, senior: “We have a lot of opportunities — not only with clubs and classes and stuff, but we get the opportunity of being in the most diverse high school in Michigan. We have the opportunity to talk to people from different countries. We get to talk to people who don’t speak English, which is kind of hard sometimes, but Google Translate is a thing, so I think it’s a lot of fun. I think the thing I like about (my school) is no matter what your interests are; no matter where you come from; no matter your gender, sexuality, whatever; you can always find something to be in and some people to be with.”
Terrell, junior: “I have Junior ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) and I don’t think of it as a class; I think of it as a community … There are so many like-minded individuals, and we all just share so many common things, but also have a whole bunch of different and diverse thoughts. Together I feel like we’re just something (unique). Because of (JROTC) I got to go out of the state for the first time ever in my life!”
Emma, senior: “(My school), the town in general, (supports) events we put on; like, we do (an event to raise money for cancer research) every year. That brings the whole entire community and other communities together. Watching those types of things just really makes you feel happy and proud of the community.”
Kelvin, sophomore: “I like that there’s more and more opportunities for people. Like, our school just unleashed the aeronautics program and I have heard that quite a lot of people are starting to sign up for that. So, it’s something new that students are immediately jumping into, something new that they probably don’t even know anything about.”
Kerim, junior: “Getting (diverse) perspectives is really the best way to understand and learn about a person — the way that they grew up, the culture they have, their music, the languages that they speak. These are things that make a human, human. Whether you’re American, whether you’re Ethiopian, whether you’re Hispanic, it doesn’t matter what you are. It is just the fact that you know you have your (cultural traits) and you can share them with another group (that I like).”
Liz, senior: “There are a lot of great people who are willing to support each other. We always go to football games, the drama production, band competitions. It’s just (that) we want to support and be there for each other. That unity between the student bodies is what makes it so much fun to go to school.”
Karl, senior: “I like that you get to do extra. I get to do this (panel). I get to meet you guys from schools all over Kent County. That’s crazy, and I never thought I’d be able to have that opportunity.”
Joel, junior: “Finding your passion — the things you will like for the rest of your life … I found that I really like traveling, especially abroad and learning about new cultures … which is what leads me towards (pursuing) a career of wanting to travel abroad to teach English as a second language … (School) has also shown me that I like English better than math. I thought I liked math better than English. I think school is somewhere you can change a lot.”
Thank you to The New York Times for inspiring the format for this panel, which we used to elevate the voices of students.