East's Student Voice Highlighted on National Stage

East's Student Voice Efforts Highlighted on National Stage
Posted on 12/21/2018
This is the image for the news article titled East's Student Voice Efforts Highlighted on National Stage

photo of students skyping on student voice topicEmpowering student voice is something in which schools in Lakota excel. Just ask Dr. Blaine Alexander from the Arkansas Leadership Academy.

Recently, administrators, teachers and students who are passionate about empowering student voice gathered at the University of Arkansas to participate in the Student Voice Institute. Prior to the conference, Alexander put a call out looking for schools that are leading the way and was pointed towards Lakota East High School.

Three seniors joined Principal Suzanna Davis during a video conference with Alexander and the institute’s attendees to talk about how East has been able to embed student voice into school culture.

Davis explained that she began to embrace the idea of empowering student voice last year, as a result of Superintendent Matthew Miller’s encouragement. “Now, it’s very unusual not to have a student in the room when big decisions are being made,” she said. Davis used the power of social media to create her student advisory council. The group, whose numbers have grown from 24 last year to 40 currently, meets regularly to brainstorm ideas on how to improve the school and give feedback to Davis.

Caleb Hoch, one of the East participants, saw a difference after the start of the student advisory council. “Just filling out the application, being asked what I thought about the school district and what I thought could be improved - and then seeing it come to life was huge,” he said.

Senior Grace Phair agrees. “It’s been a mindshift,” she believes. “We really wanted people to learn how to be leaders, how to communicate and how to speak up for themselves,” she explained. “Students feeling comfortable having a conversation with administrators helped the process to explode.”

“Student Voice gets you out of your comfort zone and lets you see what can happen,” Max Chandler told the audience.

When the conference attendees voiced a concern about a teacher versus student mentality, Davis and her students quickly dismissed it, citing several examples of building a different type of relationship between the two groups, including social media. “Our Lakota Ed Chats helped immensely,” Grace said. “When students run the ed chats, they can ask questions and have teachers answer.” The group also talked about the emphasis put on building relationships during the first two days of school this year, a decision they believe truly helped both teachers and students.

Although not a part of the student advisory council, Bea Amsalu, a fellow senior, feels very comfortable approaching school administrators with her ideas. “A lot of student voice has been me tweeting out into the void and Mrs. Davis responding,” she said, praising the district and the school’s increased use of social media. “Twitter has been a huge part of student voice - being able to tweet and have someone from the district respond.”

Davis realized early on that the school needed to act on ideas in order to have buy-in from the student body. “It couldn’t just be students talking but not seeing results in order to make students understand that they matter and their voices matter.”