As we start to gear up for the release of the 2018 Youth Voice survey data (reports for this survey will be available in December – stay tuned!), we wanted to take a closer look at how the data from the 2014 survey has been analyzed and used by students.

A key priority identified in the 2014 survey was the need for youth to feel that they have a voice about issues that matter to them.  With this in mind, Grand Rapids High School Social Studies teachers created a project for their 9th grade Civics students – encouraging students to think about their communities and using their voice for change.

Students analyzed data from the 2014 survey and identified a topic within their community or school that concerned them.  Students were required to interview school or community members about their selected issue to get multiple perspectives and then developed an action plan highlighting the best way to solve the problem in their community.  Students considered multiple solutions and chose the one that would best fit their community and school needs and demographics.

Many issues were covered by students, including the need to increase the number of health-related support groups in schools, increasing the level of participation in creative activities, and ensuring that all students have the necessary life skills needed to succeed.  Students concluded their work by presenting their findings and solutions to their class and members of their community.  “For our students to see an authentic audience with their voice heard (was) very powerful,” says GRHS Social Studies teacher Brielle Carlson.

By immersing themselves in the voices of their peers and acting to respond to these voices, students gained significant perspective.  Students said:

“I think communities often lack the things in which they think they already have.  Creating action plans taught me that we can make a difference.”

“Kids are struggling with low self-esteem, feeling accepted, and feeling valued in our community.  This is a big problem and it’s important that we fix it because our children are our future.”

“I learned that a lot more goes on in our community that I don’t know.  I thought everyone was fine, but that’s not true.”

 “I learned that we can actually do something to help better the community.  I always thought that you would have to be older to try, but now I know that it doesn’t matter how old you are.”

 “I learned that sometimes the youth are afraid to speak up and that our community needs to take advantage when they do.”

“We feel, as Civics teachers, that it is important for students to feel like they can be change-makers.  Civic action starts small and can build into something great and we want our students to know that they have a voice and can use it,” says Carlson.  “I am so excited to have my students analyze the 2018 data to inspire them to be change-makers in our community!”