Last year at around this time, I published a post about #StuVoice and mentioned that I really enjoyed tweeting with other students who cared about education reform, but I wasn’t really sure how that could translate to action in real life.
A year later, I’m proud to say that the HISD Student Congress is officially starting in a few weeks, giving all Houston high school students a platform to have their voices heard.
In February, Zaakir emailed me asking if I wanted to join a group of students who would be sharing their opinions to city leaders about the future of Houston. I said yes and briefly mentioned that I was interested in education reform.
In the beginning, I wasn’t very active. However, that completely changed once Zaakir said that the group had decided to focus on education after meeting with Dr. Stephen Klineberg, one of the leading urban researchers in the nation, and Sheriff Adrian Garcia.
At the next meeting, we discussed what we were exactly trying to do and how we were going to organize it. At the time, we only knew that we wanted to create something greater than a group of high school students talking about education at the Baker Institute.
We wrote out our ideas on large pads of paper and presented them to the HISD school board president Juliet Stipeche, whom Zaakir had invited. We wanted a structure where we could gather students from each of HISD’s 44 high schools and have them discuss relevant issues in education. Ms. Stipeche supported what we were doing and told us that she was thinking about starting something similar, but that it’d be even better if we were doing it. We decided to call ourselves the Student Congress of HISD and started working on setting up the structure and getting the word out.
Over the summer, we met with other district board members to discuss the Student Congress. (“We’re not asking for permission, we’re informing them that it’s happening”) Zaakir also managed to land a spot on local television and invited me to join him. In preparation, we put together a site and bought a domain name. After the TV appearances, I realized that my public speaking skills could use a lot (a lot a lot a lot) of practice, but at least we got HISD Student Congress mentioned in the news.
What we’ll be doing
A Student Congress could have immense power, but everything we’ve done could just as easily go to waste if we don’t run it properly.
We decided on having a series of committees that each tackle a single issue, but we’ve stayed away from mentioning specific issues until we became officially recognized. That being said, these are some issues on which students could offer some pretty valuable feedback:
- Later school start times.
- Literacy (1 in 5 people in Harris County can’t read. It’s officially a literacy crisis.)
However, simply being students doesn’t give us the right to demand changes to the educational system. There’ll be a considerate amount of research backing any claim we make. With great power comes great responsibility. [See: The Work Required To Have an Opinion]
Asides from policy, I’ve also become interested in the humanistic aspect of education. Teaching has often been described as both a science and an art, and the same applies to learning. I’m interested in exploring the latter part.
Before Zaakir ever told me about “Our Shared Future”, I had the idea of starting a student-run blog where any student could share his or her thoughts on education. Originally, I tried running this through my school, but despite all my hard work, the newspaper staff rejected my idea two weeks before school started. But that’s a story (read: rant) for another time.
HISD Student Congress is an even better platform through which to run this blog, since it has a wider scope with a larger purpose. I’m thinking about launching the blog either right before or along with the opening sessino.
I originally only wanted to accept long-format posts that were properly formatted and thought out, but after seeing the validity of standalone ideas through Google Keep, I decided submissions of any length would be accepted, including quotes.
My main worry is that people won’t submit posts, since I’ll have to depend on people who actually caring about education (!!!) to sit down and write a post.
How can I join?
You’re interested in joining the HISD Student Congress? You care about your own education and the education of others? Great!
Our opening session will be on September 27, 2014, at Hattie Mae White. This’ll be a great chance to learn more about our goals and meet other people who are interested in education.