Boynton Alternative High School and Student Voice

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Authentic youth voice, what is it, why are the students engaged, how does one teach youth voice, what is the impact, and how do we measure their success? These are the questions I am most asked. There are no easy answers because the answers themselves depend on so many factors such as input from the community, by in from the teacher and students, and resources available. What is easy to state however is that students want a voice and demand that people listen. They have a difficult time expressing what they are thinking due to limited experiences and technical knowledge, however, with investments from schools, communities and businesses that is all starting to change.

For the last 6 years of my 16 year teaching career I have had the unbelievable pleasure of teaching a selection of courses where at risk students get a mix of great technology and the task of voicing their unique perspective. As my program has grown to include all forms of digital media (music video, documentary films, animation, photography, and motion graphics) I have discovered more about my students and myself than I had ever anticipated.

The students in this year's program have come up with some incredible projects that, when completed will compete in film festivals worldwide. They will be used by homeless shelters to highlight the homeless veterans, by nonprofits for the blind so that young children who are experiencing the fearful prospect of losing their sight will know others share their fears and possibilities. They will give voice to those who choose to use sharp instruments to inflict pain to themselves secretly, and they will highlight the success of young boxer who immerses himself in the gym to avoid the bad decisions that plague our at risk young adults.

I work with at risk high school students and I believe I'm lucky enough to live between generations. I spend a good portion of my day immersed in their world and see things through their unique perspective, their youthful energy reminds me that life evolves, changes and unless we educators attempt to experience life from their perspective we will never fully reach our them.

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