Raise Your Voice!

Credit Hamza Aden

Young people are among the least likely to vote. This November, Americans will decide the makeup of the next Congress, and the results could change the course of the nation, or solidify the conservative direction of the country. 

Polls predict that anywhere from 28 to 56 percent of eligible voters under 24 will vote, and their involvement could be key for either Republicans or Democrats.

We want to know what young people think about the upcoming elections and issues today. 

And we've got a few questions that might get you going:

Does voting matter? 

Why don’t young people vote - and what could we do to increase youth engagement at the polls?

Is there an issue that would get you to vote?

What issues should we all care about?

Do you feel like political candidates are speaking to people your age?

Should voting be opened to people even younger than 18? 

How would you get more young people to vote?

We’re looking for your ideas on these issue. Write, shoot video, record and edit audio interviews, nearly anything goes. Pick one or more of these ideas and get rolling. We want to hear from you!

Raise Your Voice! is Maine Public's platform for ideas and perspectives from students and teachers. We reach a broad audience interested in education and supporting young people.

To get started, contact Dave Boardman, our education program coordinator at dboardman@mainepublic.org or call or text him at 207-423-6934.

Credit Photo by imgix on Unsplash

And if you're a teacher and interested in working Raise Your Voice into your curriculum, reach out. We'd love to talk about ways to connect your students with our audiences.

Part of The Maine Education Project and funded by The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Raise Your Voice! provides a forum for students and educators to share what it means to teach and learn in today's world.

Click the headline of each story to read the full text.

The past is the consequence of what we have done. The present and the future will be the result of what we are doing in the now; all choices lead us to the future.

My family and I, we made a choice, and that choice brought us here. My name is Jemima, and I am from Angola, a beautiful country, located on the South Atlantic coast of West Africa, between Namibia and Congo, a country that is wonderfully warm, with happy people who love to dance, with beaches and forests, a country where summer is longer than winter.

Outlawing Conversion Therapy Takes Education, Awareness

Sep 10, 2018

What is conversion therapy? The Human Rights Campaign defines it as “a range of dangerous claims and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” 

Conversion therapy is practiced through several different means, such as prayer, psychotherapy, and aversion therapy. Due to the harm it causes, it has been denounced by every major American medical organization. Conversion therapy has been scientifically proven to cause anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicidality. The practice is so dangerous that fourteen different states have outlawed it. So, why isn't Maine one of these states?

Everyone has a different connection to music.

Some, like my grandmother, are indifferent -- she knows it exists, but it’s just not for her. And then there’s me; music has always played some part in my life. 

When SAT Tests More Than Knowledge, Students Lose Out

Sep 8, 2018

Standardized testing: two words that will make any student scared.

It usually requires just three things: a sharpened number two pencil, a sheet of paper with bubbles for the answers, and a native English speaker. 

It's Time to Welcome New Cultures With Open Arms

Sep 7, 2018

In the distance, I could see piles of twigs and decaying fabric, each one telling its own story of the Sun Dance Festival. “Don’t step over the branches. It is disrespectful to the spirit of the tree,” they told us. For many years the Blackfeet tribe has cut willow branches, dug holes, and wove their sacred hut. Left to the passage of time, I see the bones of once mighty encampments before us. 

I remember how I felt. I was standing in their field. I was listening to their history. I was part of their culture. The more they shared, the more I learned and respected. At that moment I was not a tourist, but a guest, one of the community. Now, I cannot claim any Blackfeet heritage of my own, but at that moment I reached a level of cultural understanding I could have never imagined I would ever receive.

“You know, you won’t make much money doing that.” 

For a few years now, I wanted to be a social worker because I want to help people and guide them through their hard times. It seems rewarding to watch someone grow into themselves and be more confident. With all that being said, I don’t have a high school diploma yet or an acceptance letter from a college. I haven’t even applied, so my intangible plans of being a social worker are all I currently have. 

The first time I heard I wouldn’t make much money came from a relative of mine. It stung to hear that comment because it reassured my fear that my plans weren’t valid. We sat at the dining room table, and I stayed quiet after he said it, while my aunt harped at him, telling him that money is not all that’s important in life and that I would figure it out. I won’t lie, I was discouraged. 

Growing Up, Achieving; Lewiston Youth Share Hopes

Aug 8, 2018

What does it mean to have a dream?

Does where we come from matter?

Nearly 20 Lewiston teens took part in Maine Public's Raise Your Voice Workshop this summer at Tree Street Youth Center and explored some of those ideas through writing and photography.

The participating young people were involved in the program through the 21st Century Schools program at Lewiston High School. They mixed learning some of the basics of photography with several photography trips into the community, and they took on a number of writing challenges to help them share their perspectives about life and growing up.

The workshop series was sponsored in part by Lamey Wellehan Shoes.

“Okay class, we have a test tomorrow.”

Oh, the one word that students everywhere, no matter their age, dread: TEST. When you hear that word, what goes through your mind? 

For the average high-schooler, there is a tremendous amount of mixed emotions. After all, the average chapter or unit test presents a unique opportunity: scoring well means your grade will skyrocket, but what you need to do to make that happen is another issue. 

For a final or mid-year assessment, the stakes are even higher. Often valued at 20 percent of a student’s semester grade, many Maine high schools dedicate two full weeks of the school year to these cumulative exams. The situation is even more stressful for regularly high-achieving students who need to score well in order to solidify things such as class rank, GPA, and honor society requirements. 

You’ve probably had one of those moments, driving down some packed city street or a rural backroad relying on a directions app, when you’ve exclaimed, “What did we do before phones?” Ask a member of Generation Z, and they may not be able to tell you. 

Some may bemoan map reading as a lost art, still others may say good riddance to a difficult and outdated system. No matter where you stand on the particular issue of digital directions, it is hard to argue that the cell phone hasn’t enhanced society. 

From easier communication to near-universal access to the world-wide web, from personal cameras to portable music players, the cell phone has completely changed human life, and in many ways for the better. But what happens to a vulnerable part of the population—teenagers — who hardly remember a time when cell phones weren’t a universal part of life? Perhaps the most important question to ask is if these ubiquitous tools are more sinister, affecting the health of teenagers when phones enter schools and classrooms. 

Education often continues outside of the school environment, and students can take the initiative to continue their learning in something they enjoy. 

In a previous piece I had contributed to Raise Your Voice!, I talked about students being required to take part in community service for high school credit. I wrote about how someone interested in working with animals might volunteer at a local animal shelter, someone interested in the medical field could volunteer in a hospital setting, and someone interested in helping the overall community could help organize community events or volunteer in soup kitchens. In this piece I’d like to talk a little bit more about being a junior firefighter at North Lakes Fire & Rescue.

Video: JMG Gives Students an Edge for Life After High School

Jun 28, 2018

If there's one thing that most seniors in high school aren’t ready for, it’s life after high school. 

Growing up is tough, but no matter what, it’s going to happen. One thing that most schools have is the challenge of helping students prepare for their future, but many are working to help students prepare ahead for their adult life by offering a program to get them started. 

Looking for a Healthy Change? Go Vegan!

Jun 16, 2018

“Going vegan is no burden; it is a liberation from being part of the violence and death that humans unjustly impose on the vulnerable.” - Gary L. Francione.

I grew up on a non-vegan diet and took it upon myself to change this past year. I gained interest in veganism because I thought it was wrong and inhumane to torture and kill innocent animals for a meal. After that I got really into health and nutrition which is the biggest reason why I went fully vegan. 

I have been vegan for about five months and I have noticed changes. I have lost weight and I have noticed my mood improve because I wasn't ingesting chemicals and hormones. My mental health and physical health have also improved greatly from how they were. Veganism has become a major part of my life and I have felt better than ever before.

“Reading is Moxie for the brain.” 

Well, that’s how one student put it. Reading is a crucial component to growing up, and fostering a love of reading is one of the most enjoyable tasks I get to take on each year. One way to promote reading? Let young people read. What they want, when they want, how they want -- feet up on the countertop or nestled in a beanbag chair, just let them read. 

PBS recently published the Great American Read list for 2018, the top 100 books most beloved by readers. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I encourage you to do so. But that’s not why I’m here; I’m here because my students have a list of their own. Between my two classes, roughly 55 kids, over 1,000 books have been read during the 2017-2018 school year. 

Economies, Jobs Get Hit When Red Tide Strikes Coast

Jun 11, 2018

There is an underrated problem that although only seen in coastal towns, can bring harm across the country, even to the most landlocked places. 

Living in Freeport, right on the shore of the Harraseeket River, we know all too well how important shellfish are to the economy and diet of Americans. So when red tide strikes, it is detrimental to a coastal town. Not only does red tide cease shellfish harvesting and hurt the economy, it stops all shellfish exports to those landlocked towns that purchase the bivalves. 

“Strictlys come down and line up!” 

When I hear this announcement, it's time to get ready to race. This is the best, yet the most nerve-wracking thing to hear to start out my day. I get my car ready and head to line up. As I wait to be called out on the track with the other Wiscasset Speedway Strictly Streets, which are stock 6/8 cylinder cars, I feel my stomach get into a knot. My foot starts to bounce off the peddle, and the anxiety comes to an all-time high. Some may think this is a bad feeling but coming from a racer’s perspective, there's no other feeling like it.

When the green flag waves, my heart rate jumps sky high. I stay focused and look at what's ahead of me, and try and do the best that I can. I focus on getting faster every lap, working on my groove, and keeping my eyes open for any sudden action ahead or around me.