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.

“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.

We're in the middle of finals season, and students are beginning to prepare for their exams by making lists, writing flashcards, and memorizing facts. High school education has evolved from learning to memorization, promoting answering rather than comprehending. 

A majority of students are focused more on obtaining good grades rather than understanding the concepts that are being taught.  When school systems prioritize the importance of grades over education, students are likely to resort to cheating.

It's Time to Talk About Race in Maine Public Schools

Jun 7, 2018

Part One: Issues of Racism in Maine Public Schools

First in a series. 

As a white person living in a predominantly white community and state, I often feel uncomfortable discussing race. I feel ashamed and guilty. Like many white people living in this country, I’m ashamed of behaviors of those who share my skin color from the past and, in some contexts, the present.

I have a sense that I am one of millions of people who feel this way, but by avoiding the topic of race in order to keep myself comfortable, I’m allowing others to continue living in a state of discomfort, disrespect, exclusion, fear, and the list goes on. 

I had the recent privilege of attending the 2018 Maine Civil Rights Team Project’s State Conference, which was held in Augusta in May. It was here where I heard Shay Stewart-Bouley address hundreds of Maine students from grades 5-12 about racism, past and present. 

Technical school is a fun place for kids who want to learn a trade and work in their field. It's perfect for students who are hard workers, and who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. 

Auto technology, outdoor power, and building trades are just some of the programs that a school like Region 10 Technical High School in Brunswick offers, but I think they - and other schools around the state - should expand their offerings to add programs for plumbing and heating, and electrical technology. Those are two fields that are growing in Maine, and it is hard to find people to work in those fields. 

At Region 10 in Brunswick, and at other career and technical education centers across Maine, we need electrical and plumbing classes so students like me can get the training and experience we need to be successful in these fields. 

Everyone has undoubtedly had a difficult time finding the words to describe their feelings, even to a close friend. People do not know what to write in cards to relatives or even friends. Everyone has laughed at a meme, but some people cannot understand one word in another language. The struggle of not knowing what to say and how to express words to others through writing is like not being able to understand a person speaking another language because of your lack of knowledge.

School can seem like a great place so young people can work, hang out with friends, and look forward to the future. 

But to kids with autism, it can sometimes be scary. They intend to sometimes be alone, and they will try their best to socialize, but it can get awkward fast. 

This has happened to me as a kid and still to this day. I do socialize with a lot of people in my high school, but sometimes it gets awkward even when I don’t realize it. Some people will walk away from me and wonder if I’m strange or not, while others will accept the way I am and the way I act. 

Pop, Rap Lyrics Support a Culture Demeaning Women

May 9, 2018

Misogyny has always been a issue in media. The over-sexualization of women is appalling, and quite degrading. This problem often slips by unnoticed because we have become desensitized to it. It's never viewed as a problem, instead it's become normal to overly sexualize females in objectifying and misogynistic ways. 

Now one would think this is mainly in movies, TV, and video games. While this problem is certainly within these forms of media, the matter I find most pressing to address is the misogyny in pop music.  Popular music thrives off of the superficial process of repetition. It sticks to a small set of musical themes, and uses them until they're no longer trendy. It's never about art, it's about what will sell the most, and right now for male artists that topic is demeaning women. They don't care about the effects of these messages, as long as they're paid.

If there were one thing I was not prepared for when I signed up to lead a school safety walkout for March 14th, it was the amount of pushback I received while planning. There were days it felt as if I was standing in a room full of people, all wearing headphones, screaming, "You don’t want to die here either, right?" with little-to-no effect. Many, even my friends, couldn’t understand the point of a walkout. Some students didn’t want to side with the gun-haters. Many didn’t like the phrase, “gun control.”

I live in a very politically divided place. In my small, rural Maine town, you can guess just by looking at a classroom full of kids who owns a gun, whose family makes more than $30,000 a year, who is planning on going to college. There are few secrets when it comes to political leanings, and gun control is a particularly heated issue because of this. I had no idea how hard it would be to be a leader of these students, or how hard it would be to rally people for a cause that seems so obvious.

Most killers you hear about on the news, or you see on the covers of magazines, but not mental illness.

Millions of people are affected by depression, anxiety, substance addiction, and more. And sadly, sometimes mental illness can end in suicide. It is hard to diagnose many mental illnesses, especially in teens. Many things can cause mental health issues, and for young people that are affected by mental illness, schools should be taking a much larger role in educating youth on their mental health and how to take care of it. Mental illness is too big of a problem for people to ignore. 

Ready for College? Senior Doubts Proficiency Helped

May 3, 2018

I started going to school in Richmond in sixth grade, and in my first year there, they changed the grading system to standards-based.

For the first year, the new passing grade was 2.5 out of 4.0, but the next year they changed the passing grade to 3.0. A score under a 3.0 meant you weren’t proficient in that topic, and you could not pass without the teacher’s help. 

When they raised the passing grade, some people had to finish work from the previous year that only had a 2.5 because it wasn’t passing anymore, and that was when I started to dislike the new grading system.

The vision of the ideal college applicant grows in complexity every year.  It’s no longer just about your grades. It’s about your grades, your extracurriculars, and what kind of person you are. Many colleges, especially the most selective ones, have instituted the holistic admission process. 

Holistic admissions means that the college or university looks at the applicant as a whole as opposed to just bits and pieces. Although every admissions counselor will agree that your transcript is the most important part of your application, this is simply just the foot-in-the-door. The cold truth is that everyone has good grades and test scores if you are applying to a selective school. You have to distinguish yourself with your extracurriculars, community service, and most importantly, your character. 

Finding a Voice Offers a Path for Improving School Safety

Apr 18, 2018

It’s been about two months since the shooting in Parkland. As a student, I’ve been asked how I feel by well-meaning administrators and teachers, family friends, strangers and most often, my friends, as they try to hide how afraid they are now. In the lunchroom, we talk about bulletproof windows, our safety at marches, and lockdown procedure. I tried to find something, anything, to say to comfort my friends.  But I didn’t believe any reassurances myself. I tried to write something for Raise Your Voice. But I was too afraid. I couldn’t process what had happened. Whatever I said felt like it didn’t do justice to the gravity of 17 people, and a generation impacted. 

I had the privilege of being able to avoid thinking about what happened. But that’s exactly what it is, a privilege. Not everyone has it. There are kids who were at Parkland or any one of the other school shootings in our country. There are kids who have to fear gun violence in their communities or from the police, a status disproportionately affected by socioeconomic standing and racial tensions. 

We know how it feels to huddle on the floor and fight against wondering what’s outside. School shootings are real for us, in a way they weren’t for our parents or grandparents when they were in school. This is a shared experience of our generation. My school had an unscheduled lockdown very recently following the shooting. We’ve had drills and mistakes before. This was a false alarm. But it was different. Everyone in that room was completely silent. I can’t forget crouching there in the dark, and knowing this was how it felt. This is how it starts. 

Student-Centered Means Students Need to Be Heard

Apr 16, 2018

High school: "You failed.”

Going to bed at 1:00 am, waking up at 6:00 a.m. The test sits on our desk, and our minds go blank. Four or more hours making flash cards, looking at our notes, memorizing it all just for our minds to shut off. The bell rings and we look down to only see a couple questions answered. 

The next day we go to class and our teacher sits us down to talk. They’re disappointed: “Why didn’t you study? You failed the test. I thought you were better than this.” 

Over and over again we think of the word "failure," but never did our teacher ask how many hours we studied. They never listen when we say, “I really did study. My mind just goes blank when I look at my test.” They only seem to show interest in the way we learn when the grade is above average. 

Video: Want to Keep Youth in Maine? Try Building the Arts

Apr 14, 2018

How does a community retain its younger population and engage them in its future? The central Maine city of Waterville is one place where nonprofits, local leaders, and educators are working to help young people build a path to their future through the arts.

We’re three Mid-Maine Technical Center students enrolled in the Mass Media Communications program, and we took a look at this issue for a documentary we produced for the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs as part of their Making It Work series.

School is All About Looking for the Teachable Moments

Apr 9, 2018

As many know, life is full of constant twists and turns, ups and downs, and always has something to throw our way. Like the theme of a story, people are constantly learning lessons about life.

Within the school environment students are living and learning in their own ways, taking away something that will most likely last forever. A student may learn that friendships will come and go, or that arguing may not be worth it in the long run and keeping their mouth shut is the better path to take. Whatever it may be, students are constantly seeing situations that bring out teachable moments in any ordinary school day. 

Breanna Beaulieu, a sophomore from Fort Kent Community High School, has learned over the years  to be a leader and not a follower.

She says, “There’s a lot of cliques and groups, some being good, but most not quite. Some kids feel the need to be popular, and they feel like they have to hang out with the “cool” people not always making the right decisions. Being in these groups leaves people like me to feel like we’re pressured into changing ourselves, instead of embracing our own individual selves.” Bre says that people need to be the leader of their own way and not follow the ways of other people. Her message would be to follow your own path, lead the way, and don’t follow the crowd. 

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