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.

Activism Gives Students Voice and Education

Jun 14, 2017

In recent years, it is safe to say there has been a rise in activism, particularly in teenage circles. Where did this rise come from? And what really is activism?

According to Merriam-Webster, activism is “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.” But when speaking to youth around the community, each had their own definition of the word.

Emma Anghel, a sophomore at Waynflete, had a simple one of her own. “It’s important. It’s your life,” she said, after speaking about her own individual reasons for becoming involved with activism. Anghel began volunteering at Planned Parenthood in early March after realizing what the organization had done for her own reproductive health. “I thought I owed them something. . . they’ve become something important to me and now I understand what they provide, having been provided by them.”

Students Weigh Proficiency Law's Effect

Apr 29, 2017

Starting in 2020, a new Maine law will require that all graduating students meet minimum levels of proficiency in their subject areas in order to receive a diploma.

This new directive will make proficiency-based learning the new normal rather than the current grading system. With the new law in place for the upcoming academic year, students will be evaluated on their performance in meeting learning targets.

As the Maine Department of Education website states, these learning targets and the subsequent proficiency-based diploma will ensure that students graduate “with a diploma that signifies they are leaving high school with the knowledge and skills needed for college and career success.”

Perhaps caused by the lack of visibility to students, what is interesting about this new initiative is the lack of student opinions. With teachers, adults, and the Maine DOE having plenty of mediums for their thoughts, students have been mostly mute on this important change. Three Waterville Senior High School sophomores, Leah Shoulta, Conrad Ayers, and Lauren Smith, all among one of the last classes to be graded based on the traditional average-based system, spoke about the new initiative.

High School Bumps Eased by Family Support

Apr 29, 2017

Transitioning into high school was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, both academically and socially. Throughout middle school, I maintained high honors. School was never hard for me and I never had to work too hard to get the grade I wanted. I was lucky that way. Coming into high school, I knew the classes would be harder than I was used to, though high school was much different than what I anticipated it would be.

I have always been interested in extracurricular activities. At the start of school, I was already playing soccer. As always, I was able to maintain at least a B in each class pretty easily. Time management, however, was not a skill of mine. When I signed up for the school play, my grades paid the price. All of the sudden, I was out straight until eight thirty every night of the week. Right after school, I went to soccer practice. I only had a half an hour of free time between soccer practice and play rehearsal. My math grade plummeted and it took me until just a few weeks ago to pull it back up to an A, and math used to be my best subject.

Matching School, Teaching, Makes a Difference

Apr 11, 2017

Every student has specific and personal learning needs. Some students prefer one-on-one attention, some work better as a whole class. Some work better in a quiet environment, while others prefer to have it more hectic. Unlike most students, I got to choose what high school I would go to, and I picked the one with the teaching style that would best match how I learn.

I also chose Oceanside because of the friends I have made who attend this school, and because I've grown up in the RSU 13 district. In January, the eighth graders from Saint George shadowed us to determine where they wanted to go to school, and that has helped me become more aware of my own school environment.

Students who live in Saint George, my town, have a choice of five high schools: Oceanside, Camden, Watershed, Lincoln Academy, and Medomak. When the students shadowed us, they got to take a look into what freshman classes look like for us at Oceanside. Having a choice of high schools opens up to students specific creative processes, and gives them control over what and how they will be able to learn. And having someone to answer questions and introduce them to teachers was both beneficial for them and for me. I got to see what type of students they were, and they got to see what Oceanside has to offer for them to learn.

Teachers Hold a Key to Student Interest

Apr 9, 2017

Like many other schools, Oceanside High School has many teachers who teach and act in different ways, and there are hundreds of students, all here because they want to learn, they're being forced to come, or they have no where else to go.

One thing that can be agreed upon is that the goal for school is to teach children so they can grow up and live in society. But some of these students learn in different ways, and I have found that with some teachers, there is an overwhelming amount of children who feel like they don't learn or feel disrespected. But then there are the teachers who everyone loves, and it just so happens that these teachers have many things in common.

Time, Pressures of Life Make School a Challenge

Apr 2, 2017

One thing that has never been hard for me was speaking my mind and asking as many questions as I needed to understand a subject, but that changed this year.

Since I've entered high school, I've found it harder to speak my mind and to ask questions about the material. This is most likely due to all of the new pressures I've not yet had to deal with in my life. The work is much harder than I've had before and I've found time management much more difficult, debating between allocating my time to sports, homework, friends, and personal time for myself.

Sports have never taken more than two to three hours of my day, but this year I've been out at football games until 1 a.m. This has been a radical change for me and it has been a struggle getting used to. School also has become more of a challenge to keep up with. When you're out until late and school starts at 7:30 a.m., it can be hard to stay on top of the homework assignments and remember all of the information presented in class. This leads into the controversial changing of school start time.

There's been talk of changing the start time of school from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. I believe that this would be a mistake for a multitude of reasons. First, it would interfere with parents who drop their kids off at school and change their schedules.

Concussions Change the Learning Landscape

Mar 30, 2017

As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize how important it is for me to share my own thoughts and opinions and use my voice. To me, this project was seen as something more than just your average research project because I was given the freedom to choose a topic that I cared about.

Learning is All About Following a Passion

Mar 24, 2017

I basically grew up in a library. My mom is a librarian, so I have spent more time in a library than anyone I know. My most vivid memory there was spending my sick days in the corner of the children’s section at the North Bridgton Library, wrapped in a blanket on top of the heater and reading the Goosebumps books that I was nestled beside. I’ve made collages in a library, had a Dirty Dancing potluck in a library, and even slept on the floor of a library. Three times, actually. Instead of falling asleep at night with a stuffed animal, I would fall asleep clutching a book. Looking at me now, with my book collection that easily exceeds 200, you would never know that up until my sophomore year, my dream and passion was to become a scientist.

When I originally applied to Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland, Maine, I thought that I wanted to be an archeologist. I wanted to dig things up and solve mysteries. I’ve always been fascinated by history, and one day wanted to make as big of a discovery as the Titanic or King Tut’s tomb. I went in signing up for as many science and biology classes as I could, hoping to learn as much as I could about anything and everything. I was excited to take Freshman Humanities as well, but I mean, dinosaurs and undiscovered ancient villages were out there waiting for me!

Poetry Brings Emotion, Identity to Education

Mar 18, 2017

I love creating and performing poetry because it is a way for me to escape from the real world. When I am expressing myself through my writing, I don’t feel the pressure of others telling me what to say; I can just be myself and say exactly what’s on my mind.

When I listen to poetry, I don't have to understand all of it because the poet is showing their own feelings through their writing.

When I first started writing poetry, I was a quiet person and did not speak much to others. As I continued writing in my free time, I felt myself becoming more and more confident.

Poetry gave the courage to break out my shell. Finally, I found myself. When I am writing, I feel like a whole new person, because I can speak my mind and feel strongly about it. When I am standing on the stage and performing my poetry, I see the emotions in the audience’s eyes. I can connect to them and change their point of view in that very moment. Poetry has changed my life for the better and I hope to transform the world even more with my own poems and performances. Taking creative writing helped me expand my poetry and improve my grammar while clarifying my thoughts.

American Schools Offer a New Experience

Mar 15, 2017

Being an exchange student is not easy at all. It means leaving everything behind and starting 
all over again, making new friends, speaking another language, and going to a different school where education takes place in a different style. When we come here, we don’t think about how much we’ll miss our parents and siblings. We first think that we will miss our friends and all the gossip at school, but being here makes us realize how much we need our family. Other exchange students and our parents always tell us that through this experience, we will see who our real friends are, and that is true. Our family and our real friends are with us no matter what.

My name is Claudia Serna. I was born in Barcelona, Spain, but I live in Madrid. This year, I am a sophomore at Traip Academy in Kittery. Before coming here, I was really scared. I had seen movies about this country before, but I had never been here, so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that going somewhere new would be difficult, but I realized it all depends on my attitude: if we come here thinking that we won’t like it, we won’t, but if we see it as an opportunity to learn and try new things, we’ll have an unforgettable experience. When I knew I was coming to Kittery, I looked at the weather, photographs and news. When the winter came, I saw it was very cold, and, at first, I was nervous because it was freezing and I wasn’t used to temperatures like that. But after talking with my future family, they told me what it was like to wake up and see everything covered with snow. They said it was the best feeling ever, and now that I’ve seen it, I can say they were definitely right.

Bridge Year Makes College One Step Closer

Feb 26, 2017

Before I started in the Bridge Year Program, I was the shy girl who sat in the back of the class praying that the teacher would not call on her. Now I jump at any chance to talk. I find myself excited to get in debates with my classmates, when before, the thought of speaking out loud was equivalent to jumping off a cliff. I have broken out of my shell and have begun the path that is life.

The Bridge Year Program is a two-year experience that offers 30 college credits to students who take a series of rigorous college-level courses and complete two years at a career and technical education (CTE) center. It’s an opportunity that equals out to the first year of college, providing a jump start on life.

This program is first introduced to students in the middle of their sophomore year. Those who are accepted begin their college classes at the start of their junior year with their cohort. During the course of their two years, students are enrolled in a CTE center, which allows them the chance to explore potential careers. Through the CTE program, students are offered job shadows, scholarships, and college touring trips. Last year my cohort took a trip across Maine to visit colleges like the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Machias, Fort Kent, and Eastern Maine Community College.

Student Filmmaker Calls for Gender Equality

Feb 20, 2017

Only one woman has ever won an Oscar for best director in the 87-year history of the Academy Awards. Just think about that for a minute. Why does this happen? Why are women only roughly 17 percent of directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors in the film industry? That’s insane!

This issue has bothered me for a long time, especially because my dream is to direct movies one day. I brought up this issue once while I was hanging out with a group of three of my male friends. I was surprised by their response. They told me, “The reason that women don’t work in that industry is just because they’re not good at it.” They went on to compare me to a male friend of mine who also makes movies and hopes to go into the industry as well. And it didn’t stop there. They claimed he was better than me despite the fact that I had even beaten him in our school film festival. These were my friends, yet without even seeing my work they assumed that someone else was more skilled than me, just because of my gender.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in making movies. When I was 12, I had watched nearly every Tim Burton movie and was convinced that one day I could make something like that. I carried a little video camera around all the time - this was before the time of high quality iPhone film footage - and filmed my Barbies or animals I saw outside. When I entered middle school, I got my first school-issued laptop and that’s when I learned how to edit for the first time. I never realized I wanted to direct films until the summer of ninth grade, when I filmed a short video on an iPad one afternoon in my garage with the help of my little sister. 

SkillsUSA Links Leaders, Technical Training

Feb 12, 2017

There are lots of different organizations, clubs, and teams that students can join in high school. I have participated in many of them, including the volleyball team, academic decathlon team, and student council. However, arguably the most important organization I am a part of is SkillsUSA, a national organization that promotes leadership and holds technical competitions for middle school, high school, and college students.

To me, SkillsUSA is less of an organization or competition, and more of a family. I have been lucky to be a member for three years, and have served as a state officer for the past two. I can honestly say that the people I have met through SkillsUSA have become like a second family to me. When I show up at meetings I am greeted with hugs and smiles and comments on things that have happened since we last saw each other. SkillsUSA is an organization that is filled with wonderful people and amazing opportunities for students.

Technical education teaches students career skills and prepares them to go out into the workforce in only a few short years. SkillsUSA helps these students become even more prepared for the world of work by integrating leadership and professional skills. 

Community Service Helps Students, Schools

Jan 26, 2017

Volunteering can mean the world to others. It enriches the lives of not only those who are receiving help, but also the lives of those who are paying it forward. Helping others can bring a sense of responsibility to students, and possibly even increase success as adults. As part of high school credit, students should be required to be involved within society and complete a set amount of hours of community service or volunteer services for each year of high school.

Volunteering is not required at my school, but we do have clubs and programs that promote involvement in the community. We have a Civil Rights Team, Youth Voices, and Junior Hospital Volunteers to name a few, but no one is required to participate. Programs outside of school also encourage people to participate. There is no community program that will turn down a volunteer, as help is greatly needed and appreciated. Students should not struggle in finding a good cause to work towards. The examples are all over: cleaning a local park, picking up any trash around school, helping at animal shelters, nursing homes, hospitals, Toys for Tots, and so much more.

I have found that participating in community events has made me a better person. I get to experience the satisfaction of what giving to others brings, and I can explore my future. I plan to be a firefighter and paramedic as an adult, and I am currently involved with a junior firefighter program through North Lakes Fire and Rescue. 

What Matters Now? Just Listen.

Jan 17, 2017

My vox pop, a collection of students' voices, is a window to the inner thoughts of how high schoolers feel about themselves. It shows how the life of a high schooler revolves mostly around who they associate themselves with and their extracurricular activities. This is the time in our lives that has the biggest impression on us, and it is the time we are trying to learn who we are as people.

This audio project was built from my interest in learning how people see themselves. Originally it was self-image piece but as I progressed forward I realized it was becoming a more of a “Who Am I?” project. I guess both approaches fit for the project, but when hearing my peers explain to me how they reflect on themselves, I realized that the way they see themselves is who they are, and what makes them themselves.

Hearing different aspects from different people allow others to understand what high schoolers notice, what they pay attention to, what’s important to them and what they’re focused on. It becomes clear as people reflect on themselves, that most high schoolers are motivated by doing something interactive.