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.

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.

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.