Raise Your Voice!

Credit Hamza Aden

We want to know what matters to young people today. We've all got an issue, a belief, an idea that drives us forward, something that really matters. Raise Your Voice! is Maine Public's online platform for ideas and perspectives from students across the state. We reach a broad audience interested in education, supporting young people, and especially, in hearing what today's youth have to say.

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.

Today's World Needs Involved Learning

Jan 7, 2017

In this quick-paced world, we are constantly surrounded by excitement. People can have news and information on what their friends are doing at the tip of their fingers. But that fast pace doesn't always extend to school. Students today get bored very quickly when they are expected to sit in classes where some teachers show very little enthusiasm.

Teachers should be adapting to make a more intriguing learning environment that moves at a faster pace. On a typical school day, almost all classes are spent listening to 40 minute lectures. In classes such as science, it is easier to engage students in labs. In an English class, teachers can get students thinking by analyzing story plots or finding symbolism in a story. In many courses, real world examples can be used to get students more interested.

As a student, I have always found it difficult to stay engaged in topics if teachers do not make the work stimulating. Not only should they keep the lesson constantly moving, but they should relate what we are talking about to the real world. Doing so would help students better retain the information by connecting it to something meaningful. 

In a Key Moment, a Teacher Matters

Dec 27, 2016

There are moments in life that will forever impact who you are, and you will always remember every little detail of them: the birth of your child, your wedding day or even graduation night. This was mine.

I looked at the clock, needing to focus on something solid, like time. 2:33 p.m. I kept pulling at my sleeves and running my hands through my hair, the nausea slowly making its way from my stomach all the way through my body. The trembling soon followed. I went in one more circle around the group of desks while waiting for her to come into the room. “I can’t do this. I’m going to die.” My strange new mantra. It was one of those head-spinning, chest-pain-from-breathing, this is all just a nightmare, moments.

I was waiting for my English teacher, someone I found incredibly intimidating, which made the situation all that much harder for me. I knew I needed to do this in order to survive the rest of high school. I had been attacked before, punched in the face, pushed into lockers, tripped in the halls for people thinking I was even gay. What if I wasn’t a girl like they all thought? What would happen then? I had tried coming out before; I told my friend “I might think I’m more of a boy than a girl.” He told me I was confused so I didn’t say anything for years after. Not only could coming out now and having another person not accept my gender identity make it uncomfortable to be in her classroom, but I was struggling so much that I wasn’t going to school and, therefore, I was failing classes. At the time, I was harming myself and considering suicide. This moment would break me if it didn’t go right.

Success Comes with Opportunities, Support

Dec 15, 2016

What comes to mind first when we think of the traditional school environment? Desks, lockers, and crowded hallways are all the common answers. Some of us think of homework, books, and tests. But the ideal school lies deeper than that; it’s a combination of the classes taught, the school’s rules, and of course, the students and staff.

Throughout the day at Snow Pond Arts Academy in Sidney, students can be heard playing ukulele, piano, guitar, violin, and many other instruments. Other students work on their dance routines or scenes from theatre class.

Though I came to Snow Pond Arts Academy to pursue acting, I’ve had the opportunity to take dance classes and learn how to play piano, both of which I enjoy and would never have done if I hadn’t come to a performing arts school. Acting has always been something I’ve loved, and having the opportunity to do it every day at school has helped me grow in my ability. Going to a performing arts school has helped me enjoy school rather than tolerate it.

Teachers Who Connect Make a Difference

Dec 14, 2016

I learned a lot in high school, and I’ve got my diploma to prove it. But the lessons that will stick with me the longest aren’t things I read out of a textbook or heard in lecture. The lessons that I’ll remember for the rest of my life came from my teachers’ hearts.

When they connected with me on a personal level and opened themselves up, the topics we discussed offered the lessons I’ll take with me the longest. I can think of three teachers in particular who impacted my high school career by telling me stories about things that happened to them, or to former students they taught in the past. These teachers offered advice about college, jobs, even relationships. These things don’t get taught in the curriculum, but by far they offer the most important lessons in life. Whether it was during a class discussion or a one-on-one conversation, the educators who didn’t strictly stick to the curriculum made the biggest impact in my life.

My advanced biology teacher, Regan McPhetres, gave me a lot of college advice. His stories made me worry a little less about leaving the familiarity of home and moving to a new place with all new people. He also gave me a lot of study tips, and helpful hints on how to speak and put essays together in a time efficient way. I wouldn’t have learned any of that if he had stuck to the curriculum and only taught the information that was in the textbook.