Commissioner's Student Advisory Council graphic

(FRANKFORT, KY) – Members of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council met on May 30 to discuss their student voice project that may result in a future set of policy recommendations.

Students broke into two groups and discussed what is student voice, its impact, the criticisms of student voice and local school and district examples.

Constance Martin, a junior at Johnson Central High School (Johnson County), currently serves as the student representative on her local school board. The high school elects one rising sophomore and one rising junior to sit on the board. Martin said students need a seat at the table because they are the ones who know how the school environment works.

“The students are the ones who truly have to live through [decisions made] and live with those decisions and they are the ones most impacted by the governing bodies,” said Martin. “For any sort of governing body to be over the school, they have to include student voice to be well and truly informed and ethical.”

Students who felt their voices were heard offered examples to the whole group.

Luke Taylor, a graduate of Daviess County High School, said his school wanted to host its own version of University of Kentucky’s Dance Blue, an event where students raise money for a cause they choose. Taylor said he initially was terrified about talking to his principal, but his fears where put to rest when it was approved within the week.

“It made me feel incredible,” he said. “All of the hard work we put into it and having student voice be heard.”

A screenshot of the May 30 virtual Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council meeting.

Members of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council discuss ideas for a new project they will work on during their May 20, 2023, meeting. (Screen shot by Toni Konz Tatman, Kentucky Department of Education)

The council discussed the critiques of student voice can range from lack of life experience to logistical coordination. For Marion County junior India Young, adults can be just as cautious to speak up as students.

“People can be hesitant to share their voices because they are afraid to be belittled, but just one singular voice can make the biggest impact,” said Young.

The students will continue to dive deeper into the topic over the summer, formulating their policy and guidance recommendations.

2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Mandy Perez joined the students to give an update on her sabbatical, where she spent time at KDE shining a light on why teachers should stay in the classroom. Perez had presented to the council in January 2023 at the beginning of her sabbatical.

When reflecting on her past six months, Perez told the students to, “allow the universe to use your presence to make a difference and be the change.”

“I did not want to be in the spotlight. I did not want the recognition. I was hiding from the world. Don’t do that,” she said. “Offer the world your talents. We are meant to shine. It is not just in some of us, it is in all of us.”

The council will meet next on Aug. 22.

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