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Guardians of Atlanta’s Future Thought Leadership

Listen to students first; improvements in education will follow

By Rebecca Parshall

As we conclude yet another semester of school amidst this pandemic, Learn4Life reflected on this year’s bright spots and challenges across metro Atlanta through our annual State of Education report and event. While we believe these resources are helpful in summarizing our region’s educational data and charting a path forward, some of our most insightful lessons this year came from listening to students. L4L partnered with VOX ATL, a platform for authentic and diverse teen expression and journalism, to ask students what issues are most pressing for them. Students revealed many of their concerns and posed these questions directly to our region’s school district superintendents. The themes we heard all focused on building a more supportive, equitable world. Four main ideas emerged:

  • Students want equity in their school systems

“I would like to see more social equity within schools. Acts of homophobia, racism, and anti-semitism are still being tolerated and they need to start having consequences.” – Alexis, age 15

“Why would people at a school, in the same county as another school, not get the same privileges as people at the other school?” – Lenore, age 9

  • Mental health matters and needs more attention

“As a current senior, I’ve been dealing with the stress that comes with college applications, scholarships, and planning for my future. This stress can aggravate existing mental health disorders, and even lead to the development of new mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression… How will [districts] commit to providing additional and adequate mental health resources to your schools that you aren’t doing already?” – Zariah, age 17

  • Students need support navigating postsecondary options

“My peers have little to no support at home when it comes to graduating and pursuing postsecondary options. We need some type of accessible, widespread curriculum that provides students with proper enlightenment and guidance… What are the school systems’ plans for expanding career pathway classes and certification accessibility?”  – Rachel, age 17

  • Students want opportunities for civic engagement

“I would love to see more civic participation and teaching students more about democracy and civic engagement. How do you plan to incorporate civic engagement and education into school curriculum?”  – Sanjna, age 16

Our region’s students are leading with a commitment to advocate for their own needs and for the needs of their traditionally underserved peers. At L4L, we take this guidance as a call to action to co-build a more equitable Atlanta, and we are eager to continue partnering with educators and parents, as well as our business, nonprofit, and philanthropic partners. We believe our region’s educational disparities are best solved through collective action. Here are a few ways to join us on this journey:

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