Student Voice & Engagement
The Yakima School District believes that students are leaders in their education, deserve the right to feel safe and empowered in their school environment, and have valuable insights and opinions. We believe that the Yakima School District needs Student Voice to promote educational engagement, academic achievement, self-growth, and civic participation. The Yakima School District official definition of student voice is: the authentic communication of all students' perspectives and ideas, where students are empowered and student voice structures are implemented by the whole school community to advance educational equity for generations to come.
The Yakima School District meets collectively with a group of high school students to guide systemic work in the district. Students meet directly with board members, the superintendent, and community leaders. They provide their unique perspective, planning, and execution on district initiatives. This work is codesigned between students and staff and is intentionally student led, with students choosing priorities, solutions, and next steps.
The Student Voice Council is led by a small group of students who create agendas, plan implementation, and present to other students. These students meet more regularly and work more frequently with the board and superintendent. These students have led the Student Voice Council in presenting on school resource officers, balanced calendars, and student voice initiatives. They have also facilitated students, staff, and community members in crafting the YSD Equity Policy , equity policy measures, and a first of its kind Student Voice Policy draft.
Students across the district have participated in student voice circles. This work supports the Student Voice Council and Lead Fellows. Student voice circles are small student groups where students share their lived experiences, hopes, and dreams with teachers and school admin. After these sessions, the student stories are used to guide change at the school and district level. This work can be done shoulder to shoulder with students or by district staff. Student voice circles have resulted in accelerated facility upgrades, specialized learning weeks, student support adjustments, and classroom practice adjustments.
Students are in the middle of drafting a Student Voice Policy that would be the first of its kind in Washington and only the second in the nation (that we have been able to find). This policy would commit the district to involving students in planning their own education alongside staff while also having a say in the structures and systems of the district. It is our belief that students have the deepest and closest read on what is needed to improve our education system and, as such, they should be integral in improving the system. When students are involved in change, they also become more engaged and invested in the system. You can read the rough draft here and provide feedback in this google form.