Kentucky Student Voice Team Reflects on a Year of Impact

Education research, policy, and advocacy led by Kentucky youth produce measurable results.

Media Contact: Rachel Belin, Managing Partner, rachel@ksvt.org, (859) 396-6362‬

LEXINGTON, KY – The Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT), a statewide, youth-led nonprofit announced the impact of the transformative work achieved over the 2022-23 school year.

“Between classes, homework, after-school jobs, family responsibilities, and everything else that comes along with being a student, our team managed to amplify the voices of our peers, address systemic barriers, and promote education policies that engaged and inspired Kentucky,” said Raima Dutt, Jefferson County senior and KSVT research coordinator, adding, “and we have proof.”

Members of the team pointed to the numbers underscoring their collective impact. Among other achievements, during the last school year, KSVT collectively:

  • Presented 19 times to local and national organizations, associations and conferences, with audiences ranging from the Kentucky Department of Education and the University of Kentucky to the National Center for Families Learning and the American Education Research Association.
  • Created or contributed to 6 youth-led education research studies on issues ranging from the longitudinal impact of learning through Covid to school climate and culture to an exploration of students’ use of data to navigate their futures and an analysis of how young people experience Out of School Time.
  • Published 15 op-eds in both internal and external news media outlets framing education issues from students’ perspectives.
  • Were featured in 27 local and national news media stories, in outlets including Forbes, The 74, The New York Times and Education Next.
  • Organized 2 student-led town halls with school board candidates running for office in Jefferson and Fayette county.
  • Helped organize 2 major statewide education justice rallies, each mobilizing several hundred students to advance or oppose legislation at Kentucky’s state capitol.

“Our team generated some measurable success in advancing our mission to co-create more just, democratic schools as research, policy, and advocacy partners,” said Cadence Brown, Marshall County High School ‘23 graduate and KSVT cross-organizational coordinator. “But just as important as the statistics are the stories behind them.”

KSVT research initiatives this year were focused on conducting extensive youth-led, participatory action research on educational disparities, surfacing quantitative and qualitative data from thousands of young people.

“The goal in this work is to amplify and elevate student experiences so that those with positional influence in education can draw on them to make the decisions that most affect us,” said Audrey Gilbert, Frankfort High School ‘23 graduate and KSVT school climate audit coordinator. “We are laser focused on issues that hinder equitable opportunities for young people, and our research provides a way to leverage the numbers to speak youth to power.”

Increasingly, the Kentucky Student Voice team is seen as a model for youth-led education action research and as credible partners with adults in the field. KSVT has published work in peer-reviewed journals, presented at national research conferences, provided practical information to policymakers and journalists and earned multiple research contracts with outside organizations totalling in the six figures.

“It’s our hope that precisely by combining the research with our advocacy at KSVT, that young people can inform education policy decisions and promote evidence-based solutions,” said Hayden Watkins, a rising senior in Rowan County and KSVT legislative coordinator.

During Kentucky’s 2023 legislative session, the legislative team kept track of a long list of bills, promoting initiatives around student representation and protecting free speech for student journalists, and engaging legislators and policymakers and other youth-centered organizations to advocate for policies promoting education equity and justice.

Additionally this year, KSVT launched The New Edu, an independent journalism platform where students are trained and paid to publish Kentucky education news and commentary. In its inaugural year, the team produced 21 stories providing coverage on issues ranging from student mental health and culturally appropriate curriculum to the impacts of education-related state legislative action in real time and school bathroom maintenance and safety. Several of the team’s commentaries were also cross published in mass media outlets, and produced additional stories on Get Schooled, a companion podcast.

“Supporting students as independent education journalists is essential to provide the skills that frame and equip young people as trusted storytellers of our own education experience,” said Aiden Vilo, Jefferson County rising senior and KSVT Press Corps coordinator. “In this way, our journalism is meant to challenge existing narratives, ensure that students ourselves can help tell the stories of our schools, and better connect education policy to practice.”

During the FY 2022-23 fiscal year, KSVT’s work was made possible by grants and contract revenue from, Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, Data Quality Center, National Urban League, Project AWARE, Schott Foundation for Public Education, Seek Common Ground, Walton Family Foundation and individual donors. The team’s past year’s financials can be found publicly available on KSVT’s platinum Guidestar profile.

“We are so appreciative of those who have believed in the Kentucky Student Voice Team’s promise,” said Arivumani Srivastava, KSVT development partner from Warren County. “Their investment has allowed us to demonstrate exactly what a youth-driven nonprofit dedicated to education justice in Kentucky can do and what it looks like when students serve as partners in improving and designing the future of education. They have helped us show the world what is possible through the immense capabilities and qualities of youth.”

About Kentucky Student Voice Team

The Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT) is an independent, statewide, 501(c)(3) organization co-founded in 2012 by a group of Kentucky high school students. As a collective of young people, KSVT is on a mission to co-create more just, democratic Kentucky schools and communities as research, policy-advocacy & storytelling partners. Learn more about the organization at KSVT.org and follow on social media at @kystuvoiceteam.

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