Student Voice Team Named a Civic Spring Project Grantee

LEXINGTON — The Student Voice Team has been selected as one of six Civic Spring Project grantees. The Student Voice Team will use its grant to work creatively over the summer to engage young people building civic knowledge while strengthening their community’s civic infrastructure as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The Student Voice Team, under the leadership of adult director Rachel Belin and student director Emmy Sippy, launched the survey in May to learn the impact that school closures had on Kentucky’s students. The survey was answered by nearly 13,000 middle and high school students in all 120 Kentucky counties.

“At the heart of our work is amplifying the stories of students who are most marginalized within the public education system. Almost immediately upon schools closing, it became clear that the students who are all too often unheard would be the same ones most severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Sippy, a junior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington. “Students are the experts on what learning during COVID-19 looks like and feels like. Our goal is to help educators, policymakers, and advocates see students as partners in getting through this crisis and in improving schools beyond it.”

The Student Voice Team was selected from among nearly 150 applications nationwide because of its innovative proposal, with program elements designed to be civic-minded, youth-oriented, nonpartisan, nimble, measurement-minded, and generative. It will use the summer months to engage with young people in civic learning, focusing specifically on the student impact of school closures during the pandemic.

“As we continue adjusting to new realities from COVID-19 and seeing citizens across our nation calling for massive and much-needed change, there is tremendous opportunity for our young people to learn what it means to be an informed and effective citizen,” said WW Foundation President Rajiv Vinnakota. “This is an extremely important moment for our young people to work together and with adult partners to address local needs, and we are thrilled to have the Student Voice Team leading the way in Kentucky.”

Launched last month, the Civic Spring Project was collaboratively developed by nearly 40 cross-partisan, subject-matter experts with input from youth. It was developed to catalyze organizations from across the political spectrum to increase civic learning opportunities for young people and challenge the current paradigm of traditional civic education. The experience is intended to increase understanding and social cohesion while individuals expand networks, especially those from marginalized populations.

“The work our Student Voice Team has done to date on this project has been impressive, and we’re grateful that the WW Foundation’s grant will allow us to take this already exceptional work to the next level, allowing the students to use their innovative ideas to lead our schools through this pandemic and into a big, bold future,” said Prichard Committee President and CEO Brigitte Blom Ramsey.

The Student Voice Team’s COVID-19 survey results will be released in early August. For updates on the project’s progress, visit civic-spring.org.

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is a statewide organization of young people who are co-creating more just, democratic Kentucky schools & communities as research, policy & advocacy partners. From 2012 to 2021, KSVT was incubated at the Prichard Committee, a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky for all ages.

About the Institute for Citizens & Scholars

The Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation) is a 75-year-old organization that has played a significant role in shaping American higher education. Now, with an expanded mission, Citizens & Scholars prepares leaders and engages networks of people and organizations to meet urgent education challenges. The overarching goal is to shape an informed, productively engaged, and hopeful citizenry.

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