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Leading change by Empowering Our Voices

On Monday, September 24, over 100 high school students and educators from 20 schools across Oregon joined us at Willamette University for our first Empowering Our Voices rally. Throughout the day, students and educators together heard speeches and participated in trainings to learn to confront systemic K-12 concerns using student voice. At the end of the day, students and educators walked over to the Oregon State Capitol to participate in a rally on the steps and meet with legislators to encourage them to include student voice in decision-making. Our hope is that through the rally students become innovative, resilient, and civic-minded individuals who are engaged in their schools and communities in order to lead change.

Below, we share Sarah's impassioned speech on the steps of the capitol along with videos and pictures from the day!

OSV member Sarah Ali's speech on the role student voice plays in decision making:

My parents migrated to America with a great vision. A vision comprised of a better future for my siblings and I. The American dream it was, a gateway to safety for my parents. Democracy was the gift the United States of America granted to my parents, but soon political generalizations and stereotypes surrounding the Muslim community hindered our presences in a world that my parents fought so hard to be a part of. When I was a child I thought we were foreigners in our own country. I found it difficult to attend class when I have constantly questioned the origin of my headscarf and when I would finally take it off, often times I was even questioned about my American citizenship. My identity was simply prayed on by students, teachers, and unfortunately society. I can vividly picture the day my hijab was pulled off my head when I was in elementary school. However, my only reaction was to put the piece of undefined beauty right back on and remain quiet. But six days ago I was granted the greatest gift of my existence in this country, the ability to vote, and now I say enough is enough.

To all my fellow peers that have to face unjust actions made by society every day I say that it is time to fight for our voices and to follow five goals under the word STAND: Support, Thrive, Amplify, Navigate, and Develop. We must support each other regardless of our conservative and liberal backgrounds. Today shall be an opportunity to bridge the gap between our varying political standpoints. We must, thrive to respect one another and to emulate morals of equality, fairness, and responsibility. We must, amplify our voices in our community and in our country and represent all of whom who are not able to be here with us today. We must help navigate and empower the leaders of our nation to listen to our varying voices and experiences. Lastly, we must develop a new vision for our country that has a main focus on unity rather than discord, and we must embrace the existence of all the colors, and beliefs of all human beings. As the next generation, we must.

Teachers, respected legislators and decision makers, and to all my fellow peers that are afraid of walking to school because of their sexuality, to my fellow peers that are afraid of getting incriminated because of the color of their skin, to my fellow peers that are dreamers, to my fellow peers that are refugees… to citizens and residents of the United States of America, I'm telling you that together with our voices collectively can create an impact in our community, in our state, and in our nation. We owe it to ourselves to fight and to represent others, we owe it to ourselves to give our voices a shot…My name is Sarah Ali and If today you have no one in your corner then consider me your supporter. I will take a STAND for you, but we must Take a STAND together. Thank You.

Speech from Representative Diego Hernandez on the importance of student voice:

Pictures from the day:

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