As an important instigator in advancing student voice in Oregon’s K-12 education system, Oregon Student Voice has expanded operations and reach across Oregon. In the past year, we have published over 15 opinion pieces about education issues in Oregon, released our first comprehensive report on the state of Oregon schools from the student perspective, and hosted 100+ students at a youth empowerment rally in Salem. These are impressive accomplishments, but our biggest challenge has just begun. After operating as an initiative of Chalkboard Project for two years, we officially launched as an independent youth-led nonprofit organization in January 2019. This transition is important to us because we want to ensure that student voice is centered in all of our decision making. Further, by providing youth with increased opportunities to strategically plan and guide activities, we will be more effective at fulfilling our vision of supporting all students in becoming authentic partners with other education stakeholders.
In an effort to ensure youth voice always stays centered in our work, we created a board and leadership structure in our bylaws that consists of youth holding much of the decision making authority. In our bylaws, we state that our board must always be at least 51 percent youth, which we define as between the ages of 18 and 22. We also state that our executive director must be in high school. Our executive director is supported from an adult chief operating officer. We cannot wait to see how this new leadership structure will enable us to be more responsive in addressing the needs and wants of students in Oregon.
2019 will be a critical year for us as we continue to establish ourselves as a key stakeholder in Oregon’s K-12 education decision making, develop deeper relationships with community partners, strengthen our commitment to serving underrepresented communities, and secure funding to support more students through our work. We look forward to supporting the students as they make the transition to becoming a nonprofit. We hope that our one-of-a-kind statewide model will serve as an example for other states striving to raise student voice and engagement in decision making.
To learn about our board of directors and leadership team, read more about us.
Abigail Alvarez is the board chair of Oregon Student Voice, a youth-led nonprofit that empowers all students to be authentic partners in making decisions that affect their K-12 education.