Gabriella Dover, OSV’s Empower Director and the creator of the “Passion Project” Mentorship Program, says she decided to launch the “Passion Project” after experiencing the barriers that students experience when advocating for policy firsthand. After reaching the conclusion her school needed to become more sustainable, Gabriella identified a notable problem with the overwhelming number of cans going unrecycled. To create a solution, she brainstormed a collection system and club to exchange the cans for money to be donated to the World Wildlife Fund.
“Although I had a mission in mind, I felt incapable of creating and executing a plan due to the lack of resources offered to students to influence education policy. As I was attempting projects within my school, I wished I had received advice to determine my next steps or how to promote my cause,” Dover said.
With that mind, Gabriella realized a larger problem than the cans. It was rather the large audience of students that were similarly struggling to implicate an idea in their school that were unsure of their next steps.
“In 2016, an annual UCLA survey of undergraduates nationwide found that 1 in 10 [were] expected to partake in protests while in college, the highest rate since 1967,” states the article “Student Activism 2.0” published by Harvard Ed Magazine. Since 2016, activism has risen in middle and high schools and the ratio of undergraduates participating in protests continues to increase. A surge of youth activism is seizing the nation rapidly in response to the failures of government leadership and the mass growth of movements, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. In our community, students are not only witnessing, but acting against, policies that affect them specifically, such as Title IX updates and the presence of police in schools.
However, forces such as school districts and boards often challenge student advocacy by failing to equip students with the connections and resources to influence their education. The lack of influence students feel they have is shown clearly in Oregon Student Voice’s State of Our Schools report, which highlights that individuals feel that “student participation in district decision making is necessary to beget positive change, but only 37 percent of respondents agree that students communicate with and influence school boards.” The decisions of boards are directly affecting students, but it is evidently problematic, as students cannot help govern these decisions.
As students are finding their voices and passions to advocate, a platform to promote students’ influence on their education and community’s policies would be very beneficial. That is why, to combat these oppressors of activism, Oregon Student Voice is beginning a mentorship program to guide Oregon’s student activists in achieving their goals for change, or “Passion Projects.” Oregon Student Voice firmly believes each student deserves an equal opportunity to create change in their communities. Therefore, no matter what stage a student is in, whether it be an idea or an organization, Oregon Student Voice is here to support them along the way. We are launching a survey to reach Oregon’s student advocates. Oregon Student Voice will help individuals seeking guidance develop their goals for change into a reality.
Oregon Student Voice is presenting the “Passion Project” to inspire students to take action by offering experience and guidance of our student leadership team. After filling out the form, students will be paired with a leadership team member and meet virtually with them to discuss how to ensure students’ “Passion Projects” succeed.
Please fill out this survey to achieve your goals for change! All passions relating to education, student policy, or advocacy are welcome, and we look forward to reading what impressive changes Oregon’s students hope to create in their community.
Gabriella Dover is a junior at Lakeridge High School and a member at Oregon Student Voice, a student-led organization that empowers all students to be authentic partners in making decisions that affect their K-12 education.