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Not Your Average Student Council: How Chicago’s Student Voice Committees Are Giving Kids a Real Say in Their Schools

The students at Mather High School in Chicago wanted to do something. Their peers said they didn’t feel comfortable coming to school, weren’t paying attention in class, and sometimes skipped lessons altogether.

So a small group of students tried to figure out what the root of the problem might be. They talked to their classmates, interviewed teachers, and researched what other schools were doing to help students feel connected. Finally, they decided they were going to improve the relationships between the school’s 100 teachers and 1,500 students.

Chicago’s student voice committees are not your grandma’s student council. Actually, they probably aren’t your student council. They don’t plan prom, they don’t pick themed days for spirit week, they don’t run campaigns to get elected. Instead, these students conduct surveys and hold town halls and interview their peers and teachers to figure out how to make their schools better. And in the best-case scenarios, they get the adults in the building to pay attention.