Prichard Committee’s Student Voice Team
Celebrates Five Years
The Prichard Committee’s Student Voice Team (SVT) celebrated their fifth anniversary with a gala at University of Kentucky’s Boone Center on Monday, August 21. More than 150 educators, policymakers, and education advocates attended the event.
SVT is a nationally prominent, student-led initiative of the Committee that aims to integrate students as full partners in the Committee’s efforts. SVT began with 13 Central Kentucky high school students meeting with a volunteer staff member and has grown to over 100 self-selected members from middle school through college, reaching thousands of other Kentucky students with its work.
“One of the many lessons of the Student Voice Team,” said Rosalyn Huff, who joined the group while a student at Lexington’s Bryan Station High School and now attends Columbia University, “is never to doubt that a small group of concerned students can change the world.”
In its five-year tenure, SVT has organized students around issues related to college affordability, school climate, academic standards, student representation in school governance, and other areas consistent with Prichard Committee priorities. Also, the team has conducted roundtables and workshops with thousands of students across the state; published 50 Op-eds; produced three policy reports based on original data; made 65 presentations to educators, policymakers, fellow students, and other advocates; and will soon publish its first book, Ready or Not, on October 17, featuring Kentucky student testimonials on the topic of college readiness.
SVT first rose to national prominence in 2015 with its efforts around House Bill 236, an attempt to change the law to allow students to serve on superintendent screening committees. It received additional attention with its successful “Powerball Promise Campaign” which is credited with prompting the Kentucky legislature to recommit $14 million of state lottery funds to support need-based college scholarships in 2016.
“The success of the Student Voice Team shows that just because a person may be too young to vote doesn’t mean she is too young to have a voice in making our public institutions better,” said Zach Sippy, a senior at Lexington’s Henry Clay High School who leads the group’s grassroots outreach. Added Paul Laurence Dunbar senior and the team’s director of Postsecondary Transitions, Sahar Mohammadzadeh, “Our greatest success hinges on amplifying and elevating the voices of students other than ourselves, especially those least heard in our school system.”
SVT students gave “Golden Megaphone Awards” for exemplary service to Jefferson County’s LIFT JCPS, University of Kentucky’s Next Generation Academy and their own Prichard Committee Director, Rachel Belin, for her leadership of SVT during the night’s event.