Hello, my name is Michelle and I am a freshman. After high school I hope to go to college to study theatre and music. I am here today to talk about my experiences and how I wish that my peers and I were more supported at our school. I believe that having all of our needs met would help us learn better and set us up for success in the future. I hope that my story helps you understand why creating safe and supportive schools is both important and necessary.
Although I really want to learn and do well in all of my classes, I do not always feel like I can get the help I need. I have found it especially hard to communicate my needs to my guidance counselor. I feel like she does not always listen to me because when I ask for support I do not always receive it. For example, I asked my guidance counselor if I could switch out of a class in which some students were bullying me and the teacher was not supportive. My guidance counselor said she could not do anything and suggested that I simply ignore them. I tried to follow her advice, but the situation did not change and I found it impossible to focus in class. My grades began to slip in this unhealthy learning environment and I felt upset with both myself and my teacher. It was not until my mother and a special educator got involved three months later that I was switched into a class that truly fits my needs. I am happy in my new class and am able to learn better than I was before. Still, I wish that my guidance counselor had listened to me before other adults needed to get involved. Not being listened to cost me months of meaningful education, and I do not think it is fair that this happened when I tried to prevent it.
While I have faced some challenges in school, there are still spaces that I feel safe and supported in. For instance, I am part of the Violence, Intervention, and Prevention program (VIP) that meets afterschool. The adults and students in VIP make me feel confident and work hard to help me address any problems I run into. For example, I am encouraged to share my skills like singing and know exactly who I can ask for help at any time. I know that I can go to any VIP member to talk about an issue and will be listened to instead of judged or dismissed. If I was able to feel this way in every part of school I could be the best possible version of myself, as both a student and a person. Always having my social, emotional, and physical needs addressed would improve my learning. My peers and I find it impossible to focus in class if we do not feel supported, so spreading this feeling throughout the building would help us all succeed.
I am happy that I got to share my experiences with you all today and hope that they can be used to make schools more safe and supportive places for students to learn. Being able to have my voice heard is very important to me, and I believe that allowing my peers and I to continue to share will be helpful in improving our schools. We all really want to learn and be able to form strong relationships while we are young. I ask that you continue to work on creating safe and supportive schools so that every student in Massachusetts feels comfortable and ready to achieve their goals. I would also like to ask you to make sure that students’ voices can be heard during this process so that we can all feel included in our own educations. Thank you for everything that you have already done and for your time today.
“My peers and I find it impossible to focus in class if we do not feel supported, so spreading this feeling throughout the building would help us all succeed.”
“I believe that having all of our needs met would help us learn better and set us up for success in the future.”
Michelle was a member of the Haverhill High School VIP Program. Learn more about VIP and students’ advocacy here.