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.”

Haverill VIP - Violence Intervention and Prevention Logo

Michelle was a member of the Haverhill High School VIP Program. Learn more about VIP and students’ advocacy here.

What other students are saying


“For me, one of the most important parts of a safe and supportive school is that all the adults in the building understand how to care for and support all of the students.”  Read Alice’s statement


“We all need and deserve access to positive relationships, a sense of well-being, community, and our own potential.” Read Chelsea’s statement


“From our perspective, the academic levels create more division than unity, which impedes everyone’s learning.”  Read Chinyere’s statement


“I feel like if more teachers understood our backgrounds, things would go better because teachers would know how to talk to students and have relationships with them.”   Read Chris’ statement


“ I think adults at my school know what kinds of changes need to be made to help students succeed. But they can’t do it alone. They need help from the school system.” Read Corine’s statement


“I knew that no matter what, he would be there to support me and would never give up on me. It was a small thing, but sometimes it’s the small things that make the difference.”  Read Taeyah’s statement


“In order to make connections with the students, in order for them to feel supported like I did, ​you first have to hear them.”  Read Gabriela’s statement


“If you have adult mentors at school encouraging you and reminding you that you have potential, you start to believe them.” Read Jaylee’s statement


“Cooperation means learning faster. And when you and your teacher and your classmates are working together like this, it’s like a triangle of good.” Read Jonathan’s statement


“I believe that having all of our needs met would help us learn better and set us up for success in the future.” Read Michelle’s statement


“I feel like there is a difference between doing the work just to do it and doing the work to understand it…” Read Omari’s statement


“Having stronger relationships between students and teachers will increase the morale of the school, and make students and teachers more excited to come to school each day.”  Read Trish’s statement


“I know it can be different. I’m one of the fortunate ones to have a good support system around me. Everyone deserves what I have.” Read Anonymous’ statement