In addition to causing a massive, worldwide public health crisis, COVID-19 has uniquely impacted high school students. With the move to remote learning and the uncertainty around college admissions, it’s hard to find a time when student stress levels have been higher. What’s more, students from marginalized backgrounds are being disproportionately impacted by this crisis. Here’s a look at some of these problems and how students all across the country have been demanding solutions.
Overcoming Technological and Language Barriers
One of the biggest issues facing students across the country is the lack of access to technology to continue schooling. Immigrant families in particular also lack access to important information in their native language. Members of the San Diego-based organization Youth Will created a COVID-19 Action Team and have been hosting virtual hangouts for youth in the area to discuss these issues as well as others related to the crisis.
Through these hangouts, youth have determined the following demands to advocate for at the county, city, and school board levels:
- provide technological devices, such as laptops and wifi hotspots, to all students who need it
- provide translation services to families that don’t speak English as their first language
- improve their outreach by having a proactive, direct, and consistent line to students and families and actively engaging with their concerns as the crisis evolves
- expand access to mental health resources, including counselors and mentors
The COVID-19 Action Team has also created the following list of resources, which include opportunities to get free technology, essential job openings, and other resources.
Demanding Pass/Fail Grading
Given the reality that students do not have equal access to online learning, several students across the country have been pushing their school districts to move to a pass/fail grading system. Milly from Rhode Island led her group, Providence Student Union, to circulate a petition demanding that the Rhode Island Department of Education allow all high schools in the state the option to move to pass/fail. Zoe, a prominent student activist in her Maryland county, created a similar petition targetted at her school district.
Fighting for Test-Optional
Student Voice, a national organization that is entirely student-led, has launched the #TestOptionalNOW movement to pressure colleges and universities to drop the standardized test requirement. They argue that SAT/ACT cancellations and delays and the resulting logistical challenges will primarily impact low-income, minority, and other underrepresented students.
Emanuelle, a high school junior from Kentucky, has partnered with Student Voice to lead the test-optional movement in her state. Her local group, The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, recently met with the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, which has dropped standardized testing as a minimum requirement for college admissions. Their goal currently is to get a better grasp of the data and the arguments for going test-optional.
Creating Alternatives to College Tours
With the cancellations of college tours and admitted student events, many high school seniors are struggling to make an informed decision about their college acceptance, particularly first-generation college students. The Maryland-based student-led organization MoCo For Change has created a service connecting current high school seniors with alums from the county who may have gone to their schools of interest. So far, the group has mobilized over 750 county alumni representing 179 different colleges and universities!
What You Can Do
We hope this post inspires and provides you hope during this uncertain time! If your community is experiencing similar issues, you can use these examples of student activism to create similar petitions and resources. Here are some other tips to get started:
- Mobilize a group of friends who are equally as concerned about these issues as you are.
- Research the issue by surveying community members and looking up statistics.
- Engage trusted adults in your community to help you draft communications and create a strategy.
- If you’re new to these kinds of actions, don’t let that stop you! You have real power to create positive change in your community and the only way to exercise that power is to get started!
Are you doing anything else to help your community and your peers during this crisis? Let us know in the comments below!