When Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab invited the Consortium to become a lead partner in launching Hear Me! in 2011, we saw it as an opportunity to help schools harness the power of “student voice.”
The Hear Me! project aimed to help kids understand that their thoughts, feelings, and ideas were important, and to encourage adults to listen.
The Consortium took Hear Me! into schools, both through The Future Is Mine, our career exploration and leadership development program for students, and through our Forum for Collaborative Leadership & Innovation, a network that supported teams of educators working on projects to improve their schools and districts.
Both students and educators found novel ways to leverage Hear Me! Initiatives ranged from increasing community engagement to enhancing classroom learning. Students in several Mon Valley districts, including Steel Valley and McKeesport Area, for example, created videos illuminating issues facing their communities, including racial tensions, gun violence, and others.
One initiative with lasting impact took place in Greensburg Salem School District. Educators there used Hear Me! as a means of documenting students’ concerns on a spectrum of issues, including making the transition from middle school to high school.
“We wanted an open-ended opportunity for students to express themselves,” one school counselor said at the time. “It gave us an opportunity to truly hear what students were concerned about, what their expectations were, and what they wanted to learn about.”
One youngster, for example, articulated his fears about moving from middle school to high school and influenced work educators were doing to improve transitions between grade levels.
Hear Me! was just one of the ways the Consortium has underscored the importance of student voice. Among more recent efforts, we’ve promoted student voice as a means of improving classroom engagement and as a critical component of Project-Based Learning.