Discovering who you are and what you stand for is an incredibly challenging aspect of growing up that students must face. Influences are coming from nearly every direction, which can make it difficult for students to find their passions and explore the power of their voice. For a growing number of educators, this phase of young adulthood is seen as an opportunity to empower students with the knowledge needed to develop stances that benefit our society.
However, helping students from vastly different backgrounds and experiences to discover themselves and develop a voice is a taxing endeavor. Luckily, technology is playing an increasingly important role in connecting students with an outlet for their interests. The rapid flow of information has allowed for even the most isolated of students to make connections and gain traction in supporting any movement or ideal.
The Growth of Grassroots
Grassroots organizations are typically small groups that are working to make their idea or cause a more mainstream movement. By definition, they don’t have large budgets, fancy advertisements, or professionals in public relations running the show. They mostly consist of volunteers that believe in the idea so much that they are willing to dedicate large amounts of free time towards making their goal succeed.
Technological platforms have been a profound stage for the growth of various grassroots movements. Through the use of social media, YouTube, and other free ways to connect people have expanded the number of individuals that hear a grassroots message exponentially. With more and more people hearing a message, potential supporters are more likely to be connected to their cause, and the movement is more likely to gain serious traction.
The Power of Voice
Growing opportunities for students to find a cause to support early in their young adult lives makes it that much more vital that teachers are able to educate students on the power of their voice and how to use it. A first step can be by bringing students into the process of teaching their peers. This can be through asking students to offer the information they know on certain topics or by encouraging them to ask difficult questions that the classroom can work together to solve.
The key here is that instead of you, the teacher, always being the sole source of knowledge for students, students are put into positions of authority on the topic of discussion. As students discuss the information they know and their opinions, they become more familiar with using their voice and the power it has to make changes. When they become involved in a grassroots movement or other cause, it is a skill they won’t forget.
Making an Idea Reality
An example of students using their voice to support causes that can benefit their communities takes place in Reno, Nevada. Earlier this summer, two high school-aged students that were outraged by police shootings of black men organized a Black Lives Matter rally within the city. They organized a grassroots protest through Facebook, worked alongside police officers to ensure a safe place for protesting, and over 300 people showed up to the event – a huge success.
The rally sparked conversation within the city and at city council meetings about the challenges and opportunities facing police forces. Furthermore, it encouraged discussion on how to ensure the tragedies that have occurred across the US aren’t repeated in Reno. These students found their voice and a cause and are now making a significant positive difference within their community because of it.
The ability of technology to spread ideas and organize supporters rapidly is one that shouldn’t be lost in the classroom. Now more than ever, students have the opportunity to use their voices for the benefit of their neighborhoods and communities. By providing ways for them to begin sharing their knowledge and developing their voice, teachers are giving students the ability to make these changes all the more powerful.