Listening to Student Voices

Listening to Student Voices
May 18, 2021 Delia Reid


UCLA Community School students in alphabetical order: Gustavo Aguilar, Alex Alejo, Guadalupe Laureano Carranza, Jamie-Lynn Juco, Nareli Juquilita Lopez and Adriana Rios-Cruz


Sometimes we just need to listen.

“In a year that many have considered lost, we have learned much.”

It’s the opener of a must-read EdSource commentary by six high school students from the UCLA Community School, which serves 99% students of color in Los Angeles communities hit hard by COVID-19. The students aren’t speaking of learning loss, but of capacity, perspective and empathy gained. Their experience of school stands in stark contrast to that of many students of color, English learners, youth in foster care and others who have been impacted by the pandemic in deeply inequitable ways. These students’ good fortune was to attend the kind of high school we need more of in California. Their principal, Dr. Leyda Garcia, encouraged them to take ownership of their pandemic learning environment, to make meaning of it, and to assume responsibility for improving it. The resulting project, in partnership with the UCLA Center for Community Schooling, a Stuart Foundation grantee, put them at the helm of real-time research, brought improvements to teaching and learning at their school, and built invaluable trust with their teachers and classmates. Learn more here about Dr. Garcia’s efforts to redesign and reimagine school with equity at the center.

It wasn’t lost on me that this commentary appeared on the same day Governor Newsom unveiled his strong support for community schools statewide, building on recent federal proposals for greater investment in community schools nationally. The students are telling us why their school experience, and others like it, should be less the exception and more the rule:  “We have learned that our voices matter and that we have the power to gather information, communicate it and make things better — for us and the entire school. These are lessons that will stay with us for life.”

As the Stuart Foundation works to support partners who powerfully express our shared vision for all schools to serve as communities in which students are seen, valued and have the agency and support they need — these students put a song in my heart.


In solidarity,

Sophie Fanelli