03/01/2013 10:31 am ET Updated May 01, 2013

My Student Voice


In the State of the Union Address, President Obama put a major focus on education. Some major points included the need for high quality early childhood education, the need for modern schools, and the need for lower college costs. On February 25, a student panel joined together via Google Hangout in order to respond to the education points of the president's speech. There was an amazing dialogue and some interesting ideas floating around. It's extremely important for students to exercise their voice, so I decided to share some of my thoughts on the subject.

I completely agree that children everywhere should have access to high quality preschool. I went to preschool for two years before entering kindergarten and I strongly believe it helped me with my education. By the time I reached second grade, teachers and administrators were urging my parents to allow me to skip third because I was so far ahead. Reaching fourth grade, I was enrolled in a full-time gifted program within the district.

Being enrolled in the full-time gifted program changed a lot of things for me. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood and was one of three white students in my grade. I was completely surrounded by diversity for most of my schooling. However, I had to be sent to a different elementary school because mine did not offer the program and this newer elementary school had an amazing technology lab for hands-on experience with tech ed. There, I found myself surrounded by middle-class white students. The diversity I had known all my life had virtually disappeared.

As I reached middle school, I was enrolled in the Honors Academy and still found myself surrounded by middle-class white students. There was very little diversity and students in HA were often secluded and separated from the rest of the school. The program I was enrolled in during elementary was stopped, the district was building brand new elementary schools and there was no longer a need for it. Every elementary school received the same technology and programs. This leveled the playing field amongst all the elementary schools in the district and, after two years in the new buildings, the elementary in the lowest income neighborhood received the highest marks, in the town, on the state-wide report card.

In order to create modern schools, we have to provide students of all backgrounds the same opportunities. Imagine the scholars, the innovators, and the entrepreneurs that will come out of better schools. Technology was a big part of the success of the newer schools. Introducing technology to students at a younger age will ultimately lead them to higher chances of success. As a homeschooled student, technology is a highly important part of my education. My online and interactive textbooks are newer and up to date.

A modern school provides students with hands on learning as well as the technology most people recognize as needed. One point that President Obama touched on during SOTU was the correlation between graduation rates and violence/teen pregnancy. Right now we put too much weight on one path of life: going to school to graduate and going to college in order to be successful. The reality is that college is expensive and it is not the only path to success. Students are more inclined to feel like they can't succeed when they are only presented with one option. It is important to provide students with alternatives so they may graduate and continue on a successful path.

Talking to a friend of mine who graduated our local high school two years ago, with a diploma as well as her cosmetology license from a program she went through, she said she's feels so extremely successful. She was always so scared that college wasn't for her and now she has a stable career and hopes to one day open her own salon.

It's truly amazing to see teens succeed in ways they always doubted they could. College is intimidating and expensive, which is one reason why the Obama administration released the college scorecard. It's innovative and helpful. Next year I will be a high school senior and I've found it quite easy to look up colleges based on what I want to do and what type of school I want to go to. Students can sort through colleges based on size, occupation, degree and location.

Affordable college is important for students. Not all students need college, but those who choose to go should be able to attend without worrying about the expenses or future debt. As a military child, I have the option of having my dad sign his GI Bill over to me. This would prevent me from choosing a college outside of Ohio, something I've always wanted to do, but with college expense on the rise it might be my best option. Tuition definitely plays a part in what schools a student goes to and how they get there. We need to focus on bringing down the cost of college because everyone deserves the same opportunities.

As students, we have the need to exercise our voice. Our education directly affects how we live and who we are. As a country, we have a lot to do in order to see that our students have the opportunity to live the brightest future possible. Our education directly affects how we live and who we are. We need to provide everyone with the opportunity to live a successful life. The students in my old neighborhood, the ones who weren't given the same opportunities I was, deserve a chance to have a successful future. If we can't give them that, how can we say that we have succeeded in bringing up the generation of the future -- the ones who are going to determine the future of this country?