August 27, 2017

Student Voice Team Celebrates Five Years of Impact on School Improvement

Students share accomplishments as partners in education advocacy and announce upcoming release of book about challenges of college readiness

LEXINGTON — Students from middle school, high school, and college gathered with more than 150 educators, policymakers, and education advocates at the University of Kentucky’s Boone Center last night to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Student Voice Team.

SVT is a nationally prominent, student-led initiative of the Prichard Committee, an independent, non-partisan, statewide education advocacy organization. SVT aims to integrate students as full partners in the Committee’s efforts.  SVT began with 13 Central Kentucky high school students meeting with a volunteer staff member and has grown to over 100 self-selected members from middle school through college, reaching thousands of other Kentucky students with its work.

“One of the many lessons of the Student Voice Team,” said Rosalyn Huff, who joined the group while a student at Bryan Station High School and now attends Columbia University, “is never to doubt that a small group of concerned students can change the world.”

In its five-year tenure, SVT has organized students around issues related to college affordability, school climate, academic standards, student representation in school governance, and other areas consistent with Prichard Committee priorities. Also, the team has conducted roundtables and workshops with thousands of students across the state; published 50 Op-eds; produced three policy reports based on original data; made 65 presentations to educators, policymakers, fellow students, and other advocates; and will soon publish its first book, Ready or Not, featuring Kentucky student testimonials on the topic of college readiness.

SVT first rose to national prominence in 2015 with its efforts around House Bill 236, an attempt to change the law to allow students to serve on superintendent screening committees. It received additional attention with its successful “Powerball Promise Campaign” which is credited with prompting the Kentucky legislature to recommit $14 million of state lottery funds to support need-based college scholarships in 2016.

“The success of the Student Voice Team shows that just because a person may be too young to vote doesn’t mean she is too young to have a voice in making our public institutions better,” said Zach Sippy, a senior at Henry Clay High School who leads the group’s grassroots outreach.  Added Paul Laurence Dunbar senior and the team’s director of Postsecondary Transitions, Sahar Mohammadzadeh, “Our greatest success hinges on amplifying and elevating the voices of students other than ourselves, especially those least heard in our school system.”

The five-year celebration was made possible by generous support from IBM, the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, The Appalachian Higher Education Network, the Wells Scholars Program at Indiana University in Bloomington, and the Brennen Family.

The Student Voice Team was founded in 2012 at the Prichard Committee, a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky for all ages. 

Since 2021 they have been the Kentucky Student Voice Team, an independent, statewide organization organization of young people who are co-creating more just, democratic Kentucky schools & communities as research, policy & advocacy partners.