The Seventh Annual Student Voices Project
Ready to submit? CLICK HERE! (deadline is February 10, 2020)
Read our blog post about how we chose this year’s theme, guidance on deciding what to write, and some tips for better writing.
2019-2020 Theme: Creating Change
Positive change in a community is dependent upon individuals speaking up, coming together around a shared goal, and making a plan for action. Quakers have a long history of organizing for change in response to various social, economic, racial, and environmental injustices; most often this change begins with community members working together at the local level. See examples below of Quakers who have helped create change, including a curated list of QuakerSpeak videos about activism.
Prompt: Write about creating change in your local community.
Two approaches: (1) What change do you want to see happen, why, and how you would do it? (2) What change have you already been a part of creating and how has it made a difference?
Advices and queries to consider (These are suggestions only. Students are not required to respond to all of these or any of these.):
- Describe the events and feelings leading up to the moment when it was determined something needed to change and it’s time for action.
- Learn about the four roles of social change: the Helper, the Advocate, the Rebel, and the Organizer. (Watch this short video of Quaker activist Eileen Flanagan describing these roles.) Which one do you identify with? How are they all important in creating real, lasting change?
- How do Quaker values influence your approach to creating change? Think about this in terms of working with other people and addressing different needs. What about in terms of decision making and consensus building?
- What privileges do you have in making change happen and how can you use them to lift up others who don’t have those same privileges?
- What obstacles, challenges, or roadblocks did you encounter along the way? How did you respond to them?
- What surprising, joyous, or Spirit-led things happened while working for change? How did they affect the process or outcome?
- Must be a middle or high school student (grades 6–12) at a Friends school, or a Quaker student in another educational venue (public school, non-Friends private school, homeschool, online school, etc.) with a Quaker affiliation (monthly or yearly meeting attender or member, including young Friends gatherings and Quaker camps).
- One submission per student, connected to the theme of “Creating Change.”
- Must have an original title, and it must be typed.
- Word count: between 300 and 1,500 words.
- Deadline: February 10, 2020.
Get published in Friends Journal
A selection of the submissions will be featured in the May 2020 issue, reaching thousands of readers living on every continent. Honorees will also receive a free one-year subscription and will be recognized by Friends Council on Education for their work.
Examples of Quakers Creating Social Change in History and Today
Lucretia Mott’s (1793–1880) interest in women’s rights began after she became a young teacher and discovered that male teachers at her school were paid significantly more than female staff. She went on to play a major role in the women’s equality movement throughout her life, including co-organizing the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention, in 1848. Her early work for women’s suffrage was instrumental in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 (40 years after her death), which prohibits sex discrimination in the right to vote.
Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) began collecting anti-slavery petitions when she was 17. In 1856, she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In that role and in addition to her work on women’s rights, she organized anti-slavery meetings throughout the state under banners that read “No compromise with slaveholders. Immediate and Unconditional Emancipation.” The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln became effective in 1863.
In high school, Bayard Rustin (1912–1987) was arrested for sitting in the “whites only” section of his hometown movie theater. He continued to peacefully resist racial discrimination wherever he encountered it and grew up to become one of the key figures of the American Civil Rights Movement, teaching Martin Luther King Jr. the philosophy and techniques of nonviolent direct action. In 1963, he organized the March on Washington, one of America’s most historic protest marches, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
For the 2017 People’s Climate March, young Friend Kallan Benson, of Annapolis (Md.) Meeting, painted a colorful butterfly on a large parachute with 1,600 messages and signatures from kids in her community to raise awareness about climate change. Now thousands of others from around the world have joined her Parachutes for the Planet project, creating their own parachutes to display. Along with Greta Thunberg and other environmental activists with Fridays for Future, she received Amnesty International’s 2019 Ambassador of Conscience Award.
In 1987 young members from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Meeting were concerned about their hungry and homeless neighbors so they proposed that the meeting host a monthly community dinner event to provide a free hot meal to those in need. The meeting agreed, working together to organize the first one, and the tradition has continued for more than 30 years.
After learning about and discussing the U.S. immigration system earlier this year, sixth-grade students at Greene Street Friends School in Philadelphia, Pa., reached out to a local sanctuary church to ask how they could help one of the refugee families being provided shelter. They ended up throwing a third birthday party for one of the children and made connections with the entire family during the celebration; the experience created a deeper understanding of the everyday reality of immigrants living in the United States.
QuakerSpeak videos about activism
- “Why I Blockaded 40,000 Tons of Coal with a Lobster Boat” interview with Quaker environmental activist Jay O’Hara
- “How a Small Group of Quaker Activists Took on PNC Bank and Won” about Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT)
- “How Activism Led Me to Quakers” interview with EQAT’s Lina Blount
- Peace and Justice
- “Every Murder Is Real” interview with Victoria Greene, whose ministry is to support families of murder victims
- “Why I Stopped Paying Taxes” interview with war tax resister Joseph Olejak
- “What It Means to Be a Quaker Peace Activist” interview with Anthony Manousos
- “Quakers and Migrant Justice” video with American Friends Service Committee about immigration
- Equality (social, economic, racial)
- “The Ministry of Occupy Wall Street” interview with Micah Bales
- “Why I Don’t Wear a Tie in Court” interview with Quaker lawyer Scott Holmes
- “Holding the Peace: Quaker Nonviolence in the Time of Black Lives Matter” interview with Greg Williams
Check out the honorees from past years:
- Sixth year (2018-2019)
- Fifth year (2017-2018)
- Fourth year (2016-2017)
- Third year (2015-2016)
- Second year (2014-2015)
- First year (2013-2014)