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Student Voices Project 2020

Our seventh annual Student Voices Project brought in writing from 130 middle and high school students representing ten different Friends schools. We selected 20 honorees whose submissions are featured in the list below. (For our print edition, we made the difficult decision to shorten the SVP feature in order to make room for other articles about how Quakers have been responding to the coronavirus pandemic and all its challenges.) We’ve also published a full list of all 130 participants here.

This year’s theme of “Creating Change” has taken on new meaning since the submission deadline passed in mid‐February. On March 23, Education Week reported that 46 states had closed all their schools, canceling classes for at least 123,000 U.S. public and private schools and affecting at least 54.8 million students. By mid‐April, at least two dozen states had ordered their schools closed through April or May, and another 15 to 20 states had decided to extend the closure for the remainder of the academic year or “until further notice.” We’re in an unprecedented period of societal upheaval with particularly heartbreaking and lasting consequences for the education of our young people, who will nevertheless take this experience and go on to shape our future world.

Quakers have a long history of organizing for positive change in response to various social, economic, racial, and environmental injustices; perhaps we’ll soon enough add to that list: worldwide pandemics. For now Friends Journal is pleased to share and celebrate the writing of younger voices in our Quaker meeting and school communities despite the world events that have so drastically changed their lives. In the following essays you’ll find inspiring stories of what it takes to move from one person declaring, “Something’s gotta change”; to others joining in agreement and action, “Let’s work together”; to finally landing in a new and improved reality: “Look at what we can accomplish when we treat all beings as equal before God.” Buoyed by Quaker values and supportive communities, this year’s honorees tackle a range of issues, including gender equality, food insecurity, healthcare access, gun violence, prejudice, and environmental responsibility. They present convincing evidence that a whole new world is possible if we want it to be.

Gail Whiffen, associate editor


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?


  • Cat Rescuer Cat RescuerBefore I was in kindergarten, I started rescuing cats with my mom and my babysitter. We found a group of cats near some stores and a busy road, and we left notes to see if anyone else was feeding them…
  • The Dangerous Turn The Dangerous TurnMost school days, when one of my parents picks me up, we have to make a turn out of the school parking lot and onto a busy street, New Garden Road. Every time, there is a wait as cars in front of us turn onto the road …
  • Stronger Together Stronger TogetherFrom his pink cheeks and the way he walked with his head down, I could tell he was ashamed of himself for losing to a girl. We had just competed in the mile run. I knew I beat him fair and square, but it did not feel like it …
  • Our Turn Our TurnThe petition was signed by 30 girls. It was very simple, or at least we thought so. All we wanted was for them to agree to our plan. We weren’t asking for much, just an opportunity for girls to get exposure to football through PE …
  • From Juicy Burger to Leafy Greens From Juicy Burger to Leafy GreensA man I had never met before was sitting in front of me waiting patiently, when my father spoke. “This is my colleague, Stuart, from the American Heart Association. Stuart, this is my daughter, Lara, …
  • Teaching Tech to Seniors Teaching Tech to SeniorsIn seventh and eighth grade, while attending Newtown Friends School (NFS), I clerked the Tech Team, a student‐run committee charged to educate the NFS community on the use of technology for learning …
  • The Spectrum of Equality The Spectrum of EqualityThe first time I was aware of someone using the word “gay” as an insult was in sixth grade. Though I knew it happened at other schools, I had a belief that, since I was at Quaker school, I would never have to face such a problem …
  • False Face Must Hide What the False Heart Doth Know False Face Must Hide What the False Heart Doth KnowI thought of one of my best friends as the nicest, happiest person I knew. In the time that I had known them, they were always quick to smile at someone, laugh at people’s jokes, or comfort others when they were …
  • Food Insecurity in Philadelphia Food Insecurity in PhiladelphiaEvery Sunday from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., I make 50 bagged lunches for homeless people in Kensington, a neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, Pa. I’ve been doing this for about two years now, and every Monday …
  • Learning to Help the Homeless Learning to Help the HomelessWalking down the streets in downtown D.C., I saw homeless people everywhere: on the sides of the street, outside churches, and in front of shops. At a bustling intersection in the Georgetown neighborhood …
  • Made for Killing Made for KillingAbout 14 out of every 100,000 people in North Carolina were killed by a gun in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That may not seem like a lot. That may not seem like enough to worry …
  • Standing Against Gun Violence Standing Against Gun ViolenceI was watching TV when my mom got up to get a phone call. I saw the look on her face, and I knew something was wrong. I asked her if everything was okay, and she said yes, so I was not bothered …
  • Communities and Protest Songs Communities and Protest SongsMusic brings people together. If people like the same song, then they’ll dance together and have a good time and get to know each other and most likely become friends. That just shows how powerful music can be …
  • Teaching about Africa Teaching about AfricaI was seated directly in front of the TV in my living room. My concentration was unbreakable as I watched the children’s talent show Little Big Shots. A young girl, about my age, strolled onto the stage confidently …
  • Black History Matters Black History MattersWhen I think of creating change, everything suddenly seems so big. The world seems so unchangeable, so hard to amend. We use examples like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Bill Gates— …
  • Too Much Time Waiting Too Much Time WaitingPeople waste hours of their life just by waiting. Humans in dire need of medical attention wait while their lives are slowly fading. The long wait times in the ER, especially at Baptist Hospital, are ridiculous …
  • Food Waste in North Carolina Food Waste in North CarolinaMy brother is a picky eater, so at times whole meals go to waste. I also see people throwing away extra food and leftovers from parties without even giving it a second thought. All of this food waste goes to landfills …
  • Energy Use in the Classroom Energy Use in the ClassroomWhen I was in sixth grade, I helped make a significant change at my school. It started with a class‐wide discussion about how we could help the school community. We settled on lowering our energy use on campus …
  • Saving the Park Saving the ParkI woke up and immediately knew what I wanted to do. It was a warm sunny day in May, a few years ago. I called my friend and told him to meet me at the park. I got ready excitedly and ran out the door …
  • Both Student and Steward Both Student and StewardI used to dismiss the idea of being “a good steward” or being “the responsible one.” No one else was willing to take the extra step and pick up that little scrap of trash, so why should I be? I noticed other classmates …
  • Student Voices Project 2020 Participants Student Voices Project 2020 ParticipantsThank you to all of the 130 participants of the seventh annual Student Voices Project!

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