Student Voices in San Jose: Designing the 21st Century School

December 22, 2012
By Daniel Zapien, Fernando Perez of Silicon Valley De-Bug

On November 15th at 2:30pm, De-Bug started making its way to the Schools of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza for an event called “Designing the 21st Century School.” This event was created for the students from all over the Santa Clara County to come out and talk about how school could be better suited for them and their futures. The event also represented a coming together of various organizations who united in the interest of improving our school system – groups such as San Jose 2020, Santa Clara County Office of Education, Californians for Justice, American Leadership Forum, San Jose Youth Commission, School of Arts and Culture, De-Bug, and more.

As we got to the event, Malcolm Halcrombre was setting up the DJ booth, which was designed to entertain, and keep background music for the youth during the dialogues of the event. We began setting up the “21st Century School Graduation Photo Booth” where kids stood in front of a graphic Adrian Avila made of the school of the future. Students, who got to wear a cap and gown, chose which “diploma” they wanted to be pictured with, which were themes based on what schools could be. So the diplomas to choose from read that the youth graduated from a school of the future where students:Have Full Use of Technology, Have Teachers That Students Connect With, Never Have to Worry About Being Hungry in Class, Get Support for Issues They Face Off of Campus, Won’t Feel Judged Based on How You Look.

As the school buses started coming in, the youth started to come out and sign in, some would sit down and listen to the music, while others would walk over to the photo booth and take pictures with their friends. After the music was getting really funky, and the kids took as many pics as they could, before the event started. There were over 200 students, who sat in small groups, ready to create new possibilities for education.

As the room got silent, Dr Xavier De La Torre (Santa Clara County Schools Superintendent of Schools), and Christian Sanchez (San Jose High student and Youth Commissioner) grabbed the microphones and started making announcements for the evening full of events. They then introduced the first act — De-Bug who showed the  ‘Schoolin the Schools’ media contest entrees. Fern and myself (Ookie), went up to let the youth see what other youth were doing for the contest. Claps and cheers were heard as the students watched and listened to the videos and slideshows.

After getting the crowd live we gave the mic back to Christian and Dr. De La Torre who introduced the next part of the evening. This was the research portion that was done through surveys all across East San Jose schools by Californians for Justice. It was amazing to see to see the amount of concern students have regarding the level and quality of their education. Then we came to the part of the evening where the youth sat in circles and began giving their opinions on certain questions that was asked by community leaders and educators in a fashion that let everyone speak. The discussion was lead by youth facilitators. Students were asked to reflect on the media and research they all just saw, then proceeded to answer the question, “ If you invented school, what would it look like?” The students had plenty to say – giving direction and ideas that could transform our schools into education hubs that really prepare and inspire youth.

And they connected their dreams to the current realities facing their schools. In my small group, as students were speaking about how important one on one time with a teacher is, one student said, “The teacher at my school would only tutor three kids out of every class. She has six classes. It’s sad because now there is no one to help the rest of us students, because the school won’t get more teachers to help.”

Even the youngest of attendees got a lot out of the discussion, and what it represented. Samaj Kenney, age 12, was there to perform through his dance crew Monster Motion, but also participated in the small group discussion. He said, “It was amazing how they got all the kids out there to attend the event and actually listen and participate.”

After all the small groups were done, it was the last portion of the evening where the performances started. Danae James Johnican performed his submission to Schoolin the Schools, a song called “Hard Lessons.” After he performed, two members of Monster Motion got a chance to dance and make the crowd go wild.

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Student Voices in San Jose: Designing the 21st Century School 3 January,2013ymartinez

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