“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The Youth Alliance for Education (YAE) is an organization run by students for students. Founded by the University of Buffalo (UB), it is centered around bringing positive recognition and positive change to issues seen in our school. In monthly virtual meetings, topics discussed include idea generating to improve our education, as well as meaningful conversations for problem solving and conflict resolution in our everyday lives.
As a member of this organization, I support YAE’s mission and want to bring about positive change to our school community. As of right now, YAE has only existed for a year, with our meetings being solely online due to the pandemic. Within the first year of its creation, YAE was able to get adolescents to join from all different school districts in all different grade levels from all over Western New York to voice their opinions. Through our conversations and work in our subcommittees, we were able to identify issues we saw in our schools and put together a slideshow; which we later presented to teachers and administrators in a collective zoom meeting in June 2021. We presented on topics such as; mental health, racism, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and improving school environments. This year we want to go beyond that.
In this new year of YAE, our goal is to create a handbook for teachers and administrators so they can clearly see the changes and additions we want to implement in our school communities. We will still touch upon the topics of last year, but also give insight to other topics including (but not limited to); how living situations can affect learning, and how teachers can better support students outside of academics in the classroom. Essentially, we want to communicate as many student voices as possible to the adults in our everyday lives. At YAE we embody acceptance and reassurance of everyone and their backgrounds, we’re a diverse group of adolescents with a common goal. To learn more about YAE and what it’s all about, read this Q & A with founders Jillian Farrel and Amanda Winklesas and check out the registration link below if you’d maybe like to join! We want everyone who wants to make their voice heard to be a part of our Youth Alliance for Education.
Why is it called YAE?
Amanda- “We wanted to capture what we were doing with an acronym that’s both reflective of the work and that reflects the energy and commitment students would bring to the group. We also expected change would come from YAE, so YAE!”
Jillian- “We knew we wanted to create a group that focused on students supporting and standing up for each other in school. That idea also led us to the name Youth– we wanted to work with middle and high schoolers, Alliance– to showcase students working together, for Education– we knew from the start we wanted schools to be the focus of our efforts for change.”
Why did you start YAE?
Amanda- “We started YAE because we believe that students are the experts on their experience in schools and have great insight into what changes need to be made to truly make a difference in schools fulfilling the ideal of truly educating everyone. Schools should be places where students are safe and comfortable enough to learn, take risks, and grow. We know that’s not how they feel for everyone, and who better to advise on what needs to change than students who attend schools every day?”
Jillian- “Also, youth activism was everywhere when we founded YAE in 2020! We wanted to show that students have brilliant ideas for change and the dedication to make that change happen. Student voices are often overlooked, so we wanted to create a space specifically for students to express their opinions.”
What do you hope to achieve with YAE?
Amanda- “We hope to amplify students’ voices around what schools could/should be. We hope to bring students’ voices to teachers, school leaders, district leaders, and university faculty members who prepare future teachers and leaders. Ultimately, we hope to make real change.”
Jillian- “We hope to do what we can to make students feel more confident, supported, and respected in their schools.”
How do you feel about what YAE has accomplished so far?
Amanda- “We have cultivated such amazing ideas in such a short amount of time! We’re making progress!”
Jillian- “It is amazing to see a group of brilliant young people come together to advocate for their classmates. I am proud of all our YAE students for listening to others’ struggles, and banding together to start the work towards making change.”
What are your goals for YAE?
Amanda- “Ultimately our goal is to have YAE be a youth-led organization that contributes to building better educational systems and advancing innovative, equity-focused actions, initiatives and policies.”
Jillian- “We would love it if YAE allowed students to have a seat at the table for meetings about their own education. We want this work to empower students and make noticeable change, especially for students who feel under supported in their current school system.”
Why should other students consider joining YAE?
Amanda- “If you want to be part of making education better for everyone, this is the organization for you! We want to hear your ideas!”
Jillian- “We want your ideas for curriculum changes, school policy, ways to improve teacher student relationships, bias and discrimination prevention, as well as ways to spread our message and make our voices heard. If you have an idea, any idea for how to make change, you should join YAE.”
What is one thing you want others to know about YAE?
Both- “YAE members are passionate and committed to making change in schools. (And they also have excellent taste in music!)”
The Youth Alliance for Education strives to give students a voice in their daily lives by prompting them to advocate for things they need for success. We’re a welcoming community and appreciate everyone who wants to help make our schools a better place!
If any of the above interests you and you’d like to learn more about, or possibly become a part of YAE; check out the links below:
“Are you interested in changing Buffalo schools for the better? Do you have ideas for how schools can be more inclusive, welcoming, and respectful towards all students? Join the Youth Alliance for Education. YAE is a student run organization that listens to you! We meet monthly to discuss problems in schools and work to solve them. If you are interested in joining google ‘Youth Alliance for Education’ to find our application, or click the link below! Thank you!”
Lily Fisher is a sophomore at Sweet Home High School. She is a very avid writer and reader. She loves to write about many topics, some fiction, some non-fiction, some poetry, some opinion based, and other forms of creative writing. She is a published author of a handful of children’s books and is very happy to be a member of The Panther Eye.