Finding Belonging While Advocating for Additional Support

By Our Turn

For students who have experienced marginalization inside the classroom, finding belonging can be challenging. We know that students of color are reading history books written from the perspective of colonizers. Students who speak English as a second language are being othered because of communication barriers. Students who have experienced trauma are being taught without trauma-informed approaches or accommodations. 

Recently, testimony was delivered to Denver Public School Board of Education by several Our Turn students related to mental health needs in Colorado schools. They spoke passionately about the issue at hand and holistic mental health supports students need, especially if they have endured trauma. They asked district leaders to pass and fund a school board resolution mandating that all Denver Public Schools hire at least one full-time mental health counselor; train all district staff on trauma-informed practices each year; and hire counselors who are reflective in identity of the students they work with. 

Our Turn student advocates know firsthand because of their proximity to the issues that the disparities found in graduation rates, college admissions and overall educational success is rooted in systemic issues. Lack of mental health resources is a critical contributor to this startling inequity. 

"When it came to my mental health, my school didn't seem to care. Like many Latinx families, mine sees mental health as taboo, either it's not real or you just don't talk about it. I went to ask for help from my school social worker, seeking counseling sessions or even just an ear to hear me out in that moment. I couldn't even receive that. As an involved and high achieving student, I was rejected from these resources and was told they 'needed to save those resources for students who actually needed it.' Being told I already had a good head on my shoulders confirmed that my mental health issues weren't real enough to be acknowledged. I never again asked for mental health support at my school. Like always, it was put upon my own back, as a student of color, to get my own resources."⁣⁣ - Angelica, Our Turn Colorado 

Angelica’s perspective illustrates how intersectionality of several core education equity issues can have a ripple effect that leaves students feeling alone, struggling to find places where they can truly be themselves. Through organizing with Our Turn, hundreds of student leaders who have similar experiences have been able to empathize with each other, identify educational issues impacting students of color, and advocate for change in the education space. Sharing their collective voice to mobilize voters and decision-makers has provided validation in spaces where they have previously been silenced. 

Our community of young people continues to grow, transforming the conversation around education in the process. With each success comes a renewed sense of solidarity and a confirmation of the passion behind this dedicated and tireless group of leaders who have found a place where they are heard and where their actions are having lasting impact. 

Our Turn activates students, predominantly students of color from low-income backgrounds, who are proximate to the issues and ready to share unique insight into the education needs within their communities. Join the movement