How Philanthropy Fuels Our Fight for Education Justice

By Emily Whisnant, Our Turn Development Fellow

Our Turn prioritizes student voices in an education system that has not done so. In our education system, students are mostly ignored with little choice as to what happens to them day to day. As a youth leader, it is apparent to me that we’re the ones who know most about our education, but that is widely ignored. One of the biggest issues surrounding this topic is equal educational opportunity. Students of color are widely suppressed in all aspects of education. From being placed in a school with little opportunity because of their zip code to being placed in classes where they cannot reach their fullest potential. A student's zip code or financial status should not determine the quality of education they receive. We need to elevate the voices of those students in lower income areas so that they can reach their fullest potential. For Our Turn to grow and continue to support and uplift students, we rely on philanthropic funders. We need the support of funders who believe in our mission and are passionate about the solution.


For far too long, students attending wealthier schools have been given an unfair advantage over those in lower income areas. This is evident in all aspects of their education from the quality of teachers they have to the course list they are given. When we ignore this lack of opportunity, we miss out on what these students would be capable of. Another issue in the education system is safety. Every student should be entitled to a safe school where they feel comfortable to learn. This is not a reality for most students, and the issue can only be solved when student voices are heard. Another major problem is the mental health of the students who are in the education system. With the Covid 19 pandemic and for many other reasons, we have seen a sharp decline in mental health as a whole. This issue is seen by every single student, but is something that is widely ignored. To all of these problems, however, there is one clear and simple solution; elevating student voices. 


We have seen these issues firsthand as students, and that has led to a passion to make a real change. It’s our turn to change the education system and give equal opportunity to all of the students in it. We can no longer be ignored, and Our Turn gives us the chance to speak out and make the change that we are so desperate for. We can shift the power away from adults who are not affected by the education system today to the students who have to deal with the consequences of whatever decision is made. With the help of philanthropic funders, we can give a vast amount of diverse students the opportunity to be heard. There is no way that Our Turn can be fully successful without the help of those who are willing to passionately support our mission. Every student deserves to have their voice heard, and that cannot be forgotten when decisions are made about their education.