"Prioritizing and elevating our agenda can allow students and parents and coalitions to come together to further the work everyone is doing, in order to build on equity. The RYH agenda is a clear outline of the needs of students across the country, and gives us the ability to build and build sustainable ideas to better serve our communities collectively."
"Children are our future, and the federal government needs to genuinely invest in them. It is important for the department of education to prioritize elevating our RYH agenda to serve our students, and let our voices be heard for once. Education inequity has been an issue for years in our school systems. If Secretary Cardona prioritizes the RYH agenda, many students will be giving opportunities that I've never had. The department of education is serving and funding the students and schools, but needs to invest in them by taking into consideration the needs of every student, regardless of their color and their well-being."
"Secretary Cardona, Equity isn't handing a kid a tablet or ipad, it is understanding the system put in place that led to the lack of ipads/tablet for students, and working to fix the underlying issue. Now more than ever, because of the pandemic, we see that having a computer and having wifi isn't enough. Education is more than homework assignments, and more than a letter grade!"
"We need a voice, a voice like yours - Cardona - to speak for all us youth. We need you to believe in the potential of every child across this NATION to become successful, as you have done in your home state of Connecticut. You know first hand of the struggles many of us face, especially as a Latino American born in a low income housing project. You know first hand of the determination, grit, and passion, every student holds."
"Student voice should be prioritized in issues that will affect them. With your help Secretary Cardona, students will finally be able to make change and be prepared for the future. Not only will this change the way education in schools works, but it will change the way schools view student's input."
"It's time for students to become thought partners when it comes to decision-making for their futures. That's exactly what Our Turn has been leading, and a partnership with Dr. Cardona would help spearhead this shift in leadership and advocacy. I call Dr. Cardona into this work and urge him to hear student voices and experiences, to shape their education!"
"ALL students deserve to be and to feel elevated throughout their learning journeys."
"We are desperate for quality leadership when it comes to the education system, there is so much harm to reduce from the previous administration. Take student voices seriously, and you will find that gaps will be closed sustainably! Mr. Secretary, help us help you!"
"For far too long, our education system has been designed with policies and practices that clearly work to favor only one type of privileged student. Elevating our student agenda can begin to correct for the centuries of past injustices toward marginalized communities and help to redesign an education system that works for every student, regardless of their identity or background. Secretary Cardona, we need you to join us in our fight for student-led educational equity!"
"It is time for the federal government to fully recognize the power of young people! We are the decision-makers of the future and current students, meaning we have the best idea of the inequities in schools. By recognizing and elevating our student agenda, the DOE has the chance to not only give power to young people across the country but make REAL change around education inequity!"
"As a student that has graduated through the public school system in America, it is imperative that the DOE elevates the agenda because of the specific, rational, and important RYH demands that are listed. It is time for students to have their voices heard and listened to, so that all students in the future can have an equal chance at success through the school system."
"The Dept. of Education should prioritize elevating the student agenda to genuinely connect with students and allies to ensure equitable education for students. The student agenda is inclusive and diverse, but most importantly pinpoints all of the issues that need to be addressed and alleviated. While education reform can be created equally in any form, it’s important that it’s meeting the needs of all types of students so that they can have an equal chance for a bright successful future. Raise Your Hand Student Agenda is the reform that is demanding the pathway to healing the education system."
"Students should always have a say in the policy that impacts their education."
"The agenda represents the wishes of me, as well as many other students in the United States. It makes me feel that my voice is heard, and gives me hope for the future. I know that if Secretary Cardona prioritizes elevating the student agenda, my siblings will have a better school career."
Dear Secretary Cardona:
On behalf of the undersigned students, members, and allies of Our Turn, please accept our sincere congratulations on being nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as our U.S. Secretary of Education! We wish you all the best as you help lead the nation towards an equitable public education.
Our Turn, comprising over three-hundred Raise Your Hand Student Ambassadors across the country, is a student-led organization mobilizing and amplifying student voices in the fight for educational equity. We, marginalized and first generation college students, have already led campaigns for student-focused change in school systems, ranging from mental health to credit recovery to safety in schools. Today, on Day 100 of President Biden’s administration, we are elevating the authentic voices of 100 students, which you will find attached to this letter.
We urge you to review the Student Agenda for Equity, which was created for students, by students, reflecting our fight for educational equity in communities across the nation. During a moment of monumental change, brought upon by the pandemic, American Rescue Plan, and leadership changes, we are confident that the Student Agenda is an actionable, equity-first blueprint for schools.
There are monumental obstacles that remain to move toward true equity in education, and our growing, nationwide cohort of student leaders and organizers understand they cannot do it alone. That’s why, Mr. Secretary, we are asking for your support and engagement. If we had the support and engagement of the U.S. Secretary of Education, there would still be tremendous challenges, but Students could look forward to a powerful ally as a partner. That’s all that we ask:
Publicly endorse the Student Agenda for Equity with Our Turn;
Authentically elevate student voices by exploring and collaborating with us on our policy recommendations;
Continue to engage Our Turn students as you deliver the following shared priorities:
Funding resources for mental health counselors through local districts.
Address inherent educational inequities as a result of the digital divide.
A national policy recommendation for a culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum.
Mr. Secretary, we know you have a lot on your plate. But so do we. There are too many of us - particularly those students coming from disadvantaged families - who worry about the impact of the pandemic on our long-term mobility and wellness. We worry when and if our schools can open safely, and return to an old normal of inequity. We worry about our parents and family members that have lost their jobs - many jobs that will never come back. We worry about ourselves and our schoolmates who may fall into depression and have suicidal thoughts.
Mr. Secretary, your leadership on our behalf is crucial now - after a year of loss and trauma, how can we expect students to succeed in school if we as national leaders are not doing everything in our power to advance equity for all students. The Department of Education’s mission and vision is to “Promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” Now is the time for us as national education leaders to move our values into action.
We owe it to both the past and present generation of leaders to prioritize and develop an inclusive curriculum and heal our nation’s great divide. Thanks for hearing us out, and we look forward to connecting with you soon!
Our Turn and The Raise Your Hand for Educational Justice Community