Perry Student Voice Encourages Students to Express Themselves


Samantha Ervin-Upsher, an eleventh-grader at Perry High School, is eager to share her voice and help other young people do the same.

“It’s important because the youth now are the adults of the future. If we are silenced now and not taught how to express our voice in the correct manner, how will we succeed at changing anything in the future?” says Ervin-Upsher. “Giving the youth a voice now gives us a chance to start changing the world early.”

Perry Student Voice was created with that idea in mind: to help students find bridges to and participate in influential conversations.

The group was born out of Perry’s twice-monthly club or activity period that was created to provide students with the time, space and tools to express themselves. These periods are set aside to expose students to creative activities like jewelry making and pottery.

“These experiences increase authentic learning in our schools,” says Jason Boll, an English teacher at Perry. “When students gain experiences and value those experiences, we see real spikes in the rates that they are learning.  If we can get others to value what they are doing, that rate of learning spikes even more.”

Members of Perry Student Voice have been working on a range of projects including poetry and spoken word pieces. During her time in the group, Ervin-Upsher learned about video production and eventually produced a video about issues surrounding race in the United States today.

“It’s a topic a lot of people don’t like to touch on because they’re scared to ruffle feathers,” she says. “So it’s swept under the rug.”

The video was featured at Remake Learning Days, a weeklong celebration of innovative learning and teaching throughout Pittsburgh that featured over 280 family friendly activities and garnered $25 million in commitments to innovative learning.

After her video aired, Ervin-Upsher and her fellow Student Voice members presented their work at Duquesne University, with the students joining Boll on stage to discuss their work, race and student voice.

“I am absolutely inspired by these young people,” says Boll. “Samantha has done really powerful and meaningful work here, and I look forward to what she will accomplish in the next year.”


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