Giving Middle School Students A Voice

Today’s guest blogger is April Frazier, Middle School After School Product Manager at City Year New York. April supports our corps members in our six middle schools with the planning and implementation of their afterschool programs.

Last Tuesday, forty middle school students from across New York City visited the CYNY office for the first meeting of our City Year Middle School Leadership Council.  One boy and one girl from each grade, in the six middle schools that CYNY serves, were voted in by their peers to represent their school and community on this council. These students were selected because of their desire to be agents of social change and will participate in leadership trainings and have the opportunity to collaborate with students from other schools.

April prompts the Student Leadership Council with a number of questions that encourage students to think about what leadership is and how they can become better leaders.

The Leadership Council will meet once every other month with the goal of providing our students with the resources and skills needed to be leaders in their school and community.  The focus of this month’s meeting was to have our students work together to come up with strategies to increase retention and attendance in After School Programs.

The moment the students entered our office they were expected to be held to the “Obama Standard” which meant, “If you can’t see President Obama doing it, then you’re not going to do it.” That means your chin will be parallel to the ground, you will not look at the floor once, there’s no gum chewing, no slouching, and no disrespect of yourself or others.  They are the leaders of their school and with that comes high expectations for behavior, speech, and the way they present themselves.

To kick off these meeting the Council will recite the Student Council Pledge:

Everything I need to be a leader

I already have

Because it is within me

And because it is within me

No one can take it away

I have the power

To change my life

To change my school

To change my community

To change the world


Following a group exercise, students completed a read aloud of Martin Luther King Jr’s “What is Your Life’s Blueprint,” a speech he made to a group of Junior High School students on pursuing their life’s purpose despite challenging circumstances. When asked how this related to their lives, one seventh grade student proudly proclaimed, “It is better to be alone and be a leader than to follow the negativity of a group. You have to be strong enough to stand on your own.” The voices of the CYNY young leaders were strong, inspiring, and motivational.

Young leaders of the council are held up to high expectations of attendance, behavior, and course work, with biweekly conference calls with City Year and their parents to discuss goal setting and leadership development. By providing students with the opportunities to advocate for themselves and their communities, after school programs can be a true source of change. It’s time that the voices of our students are heard and represented.

Students from Long Island Cityreally enjoy the first Student Leadership Council meeting and found a moment to share what they learned with IS 204 Team Leader, Yassi Davoodi