Shamar Mahon on Centering Youth Voice – NCSD Annual Conference Takeaways
Sheff Movement Student Advocate and Wheaton College student Shamar Mahon recently attended the National Coalition on School Diversity Annual Conference in New York City, where he had the opportunity to learn from and interact with national school integration advocates and experts. Sponsored by The Sheff Movement with funding provided by the Connecticut Education Association, Mahon shared his takeaways from the experience, including some of the emerging themes in the fight for education equity and what elements he thinks are critical going forward.
What were some of the themes you hear discussed during the conference that were most significant to you? Did any speak to your own personal experiences? What do you think are the greatest obstacles facing this work, and what is the role of youth in the movement?
Over the course of the conference, a couple important themes were discussed such as creating safe spaces and promoting an accepting environment. One of the most prominent themes of the NCSD conference is the inequality and inequities in education. Across the nation, students in mostly inner-city districts are facing bleaker educational opportunities than their counterparts. Unfortunately, budgetary cuts throughout these districts have continued to hamper the educational progress. As a result, instruction is deteriorating at the expense of our students.
In addition, increasing access to extracurricular activities was the topic that I felt most connected to. Being able to partake in extracurricular activities such as student leadership, community engagement and sports prepares students for life and opportunities outside of school. Throughout my education at Classical Magnet, my ability to participate in enrichment programs like debate, student government and documentary production gave me the confidence to undertake all endeavors. Extracurricular activities extend the fostering of intellectual growth and stimulation beyond the classroom. With the overall positive impact that these activities provide, all students should be afforded the ability to participate.
Going forward, in order to improve the institutions of education in America, it is paramount that we make the youth the forefront of the efforts. As the direct subject of educational reforms, students intimately understand the implications of these actions and the faults in the system. Often times, a policy deliberation includes administrators, district representatives and community advocates, but rarely the people most affected by those policies, the youth. From this perspective, students are put in an unique position of being subject to rule changes they had no representation in.
Thanks, Shamar, for sharing your experience!