Recently, I was honored to have the opportunity to attend a 12th grade AP Government class in a local public high school. There were 21 students in the class, ranging a multitude of backgrounds, but all 17 or recently turned 18.
After a short presentation on Ours to Change Mississippi, I was able to sit down and talk with several of the students. It was eye-opening. They were absolutely floored by some of the statistics and information they’d heard during the presentation—specifically, that Mississippi took until 1982 to pass a compulsory school attendance law and that the millennial population in Mississippi far outnumbers the baby boomer population. In fact, one of the students I talked to said, “Oh my gosh. We could really outvote them!”
The overwhelming conversation in the room was focused on a few topics. One: these students and their friends strongly want their voices to be heard, but don’t know how or where to find their own spaces to do it. Two: there was a resounding agreement that there should be a stronger emphasis, more value, placed on the education of Mississippi’s public school children. Three: the majority of the students I spoke to were very interested in candidates, voting, policy change, etc. but lack accessible resources and education in order to learn about those topics.
I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend with this group of students. Their ideas, goals, thoughts, and values left me hopeful and energized.
The future of Mississippi is going to be so vibrant.
Some of my favorite quotes:
“There are a lot of us and our generation really does have something to say. We can’t let the fear of what we want not getting done to keep us from participating.”
“I’m really quiet and shy, but this class (and this presentation) has made me want to change a rule that I think is unfair at the school. It makes me want to speak up and make people pay attention to me.”
“The numbers really spoke to me. It’s hard to see other young people making changes in other states. We have great minds in Mississippi but we maybe don’t know how to make the changes. We have the ability to change it, but our state is so traditional. The older, more traditional generations use their voices to keep us down sometimes.”