• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

Providence Student Union

Over the course of the next year, the Starr Fellowship will allow Aaron Regunberg and me to focus on making our concept of a Providence Student Union a reality. Our program proposes a new style of youth voice facilitation in Providence. The key component is locating meetings after school in the buildings themselves to promote school community and increase attendance. This will allow us to facilitate student campaigns within and without the school to promote both short-term change and long-term committment. It also allows students to discover organizing skills, leadership skills, and a heightened capacity for critical and systemic thinking that students can put to use in their own communities - their schools. Ultimately, the vision is a linking of individual chapters across schools to facilitate city-wide student action. 

With the Starr Fellowship, our project hopes to establish a solid launching point for the future. Currently, we are running a pilot program at Hope High School, Hope Student Union. The many lessons we are learning now will be critical in outlining a flexible curriculum during the summer. This summer, we also hope to lay out a sustainability plan, a procedure for responsible expansion into new schools, and delve deeper into pedagogy and grant writing, among other things.

Personal Statement

I came to work on this project after working with Aaron to help a student group from Hope, Hope United, advocate for its block schedule. The fight stretched on for over a year, but in the end the students were refused a schedule that had been shown both to produce impressive results and to foster a positive school climate and culture. The fight had an impact on me. I saw how students would not have known about their options for action had we not intervened. I saw how they, even still, were impeded in every step of the process by a detached and often disrespectful school system. And I eventually came to see that a better, more formalized method was necessary. All of my experiences in education, in organizing, and even my theoretical interests in religious studies point to the method that PSU hopes to implement.

Youth are often said to be our nation's most underrepresented demographic. This can only change if students come together to advocate for themselves - clearly being advocated for just isn't working. Accordingly, it is our hope that a Providence Student Union will both catalyze real reform in our city's education framework and, more importantly, facilitate a deepened understanding of its systemic injustices. I'm grateful for the opportunity the Starr Fellowship is giving me, Aaron, and the youth of Providence, and I look forward to keeping you all updated on our efforts.