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 Students Make Their Voices Heard

illustration of birds and words gonna be alrightFrom creating a simplified voter guide to capturing some of their most harrowing experiences in a short narrative, students from SDCOE's Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) are making sure their voices and stories are still being heard during distance learning. 

Two districtwide projects, the Creating our Future Design Jam and The Storytellers digital magazine, gave students the opportunity to explore personally relevant topics while drawing from multiple subjects of study. JCCS instructional coaches Sara Matthews and Melanie Tolan facilitated both opportunities, working with teachers to provide guidance and materials to engage students. 

"We know that it's critical to hear our students' voices loud and clear and to let them know that their stories matter," said Tolan. "We were working on having more cross-content integration as a district, so we asked all JCCS students to work within the narrative genre [for The Storytellers]." 

Some of the flash narratives were vivid and moving while others were simple and short. But all were introspective or showed students' creativity. 

"Even damaged souls need love too," wrote one student. "Wake up, Zoom, practice, sleep, repeat,"wrote another.

More than 50 students participated in the fall writing project, and their pieces were compiled into one electronic magazine titled The Storytellers.

"I enjoyed writing the story, because it was fun and something I had never done before. I'm excited to be a published writer," said Ashley, a student at Bayside Community School.

With Design Jam, students were encouraged to explore relevant issues such as environmental justice and the 2020 election through the lens of equity and answer the question, "What does it take to change the world?"  

Students at Lindsay Community School answered that call by taking the lessons learned in social studies about local history and their own cultures, and immersing themselves in local election issues. They researched the mayoral candidates and each of the propositions, developed easy-to-understand voter guidance reflecting their views on issues, and presented their work to fellow students and JCCS staff over Zoom. 

For senior Ramalda Zuniga, her favorite part of the project was being able to help her mother, father, and grandfather understand how to register and to vote — even though she herself was not yet old enough. 

"I wasn't familiar with what a ballot looked like, what the readings were, or where to put certain things until she [teacher Dawn Miller] taught us. I was able to translate it and help my family understand," Zuniga said.  

Students from other JCCS schools prepared materials addressing environmental concerns such as air pollution, hazardous waste, and deforestation, as well as issues like animal abuse and the election.

"The exhibitions were awesome and truly inspirational to see students persevering despite distance learning," Tolan said. "We saw evidence of authentic research as well as innovative designs by students for solving environmental issues and exploring the 2020 election."

Overall, students from nine schools participated in Design Jam: Lindsay Community School, South County Technical Academy, North County Technical Academy, Second Chance Community School, San Diego SOAR Academy, San Pasqual Academy, Victoria Community School, Bayside Community School, and 37ECB.