Not Short and Sweet: A Conversation with Students of America

Students from across the United States discuss the election, empathy and personal learning in schools.

On November 17th Student Voice held an event for International Students Day. We convened a group of students from across the United States for a roundtable discussion and movement planning session in Washington, D.C. at Facebook’s office. The roundtable was recorded and streamed via Facebook live. The conversation below is the first in a series.

Andrew Brennen: “As I’m sure everyone knows, we’ve just elected a new president in probably one of the most divisive campaigns this country has ever seen. Everyone at this table comes from a different community, background and truth and I want to hear from you all how this election, this campaign is playing out in your schools. Are you discussing the campaign in your classrooms with teacher-led discussions? Are you communicating with your classmates what this means for your life, education and families? I want to hear your reactions to the current political conversation.

On the election: [1:09–17:28]

Chelsea: Hi I’m Chelsea Cassarubias I’m from DC, I’m a freshman and Washington Leadership Academy. Well first off everyone was crying… I was crying. It really effected our school a lot. During our english class we stopped to discuss what it means for him to be our President. During our advisory we just talked about the election.

Zoe: Hi I’m Zoe Valladares I go to Washington Leadership Academy as well. I’m a freshman in high school. Basically Chelsea wrapped it up, yes all of our staff members were upset. We started a bit later than usual, everyone was crying. In my advisory we had a seminar about what happened and why it seemed unfair. We talked about the electoral college and how we think that system is not good. We talked how if Hilary Clinton had won would we still be talking about the electoral college.

Chelsea & Zoe

Prince: My name is Prince Onwuvuche I go to WLA like these two in the 9th grade. At our school everyone was sad. Most of our school is minorities and mostly democrat and were sad Hilary didn’t win.

Daniella: Hi I’m Daniella Cohen, I’m originally from Chicago but I’m taking a year off from school interning in DC. I wasn’t in a school setting during the election so that sorta gave me a lens to reflect on what I wanted or what I wished could have been talking about in my school because being in a professional setting it was much more difficult, at times I found there weren’t as many conversations, especially from know what was going on icy my high school. I definitely just wish there were more conversations.

Andrew F: My name is Andrew Farias, I go to Energy Institute High School in Houston Texas. I was actually here in DC for a field trip during election night. So we attended a watch party and watched as the polls came in. Once we saw Trump got Florida and Pennsylvania we went to bed because we knew it was over. Back home in Houston my friends were texting me that they were going to stage a protest in front of City Hall. In fact they did on Tuesday. They we’re protesting the election of Trump.

Megan: I’m Megan Simmons I’m a senior at River Bluff High School in Lexington South Carolina. When we talk about geographic isolation I would say about 90% of our population was supportive of the election. I’m in the Center for Law and Global Policy there so I spend half of my day learning about law, justice and politics and the other half learning common core subjects. We have been debriefing the election since it happened. Thats all we’ve been doing this year. Its hard because many of our teachers aren’t supportive of Donald Trump but the students are so it creates a very interesting divide and its hard to get conversations started that way.

Chris (L) Andrew B, Megan

Chris: I’m Chris Suggs I’m a 12th grader from Kinston, North Carolina. I was actually out of town on election day but when I returned to school it was just… I was speechless with the rhetoric and the way people were interaction with each other. Teachers and students so that was kind of disheartening for me. There were teachers were shutting students down when students wanted to talk about the election, just not being engaging or promoting conversations at all, so that was really upsetting to me. However, I’m seeing those conversations outside of school on social media, getting involved involved in protests and disruptions so its warming to know that even though we might be shut down with the conversation in schools that students still want to get their voice out and be heard.

Andrew B: Thats such an important part.

Macy: Hi I’m Macy, I’m in 8th grade and I’m from Arizona. When talking about politics in school, we’re extremely sheltered. Its not really an open discussion, its kind of like you need to keep your opinion down, you can’t really explain it verbally or express it at school. I think that we’re growing and modernizing, we should be able to show our aspirin and we shouldn’t have to express it outside of school because we spend so much time there. Politically speaking, us being involved in our civic duty of voting or talking about elections in electing the next president is really important and I think teachers should involve that more in all classes.

Megan N: Hi my name is Megan Neilson and I’m from Red Mountain High Schools, in Mesa public schools in Arizona and Chief Science Officers. As far as the elections goes, from the students I know, there is a wide variety of division. Some students are scared, some are thrilled but especially my friends who are Mexican, black or gay they are you know scared about what is going to happen to the country. Like what Macy said, we don’t go to the same school but we’re in the same district and we just cant talk about it in school. I know a friend who was talking about his support for Donald Trump and a girl in the hallway turned around and slapped him. He didn’t even know her, just a random person.

Andrew B: Such a stark difference between your experience and theirs talking about the election.

Chaz: My name is Chaz Vinci and I’m a sophomore at Franklin Simpson High School in Franklin Kentucky. Franklin is very rural community and a lot students supported Donald Trump. After the election results came out there were a lot of discussions going on within our classrooms. I surprised to notice that there wasn’t a lot of hate being thrown at each other, that people were actually listening to each other. Much of the discussion wasn’t facilitated by teachers in any way and I think if teachers had facilitated the discussions there might have been even more empathy.

Malia (L), Chaz, Megan

Malia: I’m Malia Mendez from Orange Lutheran in Orange, California. Actually the response at my school was quite troubling. We have a large gap between conservative and liberal parties and I saw plenty of friendships breaking up and just kind of a very violent response in condemning others opinions and I just wish that, yes that we talking about it and yes its important for everyone to have their own opinion but we can respect either end.

Madison: I’m Madison Ortega, I’m from Moorehead Kentucky. When I heard about the election results I cried, a lot of my close friends — they cried. It was very upsetting. For the majority of my school, since its in eastern Kentucky and there are quite a few conservatives, they were happy. Our administration and staff were also happy. There was one incident where, one of the teachers kept yelling “Trump Train” and going “Choo Choo” for Trump. One of the students, who is a gay male, said “ how can you be saying this when you know I’m gay”? She was yelling at this student and other students and it was a big ordeal. My school is kind of divided.

This is the introduction and first part of our “Not Short and Sweet” series on International Students Day. You can read part two next Monday. Stay tuned: the movement is live!