Meaningful Student Involvement at Work: BSAC

Imagine the scene: An 800-pound elephant in the middle of the room, everyone talking about the terrible smell and the small space and the overwhelming feeling that “something is different here” but not being able to say what that is…

Wednesday, November 8, 2006, I met the Boston Public Schools Student Advisory Council, or BSAC. This group of students represents every student in the city to the Superintendent and programs throughout the district. Since 2003 this group has been coordinated by the district’s Student Voice Coordinator, Maria Ortiz, and Youth On Board’s spectacular Jenny Sazama. However, BSAC has a longer history than that. On my visit Jenny explained to me that BSAC was created as a response to pressure from students in the 1970s. Like most other early meaningful student involvement opportunities, the value and depth of BSAC fluctuated throughout the ensuing 20 years, until the group landed in Youth On Board’s lap. Charged with making BSAC relevant, YOB developed training, materials, and worked directly with the district to ensure highly substantial and sustainable contributions from students for the district.

Since then BSAC have been more than substantial: they have been powerful. After getting trained, researching student voice, developing alternate policies to issues that matter to students (cell phones, metal detectors, student gov’t, tardiness), and working with the community, BSAC is becoming more impacting everyday. When I was there they were presenting their annual slate of action to the district superintendent; earlier the district committee heard the call. With this type of influence and ability, BSAC surely sets a mold the rest of the country can – and should – aspire to.

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