Keeping students engaged and motivated in working to support New Voices legislation can be difficult.
One way to approach this is by reaching out to advisers to encourage participation from their students. Bill Rawson, the adviser of The Smoke Signal at Passaic Valley High School, encouraged his students to do a story on our efforts to pass New Voices legislation. Their article “Pushing Back Against Censorship” featured interviews with Adelina Colaku who fought censorship at Northern Highlands and Kaitlyn Boyle the vice-president of the GSSPA’s Student Chapter.
As difficult as it can be to motivate and engage students that you see every day, the task becomes much more difficult when the primary means of communication is online as with the GSSPA’s Student Chapter. While one or two of the leaders of the group would occasionally attend a board meeting, the primary means of communication was by phone, e-mail, or social media.
It has been essential in these situations to have a couple of projects or tasks that student leaders can focus the energy of the group on. For the Student Chapter, those projects have been sessions they will lead at our Fall Conference and demonstrating support for the legislation as a requirement for running for leadership positions. To apply as an officer, students needed to create a post in the Facebook group explaining what they would bring to the group. They also were required to demonstrate how they were supporting or raising awareness of student free-press legislation (through pieces in their school newspaper or through letters to the editor).
In this first year, two leaders emerged who would run online chats, come to some board meetings and plan Student Chapter sessions for our next fall conference. Lilia Wood, a senior at Glen Rock High School, was the group’s first president and Malaika Jawed, a junior at South Brunswick High School, was the first vice-president. Their leadership was instrumental in the success of the student chapter. They conducted monthly online chats and were able to organize members, largely through the Facebook group, to contribute to a video on censorship. They presented this video during the first student-run session at the GSSPA’s fall conference.
These projects have led to the creation of two videos. One on censorship for the 2015 conference, and the other an interview of Frank LoMonte for our 2016 conference created by one of the 2016 presidents, Ashley Cooper.