Alumni Spotlight

Graduate Student Finds Calling on Social Media

By Lee Nave

Though I have always lived with the aim of helping others, the first time I really took action was with Student Voice.

In May 2012, I was in between getting my bachelor’s degree and graduate school. I was sitting in my recently rented East Orange basement, wondering what my next move was.

One Monday night, I was randomly invited to join a Twitter chat. A Twitter chat is a conversation revolving around a hashtag. In some cases these conversations are set by organizations.

I joined using the hashtag #StuVoice, and discussed topics ranging from cyberbullying, students on education boards, the lack of student engagement, and the always controversial issue of standardized testing. These discussions allowed me to reflect on my time in school when I felt powerless, or when it did not seem like I could really open up to my teachers about what would help me learn best.

What we soon learned was that an open conversation with students, teachers, and other key figures in education is a factor that has been ignored for too long. With our generation, one unfairly deemed as complacent and lazy (thanks, Time Magazine), we must work to open this door of communication like never before.

In a few months, a group of twenty students, all part of the Student Voice movement, began working with corporate sponsors to take the Twitter discussion to real life. Alongside students from around the country, we launched an event that was seen in almost every state and over 20 different countries. This landmark was the launch of Student Voice Live.

After Student Voice Live, our group of 20 began to dwindle as creative differences surfaced. Not everyone agreed with everyone else’s vision of where Student Voice should go, yet we all agreed there was still a need for a Student Voice. From our original organization, many amazing activist have stepped up.

After the summer of 2013, I took over as second-in-command of the Student Voice nonprofit. With prior knowledge of 501(c)(3)’s, I wrote our original business plans and budgets, filed our 501(c)(3) forms to the IRS, and in June 2014, we became a recognized student-run nonprofit organization. We now have a staff of only six department heads, a half dozen interns, and five board members, with an audience of countless students and dozens of partners.

When we first started Student Voice, there was little evidence that we would one day become an organization known by millions of people worldwide. We soon found out however that teachers, corporations, foundations, and other concerned parties were willing to join and actively campaign alongside students.

Soon we will take our Student Voice Live! model around the country to places like Las Vegas, Boston, San Francisco, and San Diego just to name a few. We will also be pitching a Student Bill of Rights idea that we hope will give power to students worldwide who want their voices heard.

If you want to join the #StuVoice movement, use our hashtag on Mondays at 8:30 p.m.

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