Our Stories

Amplifying PUSD Student Voices

Editor’s Note: As part of PEF’s commitment to raising the voices of our students, we are featuring a selection of opinion articles and other works written by students.

by Morgan Gaskell, Pasadena High School Student

Student representation in school settings has always been necessary, but rarely are students able to be as present and direct as Mya Hernandez (they/them) was at the Pasadena Educational Foundation’s ED Talk, hosted KPCC’s Larry Mantle on November 9th at Caltech. Mya, a senior at Pasadena High School, joined PUSD Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald alongside other public school advocates as a panelist. I found Mya’s voice to be critical to the conversation, as they voiced the student perspective of topics related to PUSD school programs, the pandemic, and student equity.

Mya was invited to the ED Talk to be the student representative by way of being a member of PUSD’s High School Student Think Tank, a PUSD high school student-led initiative that is dedicated to social activism and amplifying student voices, of which I am also a member. The group, in its third year, is a rising force in the district, presenting research to the PUSD Board of Education on multiple occasions, hosting professional developments for teachers, and collecting and sharing student narratives in the The Learning Curve anthology.

PEF invited me as well as other Think Tank representatives and students from John Muir High School’s Arts, Entertainment, and Media (AEM) Academy to take photos and interview attendees about their thoughts about the talk. As people checked in, we strategized how we would interview the attendees.

During the event, panelists made points about how the pandemic and online learning had affected students. Mya contributed as they could, but it became evident to those of us in the Think Tank that there needed to be an even larger student voice in issues directly related to the PUSD student experience. There were many moments where each of us wanted to elaborate on an issue. We quickly realized that the Think Tank needs to engage in even more community discussions.

As attendees filed out, we conducted our interviews. Each person we interviewed provided us with insightful information. Many commented on how they really appreciated having a student sitting amongst the other panelists.

When everyone was gone, the Think Tank students shared our experiences. We parted, thinking of what we had learned, after setting the date and goals for our next Think Tank meeting.

I believe the ED Talk was more impactful because a student was invited to participate. Afterall, students are PUSD – we are why it exists and should have more say in our school experience.

I believe the ED Talk panel was only a beginning for students to voice their experiences in the school district. The initiative should not stop here. PUSD students are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to matters that directly affect us. There is no shortage of voices, they need to be accessed and amplified.

Want to invite the PUSD Student Think Tank to give a presentation to your group, or interested in participating as a PUSD student? Please contact Sehba Sarwar at ssarwar@pased.org.

Morgan Gaskell is a junior in the App Academy at Pasadena High School (PHS). She is the president of PHS’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), a writer for The 28% Women in STEM newsletter and Pasadena Chronicle, plays the cello in PHS’s orchestra, and is part of the PUSD Student Think Tank. Outside of school, Morgan bands birds for research purposes, participates in community science, and has volunteered as a summer youth leader for the Pasadena Educationl Foundation (PEF) for two years now. They enjoy spending time in nature and playing with her cat. Morgan hopes to study biology and ethnic studies at a college in California.