Students Speak Out for Change: Project 540

Posted on May 2, 2003

[posted from Public Education Network Weekly Newsblast]

[Ed note: Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs have several schools participating in Project 540. For info about local schools, contact Stacie Molnar-Main,]

Results of a national study that captured the dialogue of over 135,000 high school students around the country show that young people are very concerned about the schools, communities and world in which they live. This finding dispels the thinking that young people are apathetic and disengaged. More importantly, they might have enough issues in common to influence both local and national agendas. Project 540 has conducted student-led dialogues in nearly 250 high schools, asking students what issues matter most to them in their schools, communities, nation, and world. The top ten issue areas identified during student dialogues nationwide are: (1) School Lunch Policy; (2) Teachers & Classes; (3) War & Terrorism; (4) School Bathrooms;(5) Parking Issues; (6) Alcohol & Other Drugs; (7) Environment; (8) Community Activities for Young People; (9) School Sports; (10) Dress Codes. “The fact that poor and degraded facilities are so much on students’ minds should not surprise us,” says Rick Benjamin. “Most adults would not respond well to sub-standard bathrooms in their workplaces or compulsory office lunches; yet this is what we are asking adolescents among us to tolerate.” Other issues that were high on the list included homelessness, poverty, hunger and racism. Students also expressed concerns about sexism and homophobia.

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