ACTE Techniques April 2012 : Page 12

CAPI t OL VIEW Students as Advocates PHOTO BY ISTOCk.COM By Stephen DeWitt HEARING A CAREER AND tECHNICAL EDUCAtION (CTE) student provide a passionate account of his or her education can be a compelling advocacy experience. In February, staff from the Association for Career and Tech-nical Education (ACTE) visited Chantilly Academy, in Virginia, as part of our CTE Month® celebration (see full story on page 10). During the school tour, we heard from a panel of students who told their stories of how the academy had helped them with academic performance, skill-building and identification and pursuit of their career choices. The student I found most memorable discussed her desire to work with and help others understand animals. She was enrolled in the acade-my’s veterinary and health programs, and was well-spoken and passionate. Her story helped the audience connect with her experience through an informative and emotional story—ultimately providing a clear message about Chantilly Academy’s relevance and support in helping her reach career goals. Wow, I thought, this is the kind of story that helps change minds! Student advocacy can be a central part of CTE advocacy efforts when blended with the good use of data, explanation about the impact of programs and direct requests to a policymaker concerning the actions you would like him or her to take. In the CTE community, we continue to battle the perception problem. Policymak-ers, students and parents fail to consider CTE as a viable option because they have misconceptions about what CTE is and is not. Student advocacy can help improve and sometimes shatter perceptions through education about the power and potential of CTE. Advocacy always requires responsibil-ity and students should not be coerced into making statements they do not agree with, but advocacy also does not need to be overly structured and “high stakes.” The crux of student advocacy is com-municating about educational experience and outcomes to help policymakers under-stand the value of CTE. The following are several recommendations you can use and share with others as you think about student advocacy. recommendations for Student Advocacy Always seek permission from school administrators and parents first before using students as advocates. Whether inviting policymakers or media to your school, or visiting the state legislature, make sure to identify and adhere to any school/institution rules. Encourage students to speak with their own voice. There is nothing worse 12 Techniques April 2012

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