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I have a 12-year-old nephew living in Haverhill mass who would like to be part of an organization on changing the school system. He feels the school system is outdated, and kids are not being taught skills that would be beneficial to real life situations/jobs, as well as the teaching skills of teachers and children, not being taught in the way they are able to learn well. He would like information on who to write to regarding this and what actions he could take as a 12-year-old kid be it organizations to join, etc..

             Some time ago you wrote to us about your young nephew and his desire to change the local school system.  For some reason, this question slipped through the cracks,  and our apologies for that.  But we hope we can partially make up for our delay by offering some comments now.
            We think it’s to your nephew’s credit that he is thinking critically about the school system – or any social institution for that matter.  And it’s possible for many kinds of people to create positive change, definitely including 12-year-olds. If we had more time and space, we could tell you some stories….
           How to do it? Your nephew has options. He can contact his local school committee, meaning that he could write them and/or ask to speak before them at a public meeting. Perhaps he or someone in his family knows a sympathetic school committee member, in which case he could meet with that member one-on-one to get advice before contacting the school committee as a whole.  Or he could make his views known through both print and social media in Haverhill.  Or he could back certain candidates for school committee office. These options are not mutually exclusive.
            In his presentations, it will help your nephew to have very clear, concrete, and feasible suggestions for implementation – he wants to say more than  “the system is outdated”; instead, he wants to say very specifically what needs to be done, and what specific actions (X, Y, and Z) should be taken, ideally supported by factual evidence. And if he’s talking to the school personnel, he wants to ask for a specific response, to guard against his ideas being left to wither over time.
          But his best single option, though, may be to organize.  From a decision maker’s point of view, it’s one thing if a single kid stands up to complain. But if that same complaint is made by a persistent group of students, planning and acting together, who won’t take “No” for an answer, that’s harder to ignore. In community work, there really is strength in numbers.
         If there’s already an active school-reform organization where your nephew lives, great. If not, he might reach out and talk to his age-peers who feel like him, and share ideas and strategies and possible tactics they could engage in, beginnIng in the fall.  Actually, the summer will give him time to do this. It’s not how most kids would plan to spend their summer vacations; but in some ways it might actually turn out to be fun.
             Not to say that any of this is necessarily easy. Creating change often takes real work, and success is not guaranteed; you may fall short.  But if you feel strongly about something, you might nevertheless decide to stand up and speak out rather than remain  silent.
            In addition to these points, some sections in the Community Tool Box may be useful for general ideas on creating change; your nephew (and you) might want to browse through some of these, which can be found through our table of contents.
            We hope some of these thoughts may be helpful to you.  Thank you for writing to us, and all best wishes for a wonderful summer – and a great school year ahead!

Question Date: د., 03/27/2023