Recently St. Paul Federation of Teachers President Mary Cathryn Ricker invited me to listen to and learn from students at Harding High school. Many had important insights they wanted to share. One of the most elqouent was Nicolina Mao, 18, a senior at Harding High School. Here is an essay that she wrote:
St. Paul high school senior asks adults to listen to/learn from teens
by Nicolina Mao
No doubt, everyone should have a voice; everyone needs to be heard. This is why I became involved with “Justice for Lunch”. My teacher informed me that there was going to be a meeting regarding the Trayvon Martin case, the upset it brought to our community, and ideas of how to deal with this problem together. I’m so glad that I went to that meeting. We talked about teen and adult interaction in our society. The main theme that kept arising, with the Trayvon Martin case as well, was that teens are often times misunderstood by adults and vice versa. It is so easy for society to stereotype all teens as “the kids who throw trash in yards and and play music with foul language too loud!”. Because of this stereotyping, some adults become threatened by teens and act upon the stereotype instead of by the teens true individual personality — this leads to tension which leads to teens feeling like they cannot interact or confide in adults. It’s a horrible cycle.
With Justice for Lunch, we wanted to provide an environment for teens and adults to talk comfortably and to get to know one another; to look beyond the hoodie and beyond the stereotypes. We wanted to make sure all students had the opportunity to participate if they wanted to, no matter their grades, personality or anything — the event was stereotype free. And who better to bring in as the adults than local community leaders!
The event went great! It was inspiring to see all the different kinds of teens that signed up and the interaction between the adults and teens. They were just encouraged to get to know one another and converse through lunch time — that was no problem as all lunches ended up leaving later than anticipated from interest in the conversations. We also wanted to display the message of individuality and societal misunderstandings of teens using posters. We took two negatively looked upon symbols: a hoodie and a wanted sign, and had teens write positive things that they were wanted for. For example “I’m wanted for my leadership” or “I’m wanted for my voice” as a reminder that there is so much beyond the stereotypes, so much beyond the hoodie, and that everyone has a voice — it’s time to be heard.
As for my personal education, I have chosen the International Baccalaureate route, all classes. I chose this for many different reasons. First reason is that I wanted to be challenged and pushed to my highest level and beyond. Also, because I knew prior to signing up for the program that it greatly prepares students for college. I love the fact that students from all around the world are learning the same curriculum and that tests are sent all over the world for correction; it’s such a connected program. As a senior, I feel that it has given me a full rounded background of knowledge and all different subjects and I feel confidently about going into college. I’ve had a great experience with the IB courses and I would recommend it to anyone who loves learning beyond what is required.