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Empowered student leaders are reaching dreams with school support

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Kent ISD

Their dreams are as diverse as their backgrounds and experiences, but one thing scholars in Kent ISD’s Student Leadership Community have in common is that their educational experiences are helping them reach their goals beyond high school

Joy Walczak speaks with Sheree Joseph-Bos, Diversity, Equity, Belonging Consultant for Kent ISD and Student Leadership Community members Erin Alster, Sparta High School , Bryan Santos Flores, Lee High School , and Summer Khan, Forest Hills Northern High School.

Joy Walczak, Host (JW):
Welcome to the Your Dream Is Our Dream podcast, where we celebrate student success one dream at a time. This program is made possible by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU. I'm Joy Walczak, and today we're meeting more members of the Student Leadership Community. We're also joined by Kent ISD's Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Consultant, Sheree Joseph-Bos. Thanks to all of you for being here today.

All: Thank you. Thanks.

JW: Well, we're going to get started by meeting our students, if you wouldn't mind telling us who you are and what school you go to.

Summer Khan (SK): My name is Summer Khan, and I currently go to Forest Hills Northern High School.

Erin Alster (EA): My name is Erin Alster, and I am a junior at Sparta High School.

Brian Santos-Flores (BSF): My name is Brian Santos-Flores, and I go to Lee High School.

JW: Well, thanks again for being here with us. And Sheri, tell us about your connection with the group that these students are part of, the Student Leadership Community.

Sheree Joseph-Bos (SJB): Yes, so I, like you said Joy, I am the Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Consultant for Kent ISD. So I support all of the school districts in Kent County. And one thing that I have the pleasure of doing is meeting with these young people every month and just ensuring that they, you know, amplify their voices. And that's what this is all about. That, and also empowering students.

JW: Which is part of why this group was brought together, to give students opportunities to share their voices. So each of you has a dream that you'd like to tell us about for your future. Summer, can we start with you?

SK: Yeah, of course. So I'm planning after high school to take a year off and do a study abroad. And then I hope to go into law afterwards, go to law school and become a lawyer.

JW: Wonderful. Erin, would you like to share your dream with us?

EA: Yeah, so I've always really loved science and I'm really considering going into the medical field. Specifically, I would love to be a physician scientist where I can also do research because I would love to do cancer research and help to maybe develop a cure or other medications that can help that.

JW: I can tell our future is already bright with the voices around this room. Brian, share with us your dreams.

BSF: Yeah, so my dream is, well, I recently have gotten admitted to Michigan, so I'm hoping to go to Michigan and pursue a career in computer science and hopefully, more specifically, become a software developer.

JW: I think all of your goals are very admirable. Summer, I'd like to get back to you. Could you share with me something that has happened in your educational experience, something that you may be learning or someone who may have inspired you to create the dream that you're going to pursue next?


SK: Yeah, of course. So at my high school, we have a program called Project NEXT, and it's a project-based learning program. And so for my senior year, I've had a lot of my teachers, I've had a few of my teachers actually help me along with this goal of pursuing a gap year. It was something that I would not have even thought twice about sophomore or junior year. And then I got to talking to some of my teachers and they really supported me in my goal and actually, for one of my projects, I get to do a whole TED Talk on study broads and gap years and how they benefit students and how it's a really good choice for students if they don't know what they want to do or they don't know what they want to pursue straight after high school. So yeah, I've had a really great support system from my school.

JW: We love to hear about those wonderful support systems from schools. And Erin, you also have experiences that are helping you decide where to go next.

EA: Yeah, for sure. I would definitely have to say that my biggest support system is all the staff and teachers at Sparta. There is this group of English teachers who whenever I'm like having a bad day or if I just need someone to talk to I can just pop in their class and they're always there. They're so supportive of everyone and they just want to see everyone go as far as they can in life. And then also for my love of science I love my chemistry teacher Mrs. Ritter. She's so good at explaining everything and just making sure that we all understand everything and if some kids don't understand that, she's just so good at being able to look at how they learn best and then fit her teaching methods into that. So I would say that the staff at Sparta is just really amazing and really supportive to all the students.

JW: We are all unique learners, so that is a really valuable thing that those teachers are bringing to the students like you. Thanks for sharing that. Brian, how about you?

BSF: So just like Summer and Erin, the student, or sorry, the teachers and the staff members have been really persistent about us looking for scholarships and applying for FAFSA and for someone like me, my family hasn't always been the most wealthiest, so thinking about college can be kind of scary when you think about other financial costs that you have to pay for so college for me hasn't always been like okay I'm for sure going to do this, it's I have to consider my family first, so when I'm looking at applying for FAFSA and scholarships that these teachers persist on me doing, it's been really encouraging to think about like the money I can get to apply for college.

JW: There are definitely things that need to be thought about as you're pursuing your next steps and it sounds like all of you are getting support in doing that. And Sheree, what do you think educators can learn when we listen to students about their dreams and how will that shape how educators respond to our students' needs?

SJB: We have so many diverse learners in our classrooms today, whether they are socially diverse, culturally, linguistically, economically diverse, students with disabilities. So we have to listen to our students in order to know what needs that they have so that we can better be able to fill in some of the gaps. We also need to just be able to, like many of their teachers they've shared about, being willing to just step in and be the role models that we need in order for them to excel in life, to thrive, and just be able to move to the next level.

JW: That's so true. I want to go back to the three of you, and could you share with me some piece of advice you might have for somebody who might be trying to shape their own dream now as perhaps a high school freshman or even younger?

SK: Yeah, of course. So recently in my English class, we were able to do a whole lot of career just exploration and more research. And we actually went on the Kent ISD website and watched some of the career chats. And through the career chats, almost every single adult who was in there telling us about their career talked about how you don't have to have everything figured out right now as a high schooler. And I definitely think that it's very applicable to anyone who's in school right now. You don't have to have everything figured out. It's okay to go into college not really knowing and switch around a lot. A lot of people don't even discover their true passion until they're much older. So be easy on yourself, take it easy. You'll find what you, your dream eventually.

JW: Very sound advice. Our dreams are always evolving. Erin and Brian, do you have something you'd like to add?

EA: I definitely agree with Summer. I do not think that you have to have your whole life figured out when you go to high school. But a good way to start is if you have no idea what you wanna do, when you're out in public and you see like adults, just like ask them what they do for a living and if they enjoy it. And also in this like era, we have so much social media and we have so much access to the internet. So I think that there are so many options that are more available to us. So it's easier to find a career, which, but that can also be overwhelming. So if you just need help, you can go to a teacher or someone that you trust and they can totally help you and would be willing to go through all these careers and help you figure out what would be a good match for you.

JW: Thank you, Erin.

BSF: And just like Summer and Erin said, you don't have to have everything figured out right away. And I also don't think there's a dream too big, especially if you're thinking about the cost, because there's a lot of programs and scholarships and grants that you guys can always apply for. So if financial, if you ever have financial issues, there's always people out there willing to help you pay for those needs.

JW: Well, thank you so much for sharing all of your dreams. We really appreciate having you here with us today.

All: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

JW: And thanks too, to everyone listening. If you know a student of any age who dreams big, we would love to share their story. You can share your ideas and hear more dream stories at
Kent ISD.org/yourdream. The Your Dream Is Our Dream podcast is presented by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU.

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