Do not underestimate the voice of students

Jane Johnston

Do not underestimate the voice of students 

Jane Johnston 


On Friday, the Community Service and Learning Center held its first-ever “Coffee and Conversations” event. Our goal was to create an intimate place for students to come, grab a cup of coffee, and talk about what they see as the biggest issues in our country while defining their American Dream. 

They had a lot to say. 

For an hour and a half, we sat with each other, sipped on our coffee, and talked. Talked about Langston Hughes, politics, hopes, dreams, and the reality of achieving those hopes and dreams. 

Some people talked a lot, some people only talked once or twice, but it was clear that everyone had something to say. 

On a college campus, I think it’s really easy to take advantage of the power of the student voice. We are surrounded by students— it’s almost a given that student voices will be heard. 

But out in the “real world,” a phrase many adults like to use to separate college and post-college life, student voices are just as important. Students have been responsible for many of our country’s most successful movements. 

In the 1960s and 70s, student protests led to a shift in what Americans believed about the Vietnam War. 

More recently, high school students in Florida have waged the most salient gun-control movement this nation has ever seen. 

Whether you believe in the causes of these movements, it mustn’t be denied that the voice of students cannot, and will not be ignored. 

Moreover, they shouldn’t be ignored. I think it’s easy for “the real world” to try to dismiss students’ opinions because we’re “young”, “inexperienced”, or “naive”, when in reality this is not the case. 

I’ve met students that have struggled more than I have, more than my parents or my grandparents. I know fellow college students that are smarter than any adult in my life. 

Students not only have a voice, they have a mind that thinks about things through a lens that hasn’t been corrupted by adulthood. If those in the “real world” were smart, they’d engage with what students have to say. 

Sitting with a small group of students, sipping on my coffee, discussing what our American Dreams were, I knew I was looking at our future leaders. 

And I was really proud to be a part of that. 

If you’d like to be a part of this with us, the Campus Democratic Engagement Coalition will hold Coffee and Conversations every Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Kirkhof Solarium.