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Focus on Education: Student Voices Part IV

WBFO photo by Eileen Koteras Elibol l WNED Art Director l Photographer

There is much debate and controversy about how to deal with high absenteeism and dropout rates in our schools, but we often don't hear directly from the students. On Tuesday at 3 p.m., WBFO 88.7 FM will rebroadcast "Focus on Education: Student Voices."

"High school and be really awkward," said one of the student panels. "If you don't feel like you are good enough you're not going to want to actually get dress for school." 

Seven students from Buffalo and suburban public, private and charter schools appeared on our panel selected from two focus groups we held earlier this year to discuss challenges in a students life. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Koteras Elibol l WNED Art Director l Photographer
Dajia Jones of Mount St. Mary Academy participated in Focus on Education: Student Voices panel

Students were the center point of the program, speaking for the first half-hour with WBFO News director Brian Meyer, outlining several key problems that make it difficult to accomplish their school work. 

A major part of the discuss began with peer pressure and Dajia Jones of Mount St. Mary Academy jumped right in the discussion.

"Peer pressure is not a good feeling at all to anyone there's different types and forms of peer pressure like bullying, cyber-bulling," said Jones.

Myshaleek Harris a student at the Math, Science and Technology High School in Buffalo agrees with Jones.  Harris has experienced both sides of bullying...

"When I was younger I use to be a bully, so I know like it feels like to bully someone and I've also been bullied," said Harris.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Koteras Elibol l WNED Art Director l Photographer
Student panel for Focus on Education: Student Voices. Seated in front from from left to right: Daiju Jones, Mount St. Mary Academy, Damario Burks, Hutch Tech, Myshaleek Harris, MST School, seated in top row, left to right, Joshue Cruz, Riverside, Richard Bell, Kenmore East & India Hector Da Vinci.

Cyber-bullying and teenagers on-line has become a major factor in these students lives. Dan Wilczewski is a student at Global Concepts Charter. "I feel like it's really easy to bully people on-line. Is all you have to do is type in a few words on Facebook and then click enter. 

A recent student from Michigan noted that half of middle and high school half admitted to participating in online bullying.

Damario Burks of Hutch Tech in Buffalo has been a victim of bullying.

"I've had so many rumors spread about me," said Burks.  I'm like thinking they are talking about another person and they're like 'oh no, we're talking about you, I'm like really I don't even know that person.

As these teens work to manage their on-line lives, they find themselves navigating an adult life sooner then they expected.   

"Do you think there's to  maybe grow up to fast," asked Meyers. "Yes," said the students.

Joshue  Cruz is a Riverside student. "It's so much pressure. Some teachers think that you can learn something in a base time, so they just give you a course, you learn the course and then you just have to take a test," stated Cruz.

And then there is time management.  India Hector of Da Vinci School in Buffalo it's difficult to juggle  all the school work.

"Especially on Thursdays, You have tests on Friday and you have five core subjects and they all want to give tests on Friday. Well how do you expect me to pass all these tests on Friday?," asked Hector. 
Students noted no one is teaching them how to prioritize or organized. They explained being overwhelmed, feeling low-self esteem and trying to live up to society expectations.  In side the classroom they say there are are disruptive kids, teachers who appear disengaged or just can't cope.   

"I've seen teachers break down and cry because they can't even talk to their students anymore," said Richard Bell, Kenmore East student.

After students revealed these issues effecting academics we turned to a panel of school experts who are in the trenches at area schools.   

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Koteras Elibol l WNED Art Director l Photographer
Aundrea Sanders, School Social Worker at Buffalo Public Schools, one of the panel of experts. George Bushey, School Counselor at Depew High School, next to Sanders on the right & Lamont Williams, Executive Director at Hillside Family Services.

Aundrea Sanders school social worker at Buffalo Public Schools.

"It seems as if the students are looking for more supports within the building, family supports and getting more family interaction within the schools and also some influx and behavior problems that are becoming distracting," noted Sanders.
George Bushey is school counselor at Depew High School.  "More than anything we have do a very good job of creating a climate and culture of caring -- a real sense of community for kids," said Bushey.

Bushey told students it is very important for students to come forward when they are having issues with cyber bullying.

"Let one of the school officials known," said Bushey "And on the students end, take some measures to prove that it's happening so it can be dealt with."
Janet  Cerra is coordinator Family Support Center Kenmore-Tonawanda. "Trying to help students learn to self-advocate I think is a really important thing," said Cerra. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Koteras Elibol l WNED Art Director l Photographer
Panel of experts: From right to left; Aundrea Sanders, School Social Worker at Buffalo Public Schools, George Bushey, School Counselor at Depew High School, Janet Cerra, Coordinator Family Support Center Kenmore-Tonawanda & Lamont Williams, Executive Director at Hillside Family Services.

Cerra heard the students call for intervention. "I hear you saying that sometimes it's hard to get to your school counselor. But I think, as a school person, I'm hearing in my school I need to make sure there is someone available to students to teach them how to advocated for themselves if they are not getting what they want," said Cerra. 

Lamont Williams executive director at Hillside Family Services.  "One of the underlying messages I took from it is their need for support in the schools," said Williams. 

Students in the audience also asked questions. Williams tired to help a student feeling lost in the system.

"I would suggest that you just always speak up," stated Williams.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Koteras Elibol l WNED Art Director l Photographer
Students from several area public, private and charter schools were invited to appear in our audience and ask questions for our Student Voices television program.

The goal of our hour program is to begin a larger conversation, allowing students to speak and letting the adults listen, to seek resolutions  and empower students.   

Watch Student Voices Monday night at 9 on WNED-Television and join in the conversation on Twitter using the hastag #StudentVoicesWBFO.         

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