Student Voices gives students a voice in the midst of redistricting


Natalie Rebetsky

Braden Weinel and his Oakdale shadow, Simeon Nelson, work on a video in Weinel’s journalism class.

by Emily Webb, Managing Editor

With redistricting on the horizon, many students and families are emotional about the change and stuck in their vision of what makes their school better. However, the Student Voices program has helped me to see that there is no “best” high school. We share so many bests.

The program, led by Eric Louérs Phillips, Toby Huesser, Colleen Bernard, and James Hines, held sessions on November 29 and February 4 to teach students leadership techniques, brainstorm improvement ideas, and share experiences. The seminar was well received by students and faculty who participated, and most left the seminar that day looking forward to the future of the program.

“It is always rewarding to have the opportunity to work directly with students in a capacity that empowers them.  The program afforded us an opportunity to hear from students in a variety of settings and encourage avenues to effect positive change within themselves, their schools and our community,” said Phillips.

The two sessions worked to lead up to an event that would put together all the time and work participants put into the program. On March 14, students from Linganore, Oakdale, Governor Thomas Johnson, and Frederick High School paired up to shadow and host each other at their schools.

The shadowing experience really opened my eyes to the similarities and differences between Frederick County schools. I hosted Nyah Stewart, a senior from Governor Thomas Johnson High School. Through our various conversations as she followed me around my classes, I learned a lot about not only her school, but mine as well. We discovered that although there are differences between our schools, they are more similar than we originally thought. We both left that day more informed and open-minded about our schools.

Although my shadowing experience was eye-opening and taught me valuable lessons, it was not as relevant to redistricting as the Linganore-Oakdale pairs were. As redistricting is contained to the Linganore-Oakdale-Urbana area, it was especially interesting to compare and contrast the schools.

Class of 2020 member Braden Weinel is a participant in the program and hosted Oakdale High School senior Simeon Nelson. The pair went to Weinel’s chemistry and journalism classes. Both Weinel and Nelson felt the shadowing experience was a great experience but wished the day could have lasted longer.

“I thought it was interesting how different but similar the schools were. It was great to check out how another school that isn’t too far from mine can operate differently. I could definitely see how a student transitioning would feel much more comfortable after a shadowing experience,” said Nelson.

Junior Taylor Ferguson shadowed Anisa Asad at Oakdale High School. Throughout the day, she went to AP Composition, Advanced Art 3, American Studies 2, and Spanish 4. Similar to the other pairs, Ferguson and Asad learned valuable information about their schools.

“I thought it was a really cool experience to get to go to another school and to see the different culture,” said Ferguson.

Although not the original purpose of the program, Student Voices can ease the anxieties and difficulties of adjusting to the Linganore-Oakdale-Urbana redistricting. For many, the shadowing experience and program as a whole helped to inform and comfort the fears and unknowns about redistricting.

“Redistricting was not a consideration when we planned Student Voices last summer. However, it has helped students who participated in the program meet peers and learn about schools they may not have had to opportunity to learn about during their time as an FCPS student,” said Phillips.

Weinel agrees. ”The Student Voices program definitely will help with redistricting. It gave me a sense of how other schools operate on a day to day basis and because of that I would feel more comfortable if I was placed in a new setting.”

Across the board, participants agree that the Student Voices shadowing experience was extremely valuable. I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that if the program was expanded, the redistricting process would be a lot smoother. Student Voices widens Frederick County’s horizons and achieves its vision statement: “To build school and system culture where everyone belongs, is valued, and has a voice.”