Texas Student Change Maker Addresses

Serena Galloway-Mark

Serena Galloway-Mark
Austin, TX

Good morning! My name is Serena Galloway-Mark. I am a 7th grader at Kealing middle school I am honored to receive this award.

It has been a long journey this semester. at the beginning when my class was voting on our issue it was 4 votes for housing affordability and 19 for school safety. It took us 4 and a half class periods to agree. During this time, we had a lot of debate and discussion, and it was very frustrating.

We finally came to a consensus which was losing school resources due to the housing affordability crisis. Advocating for the issue you want is a bit nerve wracking because you don’t know how people will respond. They might care, they might not, and they might agree, and might not agree. In building a consensus, i learned that your not always going to agree in politics and that’s ok. Everybody has different opinions. Building a consensus is about coming together and figuring out an issue that’s bigger than what you already had.

But you don’t just build a consensus. You have to share it and advocate for it. You have to talk to the important people. In our class, we talked to the Mayors office, City Council, and our Principal. Really important people.

Being on the phone is really difficult, because either they don’t know about the issue, or they’re super passionate about it. But, in order for change to happen, you have to talk to the important people. You have to find the happy medium, so you can find advocates who you can team up with because they have the grounds to stand for your issue.

This whole process made me realize that your voice does matter. I’m 13 and before I started Generation Citizen I didn’t know that anyone would listen to my opinion. But, even though I’m in 7th grade, people do care, and people listen.

Thank you.

Cindy Shin

Manor Senior High School
Manor, TX

Hello everyone, good afternoon! My name is Cindy Shin, a junior from Manor Senior High School from the city of Manor. It is an honor to be here speaking in front of a multitude of great student leadership, teamwork, and passion to make a change in our respective communities. I feel that I will leave this place filled with a zeal and passion to make even greater advances in my community, I am inspired by every each and one of your great efforts to make an impact.    

From the onset of our focus issue decision-making process, it became clear to us that school funding was an issue that affected the development and vitality of student activities on our campus. When we found out that our color guards were at a $20,000 deficit and the burden of raising the money fell in the hands of the students—or the program would come to an end—I was quite baffled. Raising $20,000 is a job to some adults, and let alone to high school students? It was ridiculous. I could see the desperation in the color guard’s eyes as they were students who had great talent and potential in the activity in which they had passion and adoration for. Then, I realized that this monetary problem was not an issue for other activities and groups such as football or band. It was clear that certain activities were funded much less than others. And thus, I made up my mind to vote for this issue. Through a majority voting process of different school issues to choose from, it was apparent that the rest of the class expressed most concern over this issue as well, and it was chosen that our goal for the rest of the semester would be to increase student awareness of school budget issues.

At first, none of us had any idea what we were doing. Our minds were cluttered with unanswered questions. Where did the budget even come from? Who decides how the budget is allocated? Is it even a possibility that a student voice can make a change? As our questions spiraled out of control, we decided to take it one step at a time. We began to assign researching of these questions to different people, and we efficiently started to knock down some of these questions. One group of kids found out that the budget came from the Central Office, and not the MSHS administration. Another group found out that the coaches of each program decided how to use that money. Then, another group uncovered the unfortunate events that took place with our previous directors of the school district. This only furthered our longing to communicate to the Central Office of the current circumstances that stifled student activities, and that they must consider making changes to budget appropriations. Through the answering of what was seemingly unanswerable, we began to gain momentum in our race to fix our monetary issue. We all decided to create a petition with the student, staff, and community members with a goal of getting 750 signatures to show a widespread concern, and we sent a proposal to the Central Office about the issue. Though we are waiting on the response from the Central Office, I was proud that our student body could let our concerns be heard and not go unnoticed.

If I am being completely honest, the main reason  why I was so proud at the end of the project was that our class had managed to send in our proposal and petition. I realized early in the project that leadership was needed in my class to get everything going, since most students were hesitant to step up. I knew that any great accomplishment comes alongside the work of great leadership, and I made up my mind to be that leader. The project enlightened me to what true leadership demanded. It demanded someone who was willing to stand out from the rest of the crowd. I saw it as an opportunity to get our voices heard and possibly make a profound influence on school funding. A true leader must see above the atmosphere and steer the rest of the group to a higher altitude of enthusiasm and determination. Not only that, but true leaders must also showcase bravery and courage in the pursuit of their goal.

As I realized this essential factor, I did my best to make stagnant discussions more lively by inputting my ideas and tried to include more opinions of different students of the class as well. Although, still, many were reluctant to participate and often silence reigned our classroom discussions, my efforts slowly caught the attention of students, and the class began to progress toward our goal. This was truly when relevant questions arose, and the answering of the questions unraveled. And eventually we were able to create a petition with signatures and proposal to the Central Office.

This experience being a leader in my community led me to reflect on my faith, and  think about upon the great leaders I grew up reading and hearing about in the Bible. Most of them also were called to stand out from the rest of the world. Noah built the ark for 75 years while the rest of the world saw him a lunatic, but when the great flood finally struck the world in God’s divine judgement, but Noah was able to faithfully lead his family into the ark in safety. Joshua was the very minority who had faith that God would deliver the Israelites into the Promised Land, while the rest of the Israelites were afraid of the giant people of the land and cursed God, but later Joshua and was appointed to become the leader that finally brings them into the Promised Land. David slew the giant, Goliath, with great courage and faith with just a sling and stones, while the rest of the Israeli army ran away in fear. In all these stories, the great leaders were an oddball from the rest of the people. They expressed a certain faith and bravery that no one else had around them, and that led them to tremendous successes. Today, these are my role models of leadership that I reflect as I take on my own on when I am put in a position of leadership in my community.

I hope to utilize the knowledge and leadership I gained through this experience in my future pursuits. This experience has taught me that when I am faced with an issue, I will not just become part of the mix, but rather I will lean on my put my faith in God and lead with the utmost courage.

Thank you.