Student Activism in an Age of Coronavirus

 In the midst of the uncertainty and anxiety that clouds my brain, one of the shining lights in my life is the digital community whom I’ve turned to these past few weeks. As someone who was relatively active in digital space before, I realized the importance of staying connected with those you love.
 
Although we are dealing with unprecedented challenges in our school systems, young people are organizing to create solutions to nearly every problem we can think of. We have created informational videos, mutual aid groups, and resource lists. With physical distancing threatening to sever social bonds, young people jump into action to preserve our ties in any way possible. Within days of receiving the dreaded emails saying that we have to stay home for the rest of the semester, my inbox overflowed with collaborative presentations from friends sharing photos of collective experience, along with invitations to remote Dungeons & Dragons games to keep levity in our lives.
 
As a first-year student at the University of Rochester, I am invigorated by the outpouring of connectivity despite physical separation mandates. In light of COVID-19 and school closures around the world, I am spending more and more time interfacing with similarly-affected students online. As the Ambassador Program Coordinator at Student Voice, a student-led organization working to empower students to address inequity in their schools, and take charge of their educational experiences, it is my mission to amplify the good work of youth in response to this crisis.
 
As the climate continually evolves, so do our rapid-response campaigns, which address equity issues as they arise. Our first campaign, #TestOptionalNow speaks not only to me as a student but especially as a Big Picture Learning (BPL) alum. In response to SAT and ACT tests being canceled along with the uncertainty surrounding the evolving COVID-19 crisis, we call on colleges and universities to adopt test-optional policies for current high school juniors.
 
Imagine every college and university deciding to make SAT or ACT tests optional for the class of 2021. This is one simple way to relieve pressure on students who are already going through one of the most significant traumas of the 20th century. This gesture has the power to propel institutions to keep their policies as test-optional into the future, finally acknowledging that standardized testing is a barrier that perpetuates inequity in higher education. Underrepresented communities are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, the same communities that face barriers of access and preparation when it comes to standardized testing like the SAT and ACT. Although this campaign begins with a small ask, to go test-optional for this upcoming admission cycle, there is the potential to do good long-term.
 
I invite you to sign the petition asking colleges and universities to change this monumental policy. In addition, I ask that you share the following asks and resources with the high school learners in your lives:
  1. Invite your high school-aged learners to share their thoughts on higher-ed institutions going test-optional in this brief questionnaire;
  2. Invite your high school learners to join Student Voice in partnership with the Future Coalition at their Social Community Series webinars to get directly involved in responding to COVID-19’s effects on our schools, create community, and find support in this trying time. 
As a recent high school graduate myself, I am excited to engage in this important work as I practice physical distancing. The #TestOptionalNow working group, spearheaded by fellow BPL alum, Angel Velez, and myself, is full of incredible high school students from across the country. We are geared up and ready to continue organizing throughout these next months.
 
The surge of young people ready to respond to this crisis and make the world better in spite of the fear and hesitancy is inspiring and seeing the shining faces of students determined to keep learning, growing, and helping out despite the barriers thrills me each morning. I ask you to support us along with the many other students in your lives as we navigate this and mold a new education system into something better.