The Seattle Times offers students a chance to be heard

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The Seattle Times offers students a chance to be heard

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Through their “Student Voices” program, the Seattle Times hopes to give underprivileged students a platform

Public school and college students are being given an opportunity to share their voices with the Seattle Times’ third annual “Student Voices” program, the combined work of the Seattle Times’ “Education Lab” and “Project Homeless” initiatives.

Education Lab, created in 2013, is a partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network, a team of journalists that seeks to teach “solutions journalism,” rigorous reporting on responses and potential solutions to social issues.

Education Lab focuses specifically on public education, and helping citizens be informed on and respond to its challenges. The introduction on the Education Lab blog states: “We also hope to create a new conversation that connects teachers, parents, students and others around innovation in schools. Our Education blog will serve as a real-time sounding board for the ideas spotlighted in the stories.”

Project Homeless, modeled after the success of Education Lab, seeks to similarly explore the issue of homelessness in the SeaTac region, which has been on the rise for years.

According the Seattle Times’ Project Homeless webpage: “The regional homeless response system spends about $200 million a year and touches the lives of tens of thousands of people from the street to permanent supportive housing. Nonetheless, the homeless population rises by the year. The mission of Project Homeless is pull back the curtain on the response system and see how well it serves the distinct populations of homeless families, youth, veterans and single adults.”

Like Education Lab, Project Homeless features a solutions-oriented method of journalism intended to inform the public of issues while also presenting possible solutions from around the country, instead of simply a grim reality.

Both topics of education and homelessness are more intertwined than ever.  According to a 2017 report by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH), the number of homeless students in Washington grew by 30 percent between 2013 and 2016, while the federal funding provided to help aid homeless students under the McKinney-Vento Act grew by only 8 percent.

Also among the reports findings were that Washington has the eighth-highest number of homeless students and the ninth-highest rate of homeless students in the United States, and that four major school districts – Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and Highline – had more than 1,000 homeless students.

It is for these reasons that this year the Seattle Times is specifically looking at entries for the Student Voices program from homeless or impoverished young students. However, the program is still open to articles on any topic related to school and education.

“Student voices are rarely heard in debates about public education and homelessness. To help change that, the Education Lab and Project Homeless teams at The Seattle Times would like to boost the number of student perspectives published in print and online,” they stated, and plan to publish “well-reported, first-person columns on timely education topics, including the effect of homelessness on student learning.”

Any student who has attended a public high school or college for more than two years can apply to be columnists in the Student Voices program, with specific emphasis placed on students who have experienced “homelessness or unstable living conditions.” The Seattle Times will provide chosen students with a training session to help the contributors understand what the paper is looking for and to assists with the writing process.

Students looking to apply can follow this link.  Applications are due March 18.