Written by Nathan Vazquez and Elise Harris
The Center for Policy Research and Evaluation (PRE) at NYU Metro Center, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and CORO New York, is conducting the Exploring Youth Leadership Councils Study. This study explores the role Borough Student Advisory Councils (BSACs) may have on high school students’ developmental competencies; sociopolitical development; and academic engagement.
BSACs were developed in 2010 by the New York City Department of Education in an effort to foster youth leadership skills and create a space for youth voice in policy development for New York City public schools. There are 7 BSAC’s, with two in Brooklyn, two in Queens, and one in the remaining three boroughs.
We asked one BSAC participant, Nathan, to share why BSAC participation is important to him. Here’s what he said:
I joined the local BSAC in order to find my voice and have new experiences. It was important to me that my efforts as a BSAC member improved not just my experiences but also my community as a whole. I knew that to improve my school I needed to understand how other students experienced their schools and to collaborate with them to improve all New York City Public schools. I wanted to create a better image of myself and improve my school in the process.
At the first two BSAC meeting[s] that I attended, the adult facilitators provided me and other students with assistance to share our ideas and find a cause we were passionate about. There were plenty of problems that plagued the school system, and there was a lot that we BSAC members had to learn. We spent the first two BSAC meetings sharing information to help us better understand how schools worked. During the third BSAC meeting, BSAC students and facilitators spent several hours debating which issues students should organize for. Eventually, we reduced a list of 30 issues to four issues and immediately separated into groups to brainstorm how to tackle each issue. I left that meeting feeling hopeful, knowing I helped accomplished something.
Now, as a senior in high school and a senior BSAC member, the first BSAC meeting of the year filled me with that same amount of excitement and hope as meetings have in previous years. Several valuable BSAC members returned and new BSAC members are being mentored by older members. The way we speak and our willingness to dive head first into the work shows that we are passionate students who want to create positive change in schools.
The efforts of the Borough Student Advisory Council should not be undervalued. Collaborating with peers from all over New York City gives students a strong sense of community and accomplishment. Local change is difficult but working with the BSAC to create school and community change is enjoyable.
Nathan’s perspective speaks to the important role BSACs have in empowering students to be catalysts for change in their schools and communities. Within the next year, the PRE research team will share findings that we hope will provide further evidence of the positive impact BSAC participation can have on youth leadership and school outcomes.
Nathan Vazquez is a Senior in high school and works with teachers to improve his school by being a part of Student Government and committees like BSAC. Being around teachers that show a true passion for their work inspires him to push himself as a student every chance he gets. He sees school as the most essential place to cause change. If we have to be there why not make it as eye-opening and exciting as possible.
Elise Harris is a Senior Research Associate on NYU Metro Center’s Policy Research and Evaluation (PRE) team. Her primary area of research focuses on schooling practices and critical consciousness among youth, educators, and researchers. She leads PRE’s Exploring Youth Leadership Councils Study which is a four year, mixed methods study.