Young Voices RI Produces report addressing racial disparities in Providence Public Schools

Mar 27, 2019 | 0 comments

Providence Public School students engaged with Young Voices RI issued a report on Tuesday showing that 49 percent of Providence Public School students, “disagree that teachers handle discipline issues fairly” and 69 percent of students agree that, “adults at my school don’t understand what my life is like outside of school.”

In addition to collecting data over four years from more than 2000 students, the Young Voices RI report, Girls of Color Addressing Disparities in Providence Schools, also uses information collected by the Providence School Department and RI KIDS COUNT.

The report provides quotes from students addressing some issues. For instance, under the heading “Need for academics to be taught in ways that are engaging and relevant to the 21st Century economy” students are quoted as saying:

“If we really want to look at really improving the dropout rate of our schools we have to look at how we are going to engage students in the classroom.”

“We need our classes to be more interactive so students are engaged with their learning.”

Under the heading, “Need for a caring classroom and school environment” students are quoted as saying,

“I haven’t had one teacher throughout my whole freshman year ask me how I was doing. And some teachers still can’t say my name, even though it’s pretty straightforward. One even writes it down wrong, and then marks me absent when I’m always there.”

You can read the full report here.

Students presented the report at an event held in the library of the Rhode Island State House. All the video from that presentation is below:

Xavier Copeland is a 17-year-old resident of Providence, Rhode Island and junior at Classical High School. He is the youth co-chair for Young Voices RI Board of Directors. He is also a contributor to UpriseRI. “I am the first male youth co-chair in over four years and I am very fortunate to have had two strong girls pave the way for me. 80 percent of our boardmembers are female and all of our executive officers are female except me. I am proud an ally to support the development of young women on the board of directors and the organization in general, because an ally doesn’t fight for people. That’s what a savior does. An ally fights with people who are oppressed.”

“We are low-income girls of color that are leading an effort to address the root causes of disparities facing our peers in Providence Public Schools,” said Marie Shabani, the board secretary of Young Voices RI. “We want to make sure girls of color graduate high school, attend college and complete college…

“Being born in a country where women are not allowed to have education, we must fight for women to have an equal education to men. Because when we have women of color graduating, we have a lot more perspective on the table, and we go on to do great things so we can help others in a situation like them.”

Melanie Nunez presented the highlights of the report presented.

“As students we are tired of being frequently asked to do survey work and surveys in general, and have nothing done with the results. we want to actually see our experience improve, instead of just being measured over and over again,” said Nunez.

“When I was [preparing this report] I was a freshman at the time and I didn’t know anything about the State House, Senators, Representatives, anything. But, as the process went on I was able to meet with women of color who had these high positions, like Council President Matos, and it meant a lot to me to see people in power that were women, that were people of color… and I was able to see them see themselves in me, and see what I could potentially be…”

“I grew up in a family that was mostly full of girls… My mother raised her own two sisters because my grandmother was not able to take care of them,” said 14 year-old Jaychele Schneck, a co-chair of the development committee of Young Voices RI and March for Our Lives RI. “So my family has always focused on making sure that we all succeed, making sure we had the resources we need. This lead to me starting my own nonprofit after being bullied in the seventh grade. I started my own nonprofit when I was 12 years old.

“Young Voices has given me the skills to continue my nonprofit, given me the leadership skills in order to make sure my nonprofit is able to succeed…”

“They came to one of our meetings and told us what they wanted to do and I think that they immediately blew a lot of us away with their ideas, their maturity and their poise,” said Beverly Wiley, co-chair of Women’s Fund RI. Women’s Fund RI helped Young Voices RI complete their report.

“When we hear about what’s happening at the schools, in the City Council we have this challenge,” said Providence City Council President Sabina Matos. “I’ve been told to stay in my lane. That I should let the school board do the work and that the City Council should just do its work…

“We have to break those silos that we have,” continued Matos. “And I think you guys can be the ones to call for a joint meeting of the City Council and the School Board…”

“You guys are incredible. You’re awesome. You’re powerful beyond your wildest imagination. Thank you for using your voices,” said Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence), addressing the Young Voices RI students directly. “In a time when women of color and girls of color [when] our voices are often not listened to, they would rather silence us. And a part of that is because they are not used to us. They are not used to us in powerful spaces and places…”

“90 percent of the students [in Providence Public Schools] are students of color,” said Providence City Councilor Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12). They’re facing suspension. They’re facing the impacts of the school-to-prison pipeline…”

Reposted with permission from Steve Ahlquist of