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Why Voices of Newark Teens Need to Be Heard Comes Through Loud and Clear

Young participants in NJ Spotlight On Cities forum offer valuable glimpse inside the city’s schools

NJ Spotlight On Cities: Spotlight on Students from NJ Spotlight on Vimeo.

Sometimes it takes a younger voice to bring some clarity to tough public issues.

Newark’s public education system has been a flashpoint of debate for decades, and the educators and policy-makers haven’t been short of suggested solutions.

But lately, Newark students have started to speak up as well, from organized public protests by the Newark Student Union to more back-and-forth discussions.

“NJ Spotlight on Cities,” a daylong conference on urban issues in the state, highlighted the value of the quieter forums when it invited two Newark teenagers to talk about life inside the city’s schools.

Aaliya Armani Barnes, a senior at the city’s Bard High School, and Dennis Rodriguez, a senior at Newark Leadership Academy, haven’t been shy about taking advantages of their forum provided by their roles as ambassadors on the advisory board to the Newark Trust for Education, a nonprofit group.

At NJ Spotlight’s event held at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on October 16, the two spoke about the role that adults’ expectations – and sometimes the lack of expectations – have on students like themselves.

They made suggestions for reforms they said would make a real difference in their school lives – and not necessarily ones espoused by either the so-called school reformers or their foes.

And, in the end, they offered clear evidence that their generation has something important to contribute to the discussion.

Watch and listen to a short video of their appearance on NJ Spotlight’s Vimeo channel.

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