ASC Digital and Media Literacy Camp turned high school students into education activists this summer. Students attended intensive “deep dive” workshops with local education leaders and participated in a documentary about the need for change in public education. Read on to learn about Jack’s experience.
By Jack Watson
An unspoken rule across all kids who go to school is that summer is to remain untouched. Besides the Big Mac, summer is the ultimate expression of excess in America; yeah, a week long vacation is nice, but you know what would be better? Ten more weeks of that. So when I heard that I was enrolled in an “exciting educational opportunity” I was understandably pretty mad. “Exciting educational opportunities” are basically summer school for the willing.
That is… usually.
My first day at digital media literacy camp made it clear this was not your run of the mill “exciting educational opportunity.” Perhaps it was when I got kidnapped by the group of people I would be working in all summer to discuss prevalent educational issues. (They called it a deep dive. I call it a think tank.) Perhaps it was when I suddenly became part of a documentary which highlights the aforementioned issues, but one way or another, I was learning the way I wanted to: from people who respected my opinion and were also learning from me. Suddenly, what was just another “exciting educational opportunity” became nerd heaven.
Even so, not knowing anyone is always tough, and although speaking in front of a crowd is not my personal fear, it is one of the biggest fears in the world. And speaking in front of smart people is worse, because they’ll call you out on anything you make up on the spot. I was going to be… expanding my cultural boundaries, or at least my impromptu speaking skills.
As I was pulled in to a conference room by people I barely knew, I steeled myself to ramble and make it pretty as I usually do, and then I discovered the topic: the educational opportunity gap.
There are only a few things I get passionate about; like how soy milk shouldn’t exist (milk should come from a cow or not at all. The same rule applies to tofu burgers.), or how band-aids shouldn’t exist (if it’s small enough for a band-aid, just deal with it) but perhaps the thing I get most passionate about is how we need to fix our hot mess of a school system.
From that point on, the fact that I knew no one was irrelevant. I became completely absorbed in what I should say. After all, it was my first chance to lobby for my own cause. But the really amazing part was that when I was speaking, there were actually people listening, and adding their own thoughts.
Every politician with a winning smile and a silver tongue who has ever run for public office has said that he or she is going to change the way that we approach education. I’m just amazed that at this camp, we’re actually doing something about it.
Jack Watson is a rising tenth grader at North Mecklenburg High School. This was his first summer at camp.