By Flora Gonska:
Let's face it, young voices are often excluded from political and societal discourse. Many adults find it easier to listen to other adults speak on behalf of young folks, and it's not hard to see why. Young people may have bigger holes in their logic and certainly lack the wisdom that comes with age, but that doesn't make their perspective less valuable. Don't get me wrong, adults have voted every president into office—their logic is not infallible. Students Uncensored features a perspective from today's students. Unashamed of making mistakes and intent on learning and growing together, the podcast tackles issues that are relevant to 21st-century kids and young adults. Read on to hear from one of the students involved in Students Uncensored.
FG: Tell us all about you and your organization! My name is Mandy Situ (she/her), and I am a 15-year-old high school student from San Francisco, California. I am a part of Students Uncensored, a youth-led podcast that adds youth perspective to today’s political discourse while encouraging young people to be actively engaged in our democracy. Our podcast was created by Generation Citizen’s 2019–2020 Student Leadership Board. Generation Citizen is a nonprofit that brings an active civics curriculum to students all over the country and equips them with the tools needed for them to participate in our democracy. The Student Leadership Board (comprised of youth leaders in 7 different states) created this podcast with the vision of providing a place for young people, for students all over, to speak up about issues they care about without being talked over or dismissed. We wanted to create a place where students could be . . . uncensored.
FG: Why do you think it’s important for your generation to let their voices be heard?
This has been said so many times, but we are the future. We are the ones who are going to be living in this world, and we need to be able to have a say in our future. It is so important for us to be listened to because we have ideas and new potential solutions, and everywhere I go, I see young people rising up and pushing for change. There are so many powerful young voices who are saying such important things, so listen to them! Listen to what young people care about! Listen to what we say!
FG: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
I’m optimistic. I have seen so many amazing young people with bright futures. I look around me and I see all these young people fighting to improve the world, these relentless, passionate, strong young people, and I believe it will get better. That’s why we try, isn’t it? Because we believe it will get better.
FG: What are the most important issues facing our world right now? And in the future?
Of course, for right now, I have to mention the COVID-19 pandemic. I have seen so many people who aren’t taking it seriously. People are dying, and it is disproportionately affecting low-income communities and communities of color. So wear a mask. Stay home if you can. Follow CDC guidelines and stay safe. These are people’s lives. But moving on from that, our system is flawed. Even just the lack of resources toward low-income communities, communities of color, disabled people, LGBT+ people, immigrants . . . Our system is made to benefit able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual white men, and it harms those who don’t fit that narrative. We need to change the system or people will continue to die. Look at all the Black people who have been killed by the police. Look at all the transgender people who have been murdered by bigoted people. Look at the immigrants who are getting mistreated and kicked out of our country. Look at all the women who can’t even feel safe in our society. I don’t think I can choose one specific issue that is the most important because our system allows for so many issues to disproportionately affect those who don’t fit the cishet white male narrative. Our system is the problem. We need to do better.
FG: What does your organization offer that helps the world be a better place?
Our podcast gives young people a place to speak up, learn more about different issues, and most importantly, hear from people all over the country. It’s so important that we immerse ourselves with people who are different than us so that we can grow. It’s easy to care about issues when they affect you personally. But what about the issues that affect people you don’t know? How do these issues affect other people of different backgrounds? You have to learn to listen to those of different backgrounds to truly understand the scope of an issue and its effect on the world. This podcast gives you a chance to listen and learn from young people of diverse backgrounds. By giving young people a place to be heard and a place to hear others, we are helping fill this world with people who not only know that their voice matters but also those who are willing to listen and hear other perspectives.
FG: Did you vote in this past election?
I am currently too young to vote, but I know for sure that the other students involved in our podcast voted. Young people, if you can, make sure to vote!
FG: Please tell us all about your current campaigns, projects, and endeavors. Tell everyone where to find you online and on social platforms.
We are currently working on several new episodes on a variety of topics! For me personally, I am currently working on an interview with the 2020 National Youth Poet Laureate (Meera Dasgupta) on artivism and an episode centered around poetry submissions on social justice we received from students all over the country. I think there is an episode in the works about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on young people and one about police brutality as well, so I’m extremely excited about that. We are also working to recruit new members and improve our management of our podcast. We started this without much podcasting experience, and as time goes on, we are continuing to learn and grow. So please support us in our podcasting journey! I have attached a link to the introductory episode of our podcast at the bottom of this article, so be sure to check that out. And check us out on Instagram and Twitter @students_uncensored! Our Instagram is a great place to get more information on how to stay civically engaged. We have tips on how to stay engaged during COVID-19, how to write to your local officials, and more!
A Cleveland, OH, native, Flora Gonska is a non-binary trans woman from a big family. She's a writer, video producer/editor, and artist. An avid supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and equality movement, she has lived in Los Angeles for three years, and she's involved in and enjoys writing on politics, the LGBTQ+ community, and life in the U.S.