Ensuring the Voice of Students is Heard: M.A.S.S. and Secretary of the Commonwealth Announce New Initiative

It is graduation season across the Bay State and the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents is partnering with the Secretary of the Commonwealth to encourage the Class of 2018 to make their voices heard.
“We want to make sure high school seniors know that they not only have the power of a diploma to help them take the next step in chasing their dreams, but they each now have the power to vote,” said Eric Conti, president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. “We want all our graduates to be active in their communities, to be involved and engaged in local, state, and national issues that impact us all. It is an important, perhaps the most important aspect of our democracy.”
The need to amplify the voice of students comes a week after more than 200 superintendents met for their annual Spring conference and heard a panel of students deliver a powerful message on their need to be heard when shaping educational policy. The message was made even more powerful after another school shooting last week in Sante Fe, Texas. “If students are feeling unsafe, we need to let students know that we are hearing them.” Dr. Conti said.  “Safety is at the heart of our Association’s efforts to promote and expand social/emotional learning across all schools.”
In June, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents is partnering with the Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth’s Office to remind all 18-year-olds to register to vote, and also raise awareness that students 16 years of age or older don’t have to wait until their 18th birthday to register. Voting, Dr. Conti said, is the number one way young adults can affect change.
“This effort reflects the interests of the students, who have recently been very active in their efforts to end gun violence,” Secretary William F. Galvin said. “Many students have contacted my office since the shooting in Parkland, Florida to learn more about how to get their fellow students registered to vote. Commencement ceremonies are the perfect opportunity to gather these young people and invite them into the process.”
Galvin’s office plans to coordinate with local election officials across the Commonwealth to assist in voter registration efforts in each city and town, while M.A.S.S. intends to encourage all high schools to join in the effort to register new graduates. Galvin noted that high school students who wish to become engaged in the civic process do not need to wait until they graduate to register to vote, as Massachusetts allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. Voters may register, pre-register, or update their voter registration information by mail; in person·at any city or town hall, Registry of Motor Vehicles, or voter registration drive; or online at www.registertovotema.com.
“We hope that in partnership with Secretary Galvin’s Office and the Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association (MSAA), we can promote a voter registration event at every high school in the Commonwealth as a part of our annual preparations for graduation,” Dr. Conti said. “Although there may be local and high school efforts which have already conducted voter registration events, we are hoping to expand these efforts to include every high school. Moreover, we are hoping that these local efforts can become a part of the annual events leading up to graduation.”

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