The voice of students – you can move mountains

Samantha Barton, of Tumut High School, delivered the student keynote speech at the launch of Education Week 2019. Here is a transcript of her speech.

Image: HSC student Samantha Barton, of Tumut High School, delivers the student keynote speech at the launch of Education Week 2019 in Dubbo.

Here celebrating Education Week in 2019 I’ve never had a greater appreciation for the past 13 years that I’ve spent in schools all around the state. I have attended public schools in both Sydney and regional areas and, now at Tumut High School, I am set to undertake my HSC in a matter of months. A quality education has been the key for me, as it is for many others, to innumerable opportunities – and thankfully we in NSW are fortunate enough to be supplied with a fine set of keys for unlocking all the doors to the future.

I’ve been a lover of school since my very first day of Kindergarten, and I can assure you that school isn’t just where we begin the lifelong learning journeys that make each of us who we are today. It’s also where, as individuals, we first learn the power of our own unique voices.

And through my years at school, I am extremely grateful to have come into contact with so many of these unique voices, from all across the state. In reflection, I find myself markedly moved and shaped by the broad range of formidable characters I have met. And although certain voices – those of the schoolmates who have become dear friends, and the teachers who I have worked closely with – may have played a larger role in enriching my life, I know that even the voices I crossed paths with for just mere moments have moulded me into the individual I am today.

As a student, the power of the voice can be immeasurable, as we cultivate it in the schoolyard and then employ its force in the wider world. Your voice need not necessarily be the loudest, nor do you need always to be heard. In fact, listening and taking the time to understand others is just as crucial to authentically developing your voice. While you may think you need to strike for change with each and every word, there is just as much potential in using your voice to support others, to promote empathy, encourage kindness, and cultivate feelings of optimism. Here you find your real power.

And while students are at the centre of education, this week is not complete without a celebration of the teachers who help us grow and strive, relishing with us, in our big, and little, successes as individuals. I am immensely appreciative of the heart and soul that the teachers at my school pour into their work, and I see my parents, both teachers themselves, put tireless hours into the profession they are so passionate about, with a genuine desire to work collaboratively with all their students – and to help them to be heard.

I know that some students – particularly those in the state’s smallest schools, the rural and remote schools – feel as if they, and their school go unnoticed. For us, positioned just a bit further from the stage, getting to the microphone so that our voice rings out loud and clear can be that little bit more difficult. But as I hope I am demonstrating here in Dubbo, as this week intends to demonstrate, what we have to say matters – and in an increasingly digital world, there are no limits to contribution and collaboration, as that is what enriches us all.

So, to all the students around the state, I reiterate: when we say ‘Every student, every voice’ we really mean it, and we mean you. Your words can move mountains, and if we listen to each other, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

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