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Aurora Institute

Using My Voice to Shape My High School

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): London Gray

Issue(s): Rethink Instruction, Learn Lessons from the Field, Activate Student Agency

London Gray was featured in a #ShoutOutSaturday with DCPS Design Lab.

My name is London Gray, and I am a native of Washington, D.C., born and raised in the nation’s capital. Growing up, the vibrant city has afforded me a wealth of opportunities. Active participation in various activities and community events has significantly influenced my interests and pursuits. Primarily, I am an athlete, with basketball as my sport, complemented by my involvement in soccer, track, bowling, and flag football. Beyond the realm of sports, I dedicate my time to creative endeavors such as writing poems, drawing, immersing myself in nature, engaging in shopping, continuous learning, exploring new experiences, traveling, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

Currently, in my senior year at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, I proudly contribute as student president of the XQ student redesign team. Through my proactive involvement in meetings and candid discussions with peers and educators, unforeseen opportunities have materialized. These engagements led to collaborations with district leaders, allowing me to propose tangible reforms and lead initiatives such as broader student representation, the introduction of new extracurricular activities, internships, and several ongoing projects.

London Gray working with ReDesign Team
Photo provided by the author.

An Opportunity to Get Involved

My initial exposure to the XQ Student Redesign Team occurred last year. What compelled me to remain actively engaged in the redesign team was the anticipation of witnessing the promised transformative changes. Drawing inspiration from my penchant for comparing life to movies and shows, I had envisioned my high school experience to mirror the cinematic depictions. However, upon entering high school, the reality simply contrasted with my expectations. 

It was through the avenue of the XQ Redesign initiative that I found the pathway to craft my unique high school narrative. The moment I recognized the impact of my voice coincided with the opening student redesign meeting. Although I initially perceived that my ideas might not be considered by the staff present, it became apparent post-meeting that they had indeed valued my input. Subsequently, Ms. Germina entrusted me with various responsibilities, such as conducting demonstrations on new immersive technology, leading discussions, and participating in student-led interviews. This acknowledgment marked the initiation of a series of new opportunities that presented themselves to me. 

Creating Real Change

In meetings every other week, the XQ Student Redesign Team brainstormed ideas to try. After piloting last year and surveying students about their thoughts, we chose which ideas to implement fully this year. I played a pivotal role in introducing Power Hour and modifying the schedule for classes to start at 10:00 instead of 9:00. Power Hour provides students with various engaging activities such as cooking, boxing, swimming, chess, mental health meetings, gym time, Image of London Gray, the authorphotography, and more. By addressing students’ concerns about lengthy classes and difficulty seeing the relevance of coursework, my input led to schedule changes, making classes shorter and integrating meaningful opportunities for a more enriching learning experience. As positive transformations unfold daily, my paramount aspiration is to cultivate a sense of community engagement.

In this context, my vision extends to fostering a proactive involvement from all stakeholders – creating more connections and collaboration on events and opportunities between teachers, district leaders, parents, family, local businesses, and community citizens. I firmly believe that a hands-on approach to education and its expansion will facilitate greater student adaptability. Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, rich with opportunities for all students, possesses untapped potential. While the institution has effectively presented itself, there is more to be done to shift mindsets and really listen to all voices, especially those of students and teachers. Together we have an opportunity to bridge the gap between core academic learning and transferable success skills. I call on all educators to be purposeful in committing to giving it their all for the benefit of students – the future generation lies in your hands. This necessitates the placement of committed individuals at Dunbar who can connect these academic foundations to students’ interests and passions, broadening their understanding of potential career paths. 

In my role at the XQ Design Team, I also advocate for a more engaged parental presence, recognizing its pivotal role in fostering a conducive learning environment. Addressing the need for active parental participation is vital, as it is foundational to a holistic educational experience. Our families are our first teachers. Educators can partner with families to learn about where we come from and where we are headed towards. This commitment for mutual understanding is not only essential for academic growth but also for cultivating problem-solving skills and instilling core values associated with overcoming challenges.

Aurora Symposium Student PanelSharing Beyond Dunbar

This fall, I had the opportunity to participate in a session about the XQ Redesign process at the Aurora Institute Symposium 2023. That led to me being selected as a student panelist in the plenary session on the main stage, too. My participation in the Symposium has been instrumental in shaping my perspective on the power of students’ voices to create visibility and impact in education. Stepping out of my comfort zone has not only opened numerous networking avenues, it instigated meaningful changes such as my self-confidence with my words, voice, and dedication to be more open to advocate for what I believe. It has also been a catalyst for personal growth. The experience has honed my public speaking skills, fortified my preparedness for unforeseen challenges, and deepened my understanding of educational systems. 

Today, I firmly believe in the significance of using my voice to share my story, understanding that every word and action carries weight. Ultimately, I am driven by the conviction that one’s narrative, whether positive or challenging, holds the power to make a lasting impact.

Learn More

Headshot of London GreyLondon Gray is a 12th-grade student at Dunbar High School, and the self-proclaimed “student president of Dunbar Redesign.” She enjoys history and chemistry, and likes to do everything and anything fun from photography to traveling to painting to basketball to hanging with her friends. She wanted to get involved with Redesign after learning about it from another student at Dunbar. She always wanted to share her voice and ideas in a positive way and with XQ redesign it helped her develop new skills and interests. She participated in a session about the work and was a student panelist in the plenary session at the Aurora Institute Symposium 2023. After high school she would like to major in mass communications with broadcasting and minor in sports management.