Youth Transform their Town
The Mexican government came up with a novel way to unite the community in the small town of Palmitas in Pachuca: they asked local graffiti artists to paint it. Officials thought that asking a youth group known as ‘Germen Crew‘ – who often use graffiti as a means of expression – to paint the 209 houses might serve as a way both to bring locals together and to combat violence among young people. The group painted around 20,000 square metres of wall to form a single rainbow mural that spans the town. Photograph: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

WKCD home page


This installment of "Shout Outs" takes note of remarkable young people making remarkable contributions in the fields of journalism, community activism, physics, synthetic biology, and painting and photography. No doubt, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

These High School Journalists Investigated a New Prinicipal's Credentials. Days Later, She Resigned
Days after student reporters at Pittsburg High School in Kansas dug into the background of their newly hired principal and found questionable credentials, she resigned from the $93,000-a-year job. “She was going to be the head of our school, and we wanted be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials,” said Trina Paul, a senior and an editor of the Booster Redux, the school newspaper. “We stumbled on some things that most might not consider legitimate credentials." The resignation thrust the student newspaper staff into local, state and national news, with professional journalists nationwide applauding the students for asking tough questions and prompting change in their administration.

Brouwer Youth Awards: Advocating for Frontline Communities in Tennessee
As a Tennessee native, Erica Davis is keenly aware of the role that oil and gas extraction plays in her home state, as well as the fact rural Tennesseans often benefit little from resource extraction operations within their communities. Working in collaboration with grassroots organizers in Campbell County, TN, Davis has researched, written, and obtained sponsorship for a bill to reform oil and natural gas severance taxes. In Tennessee, severance taxes are the only legislative means to ensure that part of the wealth associated with oil and gas production remains in-state. For her work on behalf of the environment and her community, she received the prestigious Brower Youth Award. In today's contentious political environment and its focus on coal country, Erica's fight is more important than ever.

Teenager Wins $400,000 For His Video Explaining Einstein's Theory of Relativity
Does Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity still elude your grasp? A short, one of a kind, video by18-year-old Ryan Chester of North Royalton High School, Ohio may set you straight. Submitted to the Breakthrough Junior Challenge—an initiative begun by FaceBook CEO Mark Zuckenberg—Ryan’s video won praise from the judges for his humor and personality and received close to four million online views from peers. Begun two years agos, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global initiative to develop and demonstrate young people’s knowledge of science and scientific principles, to generate excitement in these fields, and to engage the imagination and interest of the public-at-large in key concepts of fundamental science.

Inspired by Internment Camp History, Students Write a Musical Work and Hear Echoes of Today
A California high school is using song to examine a painful chapter in U.S. history. “In America” is an oratorio composed by students at Van Nuys High School, with help from the Los Angeles Master Chorale, that reflects on the experiences of Japanese-Americans who were forced to leave their homes for internment camps during World War II.The Chorale has been doing this work in L.A. schools for 15 years, choosing historical themes the students would find relevant.To learn about this earlier moment in American history, the students read, researched, and visited L.A.’s Japanese American National Museum, where they heard stories of survivors of the camps. For everyone involved, the resulting work, nine movements in all, resonated with today’s political debates.

High School Students Build Tiny Houses for Flood Victims
Stand in the center of this house and you'll find yourself in the living room and the dining room. And the bedroom. Oh, and also the kitchen. At 500 square feet and designed to hold as many as six people, the house makes for quite a tiny home. But for many, it's just enough for now. Since flooding in West Virginia last June killed at least 23 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes, residents have been struggling to find adequate housing. These small homes, built by high school students in nearby vocational schools, may be the solution. In 2013, students at San Diego's High Tech High launched the Tiny Homes Project. In collaboration with Space4Art, students worked with local artists to design and build tiny homes that would allow the artists to remain in the expensive San Diego region and produce their art.

Houston Youth Journalist Speaks Up for LGBT Students
"Imagine living in a body that doesn't fit you. Not in the literal sense: Your skin fits snug against your bones, and all your various parts work. But something doesn't feel right deep inside you: Your conception of your gender doesn't match up with the physical gender you have. This is called gender dysphoria, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have it — but only some are lucky enough to be able to do something about it. Leelah Alcorn, who killed herself last month, was one of the unlucky ones. The 17-year-old's high-profile suicide must serve as a reminder to us all about how important it is that we educate everyone — children and adults alike — about transgender issues." This was the lead to high school junior Eli Winter's special article in the Houston Chronicle about the struggles of LGBT youth. His outstanding four-part series in OutSmart magazine addresses: Changing Campus Climate, LGBT Healthcare Discrimination, Understanding LGBT Hate Crimes, Workplace Discrimination.

Engineer Girl: Engineered Safeguards for Synthetic Probiotics
"The thirteen-year old boy was wheeled on his gurney into the operating room. After months of incessant bloody diarrhea and distressing uncertainty regarding his ailment, his doctors finally decided that he had had enough. Only an incredibly restrictive dietary regimen and daily pills were able to lift him out of such a deep, dreary hole. But, why did my younger brother have to plummet to such a painful state in the first place? And why has modern medicine not come up with less intrusive diagnostic procedures and demanding drug therapies for conditions like ulcerative colitis?" In her award-winning essay, high school sophomore Katherine Collins, discusses the potential of synthetic probiotics to cure illnesses like ulcerative colitis in young and old alike.

Award-Winning Young Artists Get Sotheby’s Exhibit
For most of us non-artists, our creative output peaks somewhere around freshman year of high school— we all have to take art classes, we all have to make something. But most of us just weren’t good. Not so the prize winners from the National YoungArts Foundation, who had their works exhibited at Sotheby’s New York. "From painting and drawing to sculpture and photography, the open approach to form and subject matter allow these visual artists to find place and meaning in the world they inhabit," said Sotheby’s curator. "I no longer feel like I'm in a place where my ethnicity, income, or my personal struggles matter. Being a YoungArts Winner automatically makes me feel accepted," said Nicholas D'Ornellas. "It's refreshing to claim 'different' or be around 'different.'" His work and that of his peers is stunning.


One of the best ways to support diverse identities among teenagers, WKCD has learned, is through writing. Here are guides and examples from our work with middle and high school students in Detroit, Austin, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

Supporting Students' Diverse Identities: A Mini-Curriculum for Teachers
In this seven-page guide, writer and poet Abe Louise Young lays out a series of Writing Workshop Principles, followed by three consecutive writing plans that focus on supporting students' diverse identities. Though intended for middle and high school students, the lessons can be used with any learners who are reasonably comfortable with a pencil in hand—from fourth grade through adulthood. In the first workshop, students write their own "Where I'm From" poem; in the second, they claim and name their communities; in the third, students take the leader's voice


You Don't Know Me Until Now: Latino/a Middle School Voices
This 32-page publication presents a selection of poems, essays, and photographs from students at three charter schools: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in Los Angeles, East Austin College Prep Academy in Austin, and Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland. Students also recorded audio clips of themselves reading their stories and poems out loud. You will learn how these writers connect to their place, identity, and cultures. They resist stereotyping and define themselves as complex, creative, growing people. They rhapsodize on what makes them who they are, explore the sensory details of communities they come from, and imagine some facets of the world they want to help create.


My Dreams Are Not A Secret Teenagers in Metropolitan Detroit Speak Out
For more than a decade, young people in Detroit—the nation’s most segregated metropolitan area—have been coming together to confront the stereotypes that color their lives. Strangers to each other, they arrive from the city's most blighted neighborhoods as well as from the nearby college town of Ann Arbor. Schools and organizations across greater Detroit have sent them, invited to join an interracial dialogue and action research organized by the University of Michigan's Program for Youth and Community. “People in my neighborhood don’t like to leave it,” explains one youth, “and most parents don’t want you to hang out with other races.” When WKCD's Abe Louise Young spent three days helping students twrite their stories, the results broke longstanding silences.


For 15 years, from 2001 to 2016, WKCD reached far and wide to document and broadcast the voices and vision of the next generation, supported by the adult allies in and outside school that these youth counted on. We began with a determination to share "feature stories" about what we called "powerful learning with public purpose." Over the years, we produced more than 300 of these stories, with generous funding from a host of foundations who shared our commitment to youth as knowledge creators and citizens. For a directory of these stories, click here. You can also enter key words in the search box at the top left of this and every page.

Early on, we also became involved in multi-year projects targeted at youth learning and perspectives: going to college when you are the first in the family to go, the conditions of learning that help students thrive, diversity, social and emotion learning, global understanding, service learning, school reform, and more. Below are descriptions and links to these diverse collections.

The left column of this homepage includes quick links to many of these collections, along with links to other WKCD websites and to a range of small WKCD publications. The right column connects to WKCD's nonprofit publshing arm, Next Generation Press, and its 17 titles with youth as co-authors.

While WKCD continues to take on a small number of discrete, new projects—like creating an advisory curriculum built on social and emotional learning—we are, by and large, not adding to the collections described below. They remain vital, we believe.

College Matters: Supporting Low-Income and First Generation Students
What does it take to get to college, especially if you are the first in your family to go? What stands in the way? What supports do students need? For more than a decade, WKCD has turned to first-generation and low-income students around the country for advice on how to make it to college and succeed once there. We've then passed this advice on to those following in their footsteps and the parents, teachers, and counselors who guide them. Our "First in the Family" initiative, a collaboration with Lumina Foundation for Education, includes websites, multimedia, downloads, feature stories and special research projects with high school and college students as partners. Our First in the Family: Your High School Years and First in the Family: Your College Years have sold more than 200,000 copies.

Global Youth Voices
In 2005, WKCD's Barbara Cervone traveled to a small village in Tanzania to work with secondary students on creating a photo essay about life there. Since then, we've supported more than two dozen photo journalism projects with youth on four contintents, some as part of a multi-year collaboration with Adobe Youth Voices. The youth contributing to our Global Youth Voices collection has included affluent teens in Beijing along with the sons and daughters of coffee farmers in rural Ethiopia; young Burmese refugees in a Bangladesh border camp along with university students in cities across Hungary. They remind us of the complexities of culture and politics—and how they infuse what we value, what we take for granted, and what amazes us.

Great American Dreaming
As we saw in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. immigration has become a tinder box, with raw emotions and fear making civil discourse near impossible and mass deportation thinkable. Almost every community in the U.S. has become a home to new immigrants, with the promise and challenges they bring. One way to engage students in this critical debate is to have them gather the stories (and images) of immigrants near at hand. WKCD learned this when we coached and then published such work by New York City students in our photo essay book Forty-Cent Tip: Stories of New York City Immigrant Workers (2006). Great America Dreaming also includes stories, photoessays, monologues, and cartoon narratives about the immigrant experience produced by high school students in Chicago, Tucson, Oakland, and Casco, Maine.

How Youth Learn
How do youth learn best in the high school years? What “conditions of learning” help students thrive? In 2013, WKCD developed a special website to capture decades of research on adolescent learning, along with the results of our own investigations. We found that good learning involves direct experience, especially deep immersion in a consequential activity. Motivation is strongest when it emerges from the young person’s prior knowledge and interests, when it springs from the task itself, and when it is driven by a desire for mastery and by identification with others who do it well. Learning flourishes when it is social; when it occurs as a shared activity within meaningful relationships; and when it allows for increasingly responsible participation. Our How Youth Learn website includes research summaries, student voices, exemplary practices, and educator resources

Just Listen!
It’s easy for educators to make assumptions about how their students experience school—but they often miss the mark. That’s what sparked WKCD’s 2012 Just Listen series of video clips (200 in all), in which high school students speak directly to viewers about teaching and learning. Averaging one minute in length, they convey kids’ thinking in a way that is easy to share and talk about with others. The videos, supported by MetLife Foundation, show that what young people say they want for themselves aligns closely with what we say we want for them: stimulating classes; good relationships with their teachers; appropriate learning challenges, success in high school, college, and beyond.

In Our Global Village
In 2007, after the publication of the photo essay book In Our Village: Kambi ya Simba Through the Eyes of Its Youth, WKCD's Barbara Cervone teamed up with international service learning consultant Cathryn B. Kaye to invite young people across the globe to document daily life in the places they call home. In the years since, youth ages 8 to 19—from North Hollywood to New Orleans, from the jungles of Nepal to San Francisco's Tenderloin district—have gathered the stories that mean the most to them. The In Our Global Village program now includes close to 60 photo essay books, and the program continues to grow. We've created a "how-to" manual for teachers, along with a virtual library that allows readers to flip many of these books.

Mentors that Matter
Who are the significant adults in the lives of teenagers, beyond the home and classroom? How do they reach out to youth, and why? More than a decade ago, youth across the nation gave their answers, as they interviewed, photographed, and publicly honored Mentors That Matter in four cities (Chicago, Providence, San Francisco, and Tampa). They nominated people from all walks of life—artists, coaches, public officials, even a school bus driver and a hair stylist—who show that they care about “other people’s children.” In collaboration with MetLife Foundation, the WKCD initiative developed literacy, communication, and photography skills in some 200 students who participated. It also underscored how much young people value adults who reach out to share time and expertise with them.

Practice Project
In 2009, WKCD's Kathleen Cushman posed the question "What does it take to get really good at something?" to over 200 young people across the nation, inviting them to become researchers of their own learning. Starting with the things they already knew and could do well, they analyzed the process that all learners go through when they take up new things and work toward mastery. This onging dialogue soon became a body of work we called the Practice Project — including our book Fires in the Mind, in which adolescent students talk about what motivates them to work hard at a challenge. “Getting good” was how these young collaborators refered to the journey toward mastery.

Service Learning
Too often we hear how “kids today” simply don’t make the grade. When teens do manage to wrest praise from adults, it is often for what they don’t do—for toeing the line—rather than for the positive things they can do. From the start, WKCD aimed to spread a more capacious view of “what kids can do”—a vision that made room for real-world problem solving, teamwork, character and citizenship, learning from mistakes, creativity, social justice, and contribution. Service learning rovides a wealth of exemplars of the sort of powerful learning with public purpose that WKCD has championed. Here is a directory of feature stories about service learning produced by WKCD over the years.

Social and Emotional Learning
What would it take to weave social and emotional learning (SEL) into the daily fabric of our nation’s high schools? In 2013 and 2014, with support from the NoVo Foundation, WKCD studied effective practices in five American high schools that, by their own design, put social-emotional learning at their core. We created multimedia to capture student voices in these schools and we assembled selected SEL resources for educators. In an Education Week commentary, we summarized the implications for public high school education. We gathered our findings and stories in Belonging and Becoming: The Power of Social and Emotional Learning in High School (Harvard Education Press, 2015).

More recently, WKCD published a monthly feature called Short Workouts for Social-Emotional Learning, geared towards middle and high school students. May 2016 | April 2016 | March 2016 | February 2016 | January 2016 | December 2016

Student-Centered Learning
What does teaching look like when it truly centers on the student’s learning needs? As one of nine research teams for Students at the Center, an initiative by Jobs for the Future and the Nellie Mae Foundation for Education, WKCD's Barbara Cervone and Kathleen Cushman spent a year interviewing and observing teachers, students, and administrators in six diverse middle and high schools, experienced in student-centered learning. Despite their differences, the schools all shared a common foundation of practice. Student-centered learning—where adolescents exercise both choice and responsibility—demands a new approach to teaching, which involves facilitating and coaching more than direct instruction. Student-centered teachers develop a fresh relationship to their craft, playing multiple roles and always learning new skills.

Students as Allies in School Reform
The refrains are familiar. School is boring, students complain. It's hard to see a connection between what we're taught and the real world. Students are unprepared, teachers say. Too much of teaching is really just classroom management. What would it take for students to become stakeholders not just in their own success but also in that of their teachers and schools? In 2003-2004, with support from MetLife Foundation, WKCD launched its "Students as Allies in School Reform" initiative. In five cities, we helped students and teachers conduct survey research about their own schools and supported dialogue and constructive action around their research results. Our surveys have been downloaded more than 200,000 times from—by teachers, education students in college and graduate school, and student groups.

Student Research for Action
From 2003–2006, WKCD had the opportunity to help students and teachers nationwide to conduct ambitious student “action research” projects targeting critical education and community issues. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided the financial support. The initiative exemplified two of WKCD's core beliefs: that what happens inside a school's walls should connect to the world outside and that young people have the capacity to reflect, analyze, and create new knowledge that can then improve their schools and communities. Over the course of three years, WKCD awarded 49 grants, in amounts ranging from $500 to $4,750, to a total of 52 individual schools in 17 states. The products of the students' research—several books, videos, reports, new programs, surveys, powerpoints—still attract attention, more than a decade later.

Student/Youth Voice
When WKCD embraced student voice as part of our guiding principles in 2001, the idea that youth should be welcomed as crucial investors in improving their schools and communities had few advocates. The research on the power of student engagement was commensurately sparse. In contrast, WKCD set out to celebrate and support youth as collaborators in our books and other publications (e.g., our “Fires” series); in survey projects nationwide; in more than 75 grants to student research groups across the globe; and in the feature stories we produced for this website. We learned that meaningful student voice must: be inclusive, be woven into the daily fabric of school, target substantive issues, involve asking and listening by all parties, and lead to constructive action.

Voices from the Middle Grades
What do students in the middle grades most need from their teachers? WKCD offered their answers in a sequel to our groundbreaking book Fires in the Bathroom—this time, listening to the voices of early adolescents. Talking in depth with 40 students in middle grades around the country, WKCD’s Kathleen Cushman asked them questions like: What helps you want to try hard in school—or keeps you from doing so? How can your teachers help you deal with social issues and pressures you face? When it comes to your parents, what do teachers need to know and do? How can teachers prepare you for the transition to high school? To interpret their answers, Cushman teamed with Laura Rogers, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University who worked in middle schools for 13 years.




"There's a radical—and wonderful—new idea here . . . that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people's ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world." - Deborah Meier, educator



and the power of social-emotional learning



Helping your child succeed

English and Spanish






. . . blog by Kathleen Cushman


. . . research, resources & more


. . . advice about college


. . . student action research


. . . Kambi ya Simba, Tanzania




College Matters

Global Youth Voices

Great American Dreaming

How Youth Learn

In Our Global Village

Just Listen!

Mentors That Matter

Practice Project

Service Learning

Social-Emotional Learning

Student-Centered Learning

Students as Allies in School

Student Research for Action

Student/Youth Voice

Voices from the Middle Grades

Youth in Policy: Civics2

Youth on the Trail 2012




A Guide to Creating Teen-
Adult Public Forums

Cultural Conversations through Creative Writing

Documenting Immigration Stories

First Ask, Then Listen: How Your
Students Can Help You Teach
Them Better

Making Writing Essential to
Teen Lives

Profiles of Politically Active Youth

Queer Youth Advice for Educators

SAT Bronx

Teachers at Work: Six Exemplars of Everyday Practice




Ned's Gr8 8: An Insider's Guide to the Teenage Brain


Who We Are: First-Generation College Students Speak Out


Hear Us Out: Seattle Students Talk About Going to College




Growth Mindset

Character and Grit

Powerful Learning

Pushing Past Fear

Einstein Says


Six Ted Talks for the New Year



have a story for wkcd?

Want to bring public attention
to your work? WKCD invites
story ideas from youth and
educators worldwide.

Write to us >»







"The first object of any act of learning, over and beyond the pleasure it may give, is that it should serve us in the future. Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily."
- Theodore R. Sizer,
educator (1932-2009)




"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
- William Butler Yeats




"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."
- Martin Luther King






Next Generation Press







Forty-Cent Tip

hip deep







Preview and order from our current list of 16 titles >>


Harvard Education Press



Fires in the Mind

Fires in the Bathroom

Fires in the Middle School Bathroom