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Eagle Voice: Using student voice to lead change

Inspired to Know is a story series designed to tell the little-known stories of our Eden Prairie Schools community. Our hope is to provide a glimpse into student life to showcase the amazing contributions of our Eden Prairie Schools students and staff to our state, region, nation and world. 

Rarely do students have the option to give feedback on their coursework or school calendar, much less what’s for lunch. At Eden Prairie High School (EPHS), however, administrators seek student input on these issues and more. 

Eagle Voice, a crowd-sourced tool for students and staff to submit and “upvote” ideas for improving school academics, culture and opportunities, has drastically changed the way students see and interact with the school. It's making real changes in the lives of EPHS students and staff.

“Eagle Voice is where we get to live in the life of our students,” said Meg Bennett, an associate principal at EPHS. “Curating many different perspectives and ideas is essential to creating a more equitable, culturally-responsive school for our students and staff.”

Eagle Voice embodies the core values of Eden Prairie Schools, which are rooted in the belief that each person has intrinsic value while also possessing individual gifts, interests and talents.

When administrators give power and authority to student voice and students feel heard and listened to, their confidence grows. 

In the Eagle Voice online forum, students and staff submit their own ideas or vote for what they want to eliminate or change. These suggestions range from removing sweet potato fries from the lunch menu to creating asynchronous Fridays that would allow students to catch up on work.

High school staff and administration then review the proposed changes and come to a decision about what can actually be changed, based on several factors. When students see their ideas come to life, both the community and the relationships between students and teachers flourish and thrive. 

Three years ago, Robb Virgin, Principal of EPHS, introduced the idea as a way to link student voice to actual, qualitative change. 

“We start by listening to student’s ideas and showing them that their ideas matter. Then we build empathy by making those relationships with students. Those two steps lead us to transforming the student experience which we can then qualitatively measure its success,” said Virgin.

“All ideas start with a conversation,” continued Virgin. “When you trust your students to do the right thing, they feel heard.” When students see their ideas come to life, both the community and the relationships between students and teachers flourish and thrive. 

Our strategies work alongside our core values, which include: eliminating achievement disparities, increasing personalized learning and seeking out opportunities for engagement in the community. 

Eagle Voice is one of the many tools Eden Prairie High School uses to eliminate achievement disparities. Each student experiences school in a unique way, so bringing a voice to that experience can help to make the school overall culturally competent. Eagle Voice also provides excellent leadership opportunities for students who want to lead the change. This, in turn, creates a culture that prioritizes and celebrates idea making, contributing to the elevation of personalized learning.