COPA and OTF are thrilled to present a collection of powerful and moving vignettes and testimonials by students, teachers and school staff describing students’ experiences of empowerment. The stories shared range from simple moments or interactions to major initiatives through which students have felt able to exercise their agency and take action to create positive change in a school context. They provide a window into the lived experiences of young people striving to have a voice and an influence on their environment at school, and of adults working to support their efforts.
These stories depict real life examples of essential precepts related to power, to power relations between adults and young people, and to youth empowerment, explored in our module. They are not presented as case studies, nor are they intended to demonstrate perfect or ideal models of youth empowerment in a school setting. Rather, we have presented students’ own perceptions of their challenges, successes and obstacles as agents of positive change at their school. Each story lends itself to illustrating different facets of, or debunking myths about, an empowerment-based approach to the development of students’ character and leadership capacity as experienced in real life situations.
There is much overlap among themes that emerge from these stories and each one may highlight a number of relevant concepts. Nonetheless, we have placed each one within the module section that best corresponds with the predominant themes expressed by that story. For each one, we have developed a discussion guide with questions leading viewers to critically reflect upon the story content in order to glean the essential concepts illustrated.
The stories presented can be used as a starting point for those wishing to reflect upon and deepen an empowerment-based practise that is informed and shaped by students’ needs and perceptions. We hope teachers and other school staff members will gain insight into the experiences and aspirations of our students through these rich and meaningful stories. The films can also generate important reflections about adults’ efforts to support our students’ empowerment, from the perspectives of diverse young people.
We hope that this film series along with the discussion guides we have provided will validate our current practices or offer new paths toward our common goal of character development through youth empowerment.