Speak Up! Speak Out!
Speak Up! Speak Out! is an innovative civic education program for high school students designed to teach young people about their communities and help them discover the many ways they can make a difference.
Winners of 2013 Dallas Civics Fair Announced
1st Place: R.L. Turner High School's "Resolve to Involve" Project
2nd Place Tie: Trini Garza Early College High School's "Student to Senior Partnership" project and Collegiate High School's "Learning through Leaders" project
3rd Place: Collegiate High School's "STUFF: South Texas Underground Film Festival" project
1st Place: Boude Storey Middle School's "P.R.I.D.E." project
2nd Place: Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy's "Building Community by Dispelling the Myth of Race" project
For Outstanding Passion for Change: Irving High School's "Teen Pregnancy Prevention" project
For Outstanding Issue-Awareness Raising: A. Maceo Smith New Tech's "Help Cats! by spaying and neutering" project
For Outstanding Persuasive Speaking: A Maceo Smith New Tech's "Operation Clean Up!" project
Speak Up! Speak Out! participants work together as teams to identify community problems, craft innovative solutions that address them, and present their findings to community leaders at the end-of-semester Civics Fair. Winning teams receive funds to use toward the implementation of their solutions. Fairs take place in Austin each fall and Dallas each spring.
Students set the Agenda
This civic education project encourages students to become active participants in their communities. The distinguishing element of Speak Up! Speak Out! is that the students are responsible for determining the issues that will be addressed and developing viable solutions.
Study, Solve, and Share
Over the course of the semester, classes research their communities, select a problem that interests and motivates them, and develop projects, proposals and/or solutions to present to the community. Students present their projects at a Civics Fair held near the end of the fall and spring semesters.
Creativity and Communication
Classes are encouraged to use their diverse talents, experiences, and ideas to develop their projects. This project is unique in that it strives to give SUSO participants the opportunity learn how young people can be active citizens and to create messages that will be heard by community leaders.
Frequently asked Questions
What types of problems do the teams study?
Classes are free to select whatever problem they feel most affects them, their neighbors, and/or the community. The goal is for students to learn about the community they most identify with and focus on local issues. Past projects have examined: traffic problems, bullying, dropout rates, teenage pregnancy rates, environmental issues, and graffiti.
What is the time commitment for SUSO?
The SUSO curriculum and projects are flexible. While there is not a set time limit for working on projects or using the lessons, students are expected to do thorough research and craft well thought-out solutions. Most participating classing work on their projects for several weeks during the fall or spring semester.
How does this differ from service learning?
Service learning focuses on individual volunteerism with non-profit organizations. SUSO works to develop specific skill sets necessary for successful citizenship including: research, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, team work, and organization. It is designed to give students a sense of efficacy and civic awareness while building useful life skills.
What is the role of a SUSO Mentor?
SUSO mentors are volunteers from local colleges and/or universities who assist teachers in implementing the SUSO project. They act as role models, coaches, and often, cheerleaders for their teams. Mentors are expected to commit to 1-2 hours per week. Schedules are arranged based upon the mentor's availability and the classroom teacher's schedule.
What can the students win?
Students benefit tremendously from the Speak Up! Speak Out! experience. Winning teams are awarded first, second, and third place for the middle and high school divisions. First place is awarded $300, second place $200, and third place $100 dollars in each division.
How can I help?
SUSO is designed to create a sense of energy and efficacy in its participants. We hope that parents and members of the community will choose to support SUSO participants as they seek out information about their community. You can do this by making us aware of important city events, providing links to community websites, or encouraging SUSO teams to share their ideas. More than anything SUSO teams want to know what people care about what they have to say. Attending the SUSO Civics Fair shows students that the community supports their efforts.
Is SUSO only in Austin?
SUSO can be found in schools in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Pflugerville, and Del Valle at this time. We hope to bring SUSO to many more communities across Texas.
"I learned that some of the small things in life that are easy to ignore and pass up can make a difference in someone else's life. When people get together, they can change anything." Garret M. Pooley, student at Highlands High School
"SUSO gives us teens a space to speak out and let our voices be heard." Alezia Olivia, student at L.G. Pinkston High School
"They really had a passion for these issues. It really makes you feel great about what they can do when they put their minds to it." SUSO judge, Press Secretary for Kinky Friedman
Want to join the SUSO team of students, teachers, mentors and volunteers? Contact Sinda Nichols.
Follow Speak Up! Speak Out! on Facebook
Follow Speak Up! Speak Out! on Facebook to get updates on the Civics Fair, see videos and photos of student projects, get advice from SUSO alumni, and connect with other SUSO participants, teachers and mentors.