Youth Voices

Youth Voices is the only event in Western New York that brings together young people from across our region to present the meaningful work they have created in their English classrooms. Open to students in grades 7-12, the event provides an opportunity to amplify the voices of youth and celebrate the meaningful teaching of English Language Arts.

Youth Voices 2023 Conference featured on WKBW

WHAT: 2023 Youth Voices Conference at Buffalo State College

WHEN: 4:00 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4, 2023

WHERE: 1300 Elmwood Ave. Keynote: Social Hall, Campbell Student Union // Presentations: Ketchum Hall, Bacon Hall, Rockwell Hall, Bulger Hall

Schedule of Events

4:00-4:30: Registration and Youth Voices Art Installation (Student Union Social Hall)

4:30: Invocation: Jillian Hanesworth, Buffalo Poet Laureate.

5:00-7:15: Student Presentations (Various Locations)

7:30-8:30: Musical Performance: Chuckie Campbell. Dinner and Dessert (Student Union Social Hall)

Youth Voices 2023

Student Creativity on Display at Youth Voices Conference
Event features Buffalo Poet Laureate Jillian Hanesworth and creative work from WNY students

Student Creativity on Display at Youth Voices Conference

Buffalo, NY January 18th, 2024 — The Center for English Teaching at Buffalo State University and the Western New York Network of English Teachers present the eighth annual Youth Voices Conference, a celebration of the remarkable stories and talents of K-12 students from across our region. A keynote focused on the power of youths’ voices will kick off the conference. Dinner will follow with a special musical performance. The series, now in its eighth year, seeks to reclaim space for the voices of youth and their teachers, and to reposition classrooms as learning spaces of meaning, purpose, and power in the Buffalo-Niagara and Rochester regions. Last year’s conference drew more than 500 attendees with 162 students from large and small schools across Western New York presenting.

Student presentations at the Youth Voices Conference have included presentations, short documentaries, spoken word poetry, podcasts and TED Talks based on creative classroom projects. Past presentations have featured student work exploring childhood and families, popular music, Islamophobia, the impact of genocide, identity and immigration, race and gender, the environment, and religious beliefs, among many others.

“My students are able to present what they care about most in the world in a way that makes sense to them,” Buffalo teacher Deborah Bertlesman, who has brought students to the conference for several years, told WKBW in 2022. 

The conference gives young people the opportunity to showcase their academic work along with their thoughts, beliefs, and ideas about issues that are important to them and our community. Youth Voices is the only student-centered conference that brings young people together from across our region to share the work they are doing in their classrooms.

Buffalo State Assistant Professor Kristen Pastore-Capuana said that the conference owes its success to giving students an authentic audience of supportive adults.

“It’s not only giving students a chance to be heard,” she told WKBW. “It’s also powerful to see adults listening, and that can be a rare thing sometimes.”

Past participants include Alden High School, Amherst Central High School, City Honors High School, Elmwood Village Charter School, Lafayette International, Maryvale Union Free School District, McKinley High School, Olmsted at Kensington High School, Sweet Home Middle School, West Irondequoit Central Schools, West Seneca East and West High Schools, Wilson High School, among others. 

Click here to learn more about the series.

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