Buffalo, NY April 18, 2023 — The Center for English Teaching at Buffalo State College and the Western New York Network of English Teachers present the seventh annual Youth Voices Conference, a celebration of the remarkable stories and talents of K-12 students from across our region. Buffalo Poet Laureate Jillian Hanesworth will kick off the conference, which features a keynote address from WKBW journalist Taylor Epps and musical performance by Buffalo hip hop artist Chuckie Campbell.
The series, now in its seventh 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 students from large and small schools across Western New York to present their projects to authentic audiences.
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 last year.
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 the larger 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, EDGE Academy, Elmwood Village Charter School, Lafayette International, Maryvale Union Free School District, McKinley High School, Olmsted High School, Sweet Home Middle School, Tapestry Charter School, West Irondequoit Central Schools, West Seneca East Middle School, Williamsville North High School, Wilson High School, among others.
Click here to learn more about the series.