Elevating Student Voice through Voice Leadership Camps and the MViP Books

Key Points

  • Every child need self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

  • Focusing on student voice promotes engagement at every level, builds trust with teachers, addresses equity in the classroom and the wider community, and ultimately contributes to student success.

Every child needs to know the power of their VOICE! Every child needs to know that their VOICE is more than their words. Their VOICE is also how they show up in the world. Written by Dr. Katrina Hutchins (Dr. K.), CEO of and the Founder of the Re-Source Solutions Foundation The My Voice is Powerful Book Series helps young readers to do seven things: know their voice, choose their voice, remember their voice, amplify their voice, celebrate their voice, love their voice, and share their voice. Through the affirming voices of co-authors and book characters Isabella, Jacob, Myla, Jeremiah, Kayden, Josiah, and Jayla, each of the seven books in the series guides readers in boldly affirming and declaring: My VOICE is Powerful!

According to Dr. K, helping students to position their voices should be central to our work as educators and requires us to create the space and conditions for every student to feel seen, heard, and valued. Most importantly, we must help students to position their voices in powerful ways. To do so, we must listen, reflect, and act on what we hear, even when it is hard. Focusing on student voice promotes engagement at every level, builds trust with teachers, addresses equity in the classroom and the wider community, and ultimately contributes to student success.

Photo of Dr. Katrina Hutchins
Dr. Katrina Hutchins

The My Voice is Powerful Book Series emerged from the Voice Leadership Camp for Girls and Boys. Voice Leadership Camp (VLC) is an evidence-based learning experience for children in grades 1st through 8th. The program focuses on creating a safe space for every student to be seen, heard, and valued.

I spoke to Dr. K about the MViP Book Series, the Voice Leadership Camp for Children, and Voice Positioning Training for Educators

Why has voice been such a large part of your work? 

As children, we learn critical lessons about our voice. One of the most prevalent lessons handed down through the generations is, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Recognizing the negative impact of these childhood lessons, I focused my doctoral research at Northeastern University on how they are silent or silenced in schools and communities. Based upon the findings from my research, I have committed my work to helping others position their voices in ways that allow them to harness their power and master their influence. In 2018 I released the book The Voice Positioning System: 7 Ways to Harness Your Power and Master Your Influence. 

Why is it essential to educate our youth about their voice, especially students of color? 

Seventeenth-century educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi espoused a “whole-child” approach that emphasized the development of all aspects of a child. I believe that to educate the whole child, we must give voice to their self-worth, self-love, self-esteem, and self-awareness. In addition, every child need self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. It is what every child needs!

What made you start the Voice Leadership Camps?

Findings from the 2019 Center for Disease Control (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) study of middle school students in South Carolina showed the following startling results. 

Across the state, 30% of middle school girls had been electronically bullied through texting, Instagram, Facebook, or other social media outlets. In addition, 45% of girls reported being in a physical fight at some point, while 55% had been bullied on school property. The CDC also reported that 30% of middle school girls had seriously thought about killing themselves, 20% had planned how they would kill themselves, and 13% had attempted death by suicide. 

Findings from the 2019 YRBSS report also showed that 15% of middle school boys had been electronically bullied. Shockingly, 73% of boys had been in a physical fight at some point, and 42% had been bullied on school grounds. The negativity surrounding these youth contributed to their thoughts of self-harm. The report further indicated that 15% of boys in middle school had seriously thought about killing themselves, 9% had planned to kill themselves, and 6% had attempted death by suicide. 

In 2020, Dr. Kimberly Searcy, Senior Facilitator and Curriculum Developer, and I created the Voice Leadership Camp (VLC) for Girls and Boys to intervene in and disrupt these behaviors. VLC is a youth development program that delivers voice positioning education to girls in grades 1st through 8th. In the VLC program, students are immersed in understanding how to harness the power of their voice and master their influence. Through our interactive curriculum, students focus on voice identity, confidence, visibility, ownership, and amplification. Additionally, the curriculum provides voice strategies for building character, setting boundaries, and self-advocacy. 

What is your main goal for the children who participate in VLC? 

Through our research-based curriculum, our overarching goal is to give students the voice tools and strategies they need to gain the courage to stand up, show up, and speak up for themselves. Engaging students in our interactive workbooks and activities helps us to make voice positioning education exciting, engaging, and empowering.

What are some of the results from the VLC program so far?                                                                                                

Our pre-and post-participant surveys show that graduates increase their social and collaboration skills, confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Graduates also develop peer support networks. In addition, over 91% of graduates report advocating for themselves or someone else because of the program. The most meaningful result is their voice transformation. For example, I want to share a “Dear Voice” letter one of our VLC participants wrote to his voice:

Dear Voice,

Eleven years ago, I lost you for a short time after my open-heart surgery. They were unsure if I would ever get you back, but I did! Last year, I wished I had learned to use you because I was bullied. Every day, I was put down, yelled at, and excluded. If these people could see me today, my voice is now my weapon, and I would use you to protect myself. I can rescue myself by using you. I can be my own hero. I do not have to be silenced. 

Voice, I promise to help others in need and stand up for them because I know what it feels like to feel lost, invisible, and depressed. Now that I have you back, I will never let you be taken for granted. You are MINE! You are POWERFUL! I promise to be responsible and respectful to you so that I am seen for who I am and want to be. You are a gift given to me to share with all around me, and I will not allow you to be silenced again.

Voice, this is the new me, and I am trying to make 5th grade, middle school, high school, college, and my career as a cartoonist positive and to inspire others to use their voice to make a positive difference. I believe in you, voice, and together, we can do this and be world changers. So, Voice, LET’s DO THIS!

Graham H. Morgan
Proud VLC Student, 5th grade.

What inspired you to write the My Voice Is Powerful Book Series? 

I wanted to create a voice starter resource to help parents and educators facilitate voice positioning for early learners. I wanted to introduce the foundation for building voice power. As a result, parents, early learning centers, and elementary schools have found tremendous value in including the series in their classrooms and libraries. 

Do you provide voice positioning training for educators?

In 2024, we launched The Voice Leadership Academy. One of the signature learning opportunities of the Academy is to provide voice positioning workshops and training for educators. The goal is to equip and support educators in becoming VOICE Champions for their students. We are currently scheduling consultations with School Administrators interested in bringing our workshops and training to their schools. https://re-sourcesolutions.com/contact/

Andrew Miller from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development states “Voice and Choice can allow students to explore their passion and be honored for their ideas and opinion.”  The My Voice is Powerful Book Series, Voice Leadership Camp for Girls and Boys, and Voice Positioning Workshops and Training for Educators help elevate students’ voices in transformational ways!

Antonio Boyd Columnist

Antonio Boyd

Antonio B. Boyd, Ed.D. serves as President and CEO of the Think Tank Consulting Group, LLC. A national management, development, and public affairs company specializing in the education, non-profit, government and public health sectors.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.