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October 10, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST
SPEAK members thrive on creativity. They doodle cartoons on white boards, act out scenes and crack jokes. If anyone can loosen up a class of Columbia teens, it’s these MU students whose personalities and passions are big enough to incite social change.
The group encourages students to participate in events and activities on MU’s campus by reaching out to Columbia high schools with a variety of service projects and classroom sessions.
SPEAK meets every Wednesday, alternating workshops and general body meetings each week. The next workshop is on Oct. 16, and the next meeting will be on Oct. 23. They also have two community service projects per month. Check the SPEAK website and Facebook page for updates and to contact members with questions.
The goal of SPEAK (Note: SPEAK is not an acronym for anything.) is to convey to students that their voice matters, and they should feel safe expressing themselves. In its second season, the group is active at Hickman, Battle and Douglass high schools. Founder Naomi Daugherty says she wants “students who participate to feel like they are comfortable and affirmed in their voice and have a community which they call home.”
Classes, called “SPEAKs,” involve both workshops and outreach. There are two kinds of SPEAKs: recruitment and workshop. In recruitment SPEAKs, students learn about the organization through activities. Workshop SPEAKs involve writing poems, playing scenes or drawing to address issues such as bullying, this season’s subject. Last year’s focus was stereotypes. Themes are chosen from an email poll led by Daugherty and Community Service Chair Simone Rainer.
Hickman senior Komina Guevara participated in the workshop Sept. 4. “In hip-hop and rap theory we listened to a rap beat and then rapped over it,” Guevara says. Rainer, who ran the music workshop, provided students with a prompt about bullying that led to creative rap sessions.
The organization encourages students to converse about difficult topics that they wouldn’t normally discuss in a classroom or with peers. “I want them to be able to express themselves outside of normal limits and create social change by getting outside the box,” says Kailynd Beck, public relations co-chair.
Daugherty noticed social injustice in Columbia similar to her hometown of Chicago. She thought that even though these students can’t vote on things that affect their lives, they could still stand up for their rights. To her, every voice matters.
This passion brought Guevara to the group. “They were so energized about it,” Guevara says. “It made me feel like, ‘Wow, they are actually going to get things done.’”
Daugherty believes that SPEAK can make a difference in teen’s lives, and she is dedicated to making that happen. “The message of speaking up is so important and so necessary because our future depends on it,” Daugherty says. “We are these kids.”