A Note From our Editor – Jan. 2021

A Note From our Editor – Jan. 2021

Welcome to 2021!

While our writers for the January 2021 issue of Giving Voice will not remember “Y2K” (most were not born yet), I realized recently it was the last time that the dawning of a new year was so globally anticipated. 

It was 1999—I was sixteen at the time, and I recall terrifying reports of what might happen when the clock struck midnight on January 1. The year 2000—or Y2K—brought with it a computer programming bug that many thought would wreak havoc on computer systems that only allowed two digits for recording a year (e.g., “99” instead of “1999”). Essentially, it would make the year 2000 indistinguishable from the year 1900. Without proper preparation, this programming glitch might bring down computer-based infrastructures globally… from power plants and banks, to government systems and more.

But it didn’t. Yes, there were a few problems, but by and large life continued on smoothly. This didn’t happen because the threat was not real—quite the contrary. Governments and businesses took the threat seriously, dedicating time and resources to solving the problem. As I watched the ball drop in New York City from the television, we sailed into 2000 without incident.

Two decades later, we enter into 2021—and instead of coordinated government efforts to tackle the issues we face, we are met with partisanship, misinformation, and fatigue. And just as nothing magical happened when the clock rolled over into 2000, nothing tangible has really changed in 2021.

But I find one other difference more interesting: while we entered 2000 with dread, we have entered 2021 with the intangible… hope.

Hope is a force that should never be underestimated. It drives us, provides direction, and gives us a reason to keep fighting. This type of motivation acknowledges reality while pushing us to strive for something better. In this issue of Giving Voice, you will read the words of young people who ask you to join them in tackling the issues we face in 2021. From worldwide food insecurity and environmental racism, to partisanship and representation, they remind us that 2021 can be a year of solutions.

As former First Lady Michelle Obama notes:

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once, but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.”

In that spirit, let us enter 2021 with hope and courage. 

Happy New Year!

Mae Gilliland Wright, PhD 

Giving Voice Editor-in-Chief

A Note From our Editor – Dec. 2020

A Note From our Editor – Dec. 2020

As we release our final Giving Voice issue of 2020, I cannot help but reflect back on the year. It is the year that wasn’t, in a way—so many cancelled weddings, gatherings, festivals, concerts, courses, and more. We did this in an effort to protect one another from the COVID-19 pandemic, affirming our collective reliance on one another as humans… not just within our borders, but globally.

If you’re thinking, “Well, that is a bit of a rosy take,” I would agree with you. Certainly, we also saw the fractured nature of our society. Not everyone agrees on the proper response, with conflicts and protests sparked amidst pleas from scientists to distance and wear masks. As I write this, the United States has seen the loss of over 260,000 lives, and globally the death toll is rising to nearly 1.5 million.

And we are still grappling with the aftermath of the summertime Black Lives Matter demonstrations, recognizing the pervasive nature of systemic racism. The protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd spread around the world, with cries for reform and justice. This work is far from over—it is just beginning.

Then there were the devastating fires in the American West, burning 8.2 million acres. Floods, a record hurricane season, flattened cornfields, and other natural disasters are a daily reminder that the climate crisis requires immediate action.

How do we process such loss? How do we heal? In her article “An Exhausted College Student,” Kianna Goss expresses what I suspect many of us are feeling—frustration, burnout, and uncertainty. She offers tips for taking care of our mental and physical wellbeing, which I hope you will consider implementing into your own life.

Yet I find a great deal of hope in what I read in these pages—and I think you will, too. These young people may be as exhausted as us, but they are determined to shape the future into one that is equitable and safe. Jenin Mannaa writes about her own journey wearing the hijab, and how she found pride in her identity and support from her peers and teachers. Anjali Yedavalli dreams of a future where women are equally represented in the STEM field. Trent Miles brings to light the child separation crisis happening at our borders and asks us all to speak up. Elizabeth Setti bravely discusses addiction and food disorder issues and offers suggestions on how to seek out help.

I do not know how historians will look back on this year, but I do know that our first issues of Giving Voice demonstrate the values that we will all need moving forward: honesty, compassion, justice, authenticity, self-respect, and collaboration.

“Storms make trees take deeper roots,” Dolly Parton once famously said. My sincerest wish is that we all stand stronger and taller—together—as we enter 2021.

Mae Gilliland Wright, PhD
Giving Voice Editor-in-Chief

A Note From our Editor – Nov. 2020

A Note From our Editor – Nov. 2020

“I’m trying to speak — to write — the truth. I’m trying to be clear. I’m not interested in being fancy, or even original. Clarity and truth will be plenty,if I can only achieve them.” —Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

Welcome to the second issue of Giving Voice.

I think it goes without saying that even in the best of times, launching a new publication is a challenge. Our student writers are learning to work on a deadline, our Giving Voice team is working to expand our reach, and our talented designer must come up with new and engaging ways to illustrate content. And yet the team has managed to do just this—and more—during one of the most contentious periods in our country’s history.

When I opened up the folder of unedited student articles this month, I was genuinely curious to find out what was on their minds. As it turns out, quite a lot… from difficult higher education choices and volunteerism, to Esports and dance. One of the articles, “The Lack of Uniformity Unites” by Adeline Ferolo, has a title that could just as easily be the theme of this issue. Though the students are writing on a wide variety of topics, they are united in their desire to enact positive change in their community.

I encourage you to listen to the many calls to action you will find in these pages. They come from not just future leaders, but those who are already fully engaged in social justice efforts, community organizing, the arts, and sports.

Recently, I began reading the science fiction masterpiece Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. I admit with some embarrassment that while I had been inspired by quotes from the book for years, I had not read it. But somehow, lately, it seemed fitting—a story set in the mid-2020s and told from the perspective of a teenage woman. American society has collapsed due to wealth inequality, climate change, greed, and a host of other calamities. And while it might sound like a depressing plot, it is far from it—the main character, Lauren, must make her voice heard in order to protect those she loves.

Communication is a radical act that has the power to transform. As you scroll through these pages, I hope you are impacted by the true potential of these ideas.

A Note From our Editor – Oct. 2020

A Note From our Editor – Oct. 2020

Welcome to the first issue of Giving Voice! 

In these digital pages you will find the thoughts, opinions, and suggested solutions from students who are attempting to understand the world around them and find ways in which they can engage and improve their community. In a year fraught with seemingly insurmountable problems, it can be difficult to find time to focus on a single issue, think through it, and act on it. And yet that is precisely what we’ve asked these young people to do—and what we humbly ask you to do as well. 

When I was approached to act as an editor and mentor for Giving Voice, I thought back to what sparked my own interest in writing. Although I had always enjoyed it, I recalled visiting a free writing lab at Illinois Central College. At the age of 16, I worked with mentors who helped me correct grammatical issues, shape phrases, and frame my arguments. It was a simple act, but I left feeling empowered. Writing became not just an academic strength, but a professional and personal one as well. These communication skills made countless opportunities available… and it is a gift we wish to share with others.

“Youth” is, obviously, a pretty relative concept. My own generation, Millennials, have historically been portrayed fairly negatively, usually with a banal reference or two to avocado toast. (For the record, I fit that particular stereotype!) If you are a Gen X or Baby Boomer, I’m sure you endured your share of raised eyebrows from older generations. 

But what if we approached Gen Z differently? 

What if we engaged in a dialogue? 

The act of sharing and listening is transformative. The acknowledgment of another’s voice and opinion does not have to exist in a vacuum, of course. As the students wrote their articles, we pushed back and challenged them on some of their ideas. We asked them to think through the topics critically, research their arguments, and find potential solutions. It’s easy enough to complain, but much more challenging to step up as a leader and create change.

I did my best to preserve each student’s writing style. We anticipate that you will learn something from each of them, just as we have. I want to thank the Giving Voice team—Doug and Eileen Leunig, Jamie Wunning, and Trent Miles—for the incredible work that they put into bringing this program to fruition. I also want to thank each of the students for sharing their words with us—they are powerful, and they are necessary in order to change, heal, and grow our community. 

Mae Gilliland Wright, PhD 

Giving Voice Editor-in-Chief