Editor’s Note: The Early Learning Nation Studio recently attended the 2022 National League of Cities’ City Congressional Conference where we spoke with early learning researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. The full collection of video conversations can be found here.
As an NLC Youth Representative, North Carolina High School junior Ramie Mack has the opportunity to talk with adults, including mayors and city councilmembers. And as she advocates for learning, Ramie wants those leaders to understand that youth face challenges, too. That’s just one reason she advocates for making sure students are part of the conversation when learning is being discussed.
Chris Riback: Ramie, thank you for coming to our ELN studio.
Ramie Mack: Thank you for having me.
Chris Riback: It’s great to see you.
Ramie Mack: Thank you.
Chris Riback: We appreciate it. Ramie, tell me about yourself. What year are you in high school? What are your interests?
Ramie Mack: Okay. Hi, my name is Ramie Mack. I’m from Fayetteville, North Carolina. I’m 17 years old. I’m a junior at Seventy-First High School, and I just love my community and just bettering it.
Chris Riback: Why are you here today?
Ramie Mack: I’m actually here with my youth council, the Fayetteville-Cumberland Youth Council. We come to the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference every single year, and I’m just so happy to be here because we weren’t here the last two years. We were virtual, so I’m just here with my youth council. I’m also on the YEF board, that’s the Youth, Education and Families board that NLC has. I’m one of the youth representatives. So yes, I’m just so excited to be here.
Chris Riback: What are your goals with that board? What do you enjoy about it? What do you hope that they focus on?
Ramie Mack: I just love how they allow us to give the youth perspective. I think perspectives are really big. Once you have different people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, you have different perspectives, and that just gives people a different outlook on situations or topics that we discuss. I love how NLC always includes the youth. I’m very big on just having a youth mind in the room, it just changes the whole trajectory of the thing. So I just love how they allow us to give our opinion. Some people might not agree with my opinion, but you’re giving me the opportunity to share it. So it’s always an honor to just be in rooms like that with mayors and council members, so it’s really amazing.
Chris Riback: I bet it is. What would your youth perspective be? If you were talking to a mayor or a city council member right now, what would you tell them about youth education? What should be changed? What could be made better? What’s your view?
Ramie Mack: A lot of times, they hear us but they don’t listen. You hear what we’re saying, but are you comprehending what I’m saying? And I just really think they should just sit down and listen to us because they say they care about the youth, but what are the action steps that you are taking to benefit us? So I think they should just do a better job with school board. Do you have a youth representative in the room when you’re talking about stuff that have to do with us? Are you accommodating to how we’re feeling?
A lot of people don’t realize what teenagers go through. We’re going through a lot. We just, we had to do school on a computer for two years and you expect us to function like everything’s okay. Sometimes we’re not okay, and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s okay not to be okay, and it’s okay for us to express that we’re not okay. And if they would just listen, I think a lot of things would change if they would just listen to the youth perspective.
Chris Riback: In your community, does education occur only in the classroom, or does education occur even outside the classroom, in after school programs, churches, whatever it is?
Ramie Mack: Learning happens 24/7. Everywhere you go, you’re learning something. We’re always learning something, we’re always… You telling me something about yourself, I just learned something about you. You’re always learning. It’s not just in the classroom, it’s outside the classroom. It’s in a school board, it’s in a courtroom, it’s in a jail cell, it’s… Everywhere, you’re learning something. So it’s not just in the classroom.
Chris Riback: What’s next for you?
Ramie Mack: I don’t know what holds next for me. I’m just a really, I’m just a person who just… I just go with it. I know I have big things ahead of me, but I’m a type of person who plans it, but I also don’t plan it at the same time because you never know how life goes. I am about to head to college in a few years, I graduate in 2023. So my plan is to go to Winston-Salem State University, and that’s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and just… I know I’m going to do big things. I know after I graduate high school, me bettering my community, it’s not just going to stop here when I graduate. So I’m just excited, just for what the future holds for me.
Chris Riback: I’m excited for you just listening to that, and look forward to seeing all the things that you do.
Ramie Mack: Thank you.
Chris Riback: Ramie, thank you. Thank you for joining us today.