Listening to Student Voices

Five essays written by Sidwell Friends 6th graders were selected for publication in the current issue of Friends Journal, a monthly magazine about the contemporary Quaker experience. The magazine hosts the Student Voices Project, a writing competition centered around Quaker values. The focus this year was on community.

“I want my students’ writing to feel as authentic as possible,” says 6th grade teacher Becky Farnum. “I am always looking for opportunities for my students to write for possible publication. It was absolutely perfect—a chance for them to work on their writing skills and reflect on a query that wove Quaker ideas into the classroom.”

Students began by exploring different statements about community, trying to define and question what makes and sustains community. “I felt that it was hard to make the essay personal because I used to think community was general for everyone,” observed Layla, one of the students whose essay was chosen. “But now I know that community can be found in small ways and in kindness—contributing to the bigger picture.” Katie, another selected writer, “learned that each person has their own definition of community that is special to them.”

Friends Journal offers prompts to help students concentrate on an element of community. The essays selected for publication were:

What are the important elements of building a loving, safe, and supportive community?

“How to Define Community” by Katie Levy ’22

What are some ways to support and care for each member of your community?

“Untouched” by Aviva Wright ’22
“Happy to Be There” by Layla Dawit ’22
“Out of the Snow” by Ella Majd ’22

What happens when there are differences or conflicts within a community?

“I’m a Muslim Too” by Bilaal Degener ’22

“In writing, reading, and revising their drafts and their peers’ drafts,” notes Becky, “students engaged in conversation about the challenges of writing and expressing their ideas clearly, while also exploring and marking their own Quaker values.” Ella, one of the selected student writers, shared her own reflection on the process: “Writing my essay on community was really rewarding. Since I was writing about a difficult way to live, it made me feel very thankful to be in a community that . . . cared for me.”

Read the essays at

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