Endings and beginnings for New Voices Texas in the 2021-2022 school year

Before the 2021 school year even started we at New Voices Texas knew it was going to be a crazy year. 

Besides learning how to do school during a pandemic, our student leaders had to adapt to a revised leadership structure, which was expanded from two student officers to six. With the additional student officers, we knew we had to give everyone specific roles so they each had focus areas to accomplish goals for this student-led organization. 

Mylo Bissell, NVT’s legislative officer, had his work cut out for him in preparing for Texas’ 87th Legislative Session, which began in January. Regional Organizer Mia Nguyen and Statewide Organizer Katlynn Fox worked to recruit supporters by using digital advocacy tools. Education Officer Keana Saberi and Club Development Officer Cade Spencer developed a New Voices Club Starter Kit to help attract more students to get involved at campuses across the state. Communications Officer Christine Vo stayed busy updating the website, creating graphics and posting on our social media channels. 

We were also pleased to offer New Voices Texas t-shirts for sale on Bonfire, giving us a way to ship our merchandise across the state. The 2020-2021 school year also marked the first year in which we operated with a political action committee, enabling us to legally collect and spend money to promote the passage of a New Voices law in Texas. We were fortunate to recruit Sara Flores to serve as the treasurer. This means she does the work of reporting the donations we collect and the money that we spend to the Texas Ethics Commission. It’s tedious paperwork, but spending money is necessary to pay for things like our website and other promotional efforts. 

It was a ridiculously difficult year to try to pass a bill through the Texas legislative process, which is tough in a non-pandemic year. With only 140 days, starting in January and ending in May, very few bills make it through the process. This year State Rep. Mary González, filed HB 422 as a New Voices bill. Rep. Harold Dutton, Chairman of the House Public Education Committee, never scheduled a hearing for the bill so it ultimately died when the session ended on May 31.

Although the bill didn’t pass, we found ways to make progress in other ways. Rep. González’s staff helped coordinate a meeting between New Voices Texas and public affairs staff at the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators. During the 2019 legislative session, these organizations have opposed New Voices legislation. This was our first opportunity to explain to them why we believe that a New Voices law will benefit school administrators and school districts by clarifying the roles of everyone involved in the student publication process.

We also started our pledge program in which we asked student publications leaders, administrators and school board members to pledge their support for passage of a New Voices law in Texas. We will use these pledges to create and publish lists of student publications, administrators and school board members who support New Voices in Texas. 

Before the school year ended, we recruited a new batch of officers to replace those who graduated. We had another outstanding batch of applicants and we have added six new student leaders and restructured to allow for four regional officers to provide better coverage of the state. We would like to quickly introduce you to these new officers now.

Keana Saberi will continue serving as the Education Officer. She attends Westwood High School in the Round Rock school district. She serves as the editor-in-chief of the Westwood Horizon student newspaper.

Catharine Li is our new Communications Officer. She attends Westwood High School in the Round Rock school district and works as the Arts and Entertainment Editor at the Westwood Horizon student newspaper.

Carey Beth Wooley is our new Legislative Officer. She attends James Bowie High School in the Austin school district and works as a staff writer for the The Dispatch student newspaper.

MaKalie Farmer is our new Club Development Officer and is a Regional Officer coveraging ESC Regions 14, 15, 16, 17,18 and 19 in West Texas. She attends Abilene High School in the Abilene school district. She serves as the editor-in-chief of the The Battery student newspaper.

Kate Knauff is a Regional Organizer covering ESC Regions 9, 10 and 11 in North Texas. She attends Hebron High School in the Lewisville school district. She works for The Hawk Eye student newspaper.

Jessica Gil is a Regional Organizer covering ESC Regions 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 in East Texas. She will also help us produce podcasts for New Voices Texas this year. She attends Bellaire High School in the Houston school district. She serves as a staff writer for the Three Penny Press student newspaper.

Amoli Agarwal is a Regional Organizer for ESC Regions 1, 2, 3, 12, 13 and 20 in Central and South Texas. She attends Westwood High School in the Round Rock school district. She works as news editor for the Westwood Horizon student newspaper.

We are excited to have these new officers carry the fight to pass a New Voices law in Texas forward. We all recognize that this will be a multi-year effort in which we will make progress incrementally over time and we intend to raise awareness and build a coalition that will eventually pass a state law that will cure Hazelwood and provide important protections for student press rights in Texas.

Introducing the NVT Regional Organizers

The regional organizing team works to build a more pronounced and diverse coalition of student journalists across the entire state. Four officers have been assigned to serve as Regional Organizers for the North, East, West and South/Central Texas regions. We have divided the the state using Texas’ regional Education Service Centers and grouped them together for each of our regional organizers to better focus their efforts.

We encourage students looking to get involved with New Voices Texas to contact the organizer focused on building the movement in your part of the state. Please review our map and the Texas Education Agency’s Education Service Center map to help you find your NVT regional organizer.

MaKalie Farmer — mkbeals@icloud.com

MaKalie is our new Club Development Officer and is a Regional Officer coveraging ESC Regions 14, 15, 16, 17,18 and 19 in West Texas. She attends Abilene High School in the Abilene school district. She serves as the editor-in-chief of the The Battery student newspaper.

Kate Knauff — kateknauff@gmail.com

Kate is a Regional Organizer covering ESC Regions 9, 10 and 11 in North Texas. She attends Hebron High School in the Lewisville school district. She works for The Hawk Eye student newspaper.

Jessica Gil — jessica.6il1578@gmail.com

Jessica is a Regional Organizer covering ESC Regions 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 in East Texas. She will also help us produce podcasts for New Voices Texas this year. She attends Bellaire High School in the Houston school district. She serves as a staff writer for the Three Penny Press student newspaper.

Amoli Agarwal — amoli1agarwal@gmail.com

Amoli is a Regional Organizer for ESC Regions 1, 2, 3, 12, 13 and 20 in Central and South Texas. She attends Westwood High School in the Round Rock school district. She works as news editor for the Westwood Horizon student newspaper.

Education Officer, Keana Saberi

As the Education officer of New Voices Texas, I work to curate educational materials that detail our mission to prioritize the legal rights of student journalists.

Keana Saberi

In conjunction with this effort, I work to inform others on the crucial role of student journalists and how the student press is a fundamental forum highlighting a myriad of perspectives and empowered voices while adhering to ethical and professional journalistic standards.

In addition, I will discuss the prevalence of censorship and how the New Voices movement seeks to combat unduly censorship of the student press. I will create educational content that is credible and can be dispersed to further expand the growing quantity of New Voices supporters and student journalism advocates.

My hope is that by the end of my high school career, I have helped to bolster this critical effort and have contributed to student journalists receiving the respect and full-encompassing rights they deserve.

New Voices Texas announces expanded board of officers for 2020 – 2021

New Voices Texas is excited to announce a new expanded line-up of officers that will lead our organization and the fight to pass a law preventing censorship and clarifying the roles of administrators in the student publication process.

An appointment committee interviewed various interested applicants from across the state and selected five of them to join the ranks as officers in a newly expanded board of officers composed of seven members. This new board structure will provide expanded leadership opportunities and more specific areas of focus for each new board member.

The 2020-2021 board will be composed of the following positions and individuals.

Legislative Officer

Mylo Bissell — Akins High School in Austin, TexasMylo-square

“I am involved in New Voices because when our principal stepped down it became a source of anxiety for our staff. We were left scared because of a lack of assurance that our right to publish what we wanted wouldn’t be protected. The work New Voices does gives me hope that we can put a stop to these anxieties for student journalists in Texas.”

Contact Mylo at bissellb006@gmail.com.

State Organizer Officer

Katlynn Fox — Hebron High School in Carrollton, TexasKatlynn-square

“I am involved in new voices because I am passionate about liberating high school journalists and securing their rights. All journalists deserve to share their stories without fear of censorship or prior review.”

Contact at Katlynn at Katlynnfoxnewvoices@gmail.com.

Regional Organizer Officer

Mia Nguyen — Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas Mia-square

“I am involved in New Voices because writing without barriers is key to providing truthful news and sharing what is important. I hope to use this organization as a platform that encourages other student journalists to use writing to express themselves, and others’ stories, and strive for a truly free scholastic press.”

Contact Mia at Nguyenmia17@gmail.com.

Communications Officer

Christine Vo — Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield, TexasChristine-square

“I got involved in New Voices to stand up for the students within my community and fight for the freedom of student press throughout Texas schools. I want to be able to bring awareness to our movement on many different platforms that engage and expand our audience by creating visual messages to convey our motivation as well as keep everyone intertwined on our journey.”

Contact Christine at trinhvchristine@gmail.com.

Club Development Officer

Cade Spencer — James Bowie High School in Austin, TexasCade-Square

“I have been a student journalist for five years, and I understand the important role a student journalist plays in a school community. I am eager for student journalists to have full press rights so that they can best fulfill their important role.”

Contact Cade at cadespennwt@gmail.com.

Education Officer

Keana Saberi — Westwood High School in Austin, TexasKeana-square

“My passion and writing skillset compelled me to take part in this organization, to fight for altered state legislation to protect the rights of the free press for high school journalism students facing censorship. I strive to fight for clearer and strengthened student press rights and to educate others on the importance of the free press, especially for student journalists.”

Contact Keana at ksaberi2019@gmail.com

Adviser Officer

David Doerr — Akins High School in Austin, TexasDoerr square crop

“I am involved in New Voices because I have enjoyed working at a school where I have had the privilege of advising student publications without problems related to censorship or prior review by administrators. This experience has allowed our journalism students to produce ethically and responsibly produced news coverage that is relevant and important for our readership. However, I understand that not all advisers and students enjoy this experience. I believe that this should not be a privilege, but a right for all across Texans.”

Contact David at doerr.david@gmail.com.

New Voices Student Leaders Institute

Do you know a high school journalist who wants to see student press freedom signed into law in your state? Are they ready to take on an increased role in the New Voices movement? 
SPLC is proud to launch the first-ever NEW VOICES STUDENT LEADERS INSTITUTE, a free, four-day program for students to develop their leadership and organizing skills, expand their role as leaders within the new Voices movement, and develop an outreach strategy that could be instrumental in your state’s New Voices efforts. 

Participants in the all-online program will be joined by SPLC staff, New Voices advocates, and special guests to learn their unique capacity as change agents, deepen their understanding of civics, advocacy and press freedom, and expand their ability to act as organizers and messengers for causes that matter to them.  By the end of the Institute, Student Leaders will have a student outreach strategy for the 2020-2021 year, including a completed social media campaign ready for release. Student leaders will also receive a certificate of participation, and ongoing training throughout the year.

The Institute will run from July 6-9, and participants should expect to work (but not necessarily sit in front of a computer) from 1pm-5pm Eastern/10am-2pm Pacific time.
Participation in the Institute is free, but students will commit to serve as student leaders in the New Voices movement during the 2020-2021 advocacy year. Student leaders will:

  • Create and carry out a student outreach and organizing plan within their state;
  • Attend regular (no more than monthly) Zoom strategy sessions with New Voices staff and leaders;
  • Work with other student leaders to conduct one New Voices-related training, either for advocates within their state or nationwide; and
  • Engage with key New Voices advocates in their state on the overall advocacy plan.

To attend, students must be a rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior student journalist (including newspaper, broadcast, and yearbook staff) in a state with an active New Voices campaign, who has demonstrated previous interest in the New Voices movement. Prior participation in organizing, lobby days or testimony is not required, but may be helpful. Attendance is limited, with no more than three students from each state, and recommendation from an adviser or active New Voices advocate is required.

Applications will be accepted until June 5.

Adviser/advocate recommendations can be submitted with this link.

Participant decisions will be made by June 10.

We look forward to seeing all your students this summer! Please contact Hillary with any questions.



Hillary DavisNew Voices Advocacy and Campaign Organizer

Student Press Law Center1608 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Ste. 211

Washington, DC  20036(202) 785-5451splc.org | New Voices | Sign up for the New Voices Newsletter.