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caption: Eyva Winet and their dog Mo dressed up for "gnome day" at Nova Highschool in the 2019-2020 school year.
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Eyva Winet and their dog Mo dressed up for "gnome day" at Nova Highschool in the 2019-2020 school year.
Credit: Courtesy of Eyva Winet

This Seattle high school principal says 'adults need to learn how to listen deeply to youth'

After working at Nova High School for 19 years, Eyva Winet became the new principal of the school. They work to amplify youth voices, like mine, in any way they can.

As a non-binary high school student, I have learned so much about myself and the power of my own voice from Eyva.

For about a year, I had the joy of participating in “Gender Tea,” which Eyva co-created with students.

Gender Tea is “a space to just talk about gender," Eyva says. "No matter how you identify with your gender, you could have a deeper conversation about gender, but we would be centering trans and non-binary voices.”

Through Gender Tea, I realized that my voice as a young person is just as valuable as an adult’s voice. It is a safe space where teens can share questions or problems, and anyone can respond with experience or advice.

Eyva showed me that I could use my voice for the greater good and that the same mindset could be used for every young person in the world. I would not understand how true that was until six months later.

During the aftermath of George Floyd’s death we saw the rise of youth using their voice to stand up against white supremacy, racism and other prominent social issues.

Adults need to learn how to listen deeply and be open and willing to have who they are rocked a little bit and changed and affected by the things that they hear and learn from youth.” Eyva winet, principal of nova high school

“We are in very challenging and very exciting times,” Eyva says. "People are really opening up their minds and considering deeply the power inequities that exist in our system.”

I believe the next place to work on these system inequities is in the classroom. In a traditional classroom, there's a huge power imbalance between students and teachers. If teachers were more open to allowing students to play a role in their own learning, it could change how education works.

At Nova High School, students have the opportunity to give advice and support in the classroom, and even co-lead classes. I’ve been lucky to be in a class at Nova that was co-led by a student. The class content was fresh, it had a modern twist, and it still held up as an educational space.

As young people, most of us are in classrooms up to eight hours a day being lectured and given knowledge by adults, yet we have no say in the curricula. Eyva thinks this has more to do with power than anything else.

“Like with any oppressive group or any sort of disproportionate power dynamic, adults need to learn how to listen deeply and be open and willing to have who they are rocked a little bit and changed and affected by the things that they hear and learn from youth," Eyva says.

As we wrap up the interview, Eyva says something I will never stop thinking about: “I think every human has something to teach you, and if you are not open to listening then you are probably missing out on stuff.”

This is why we need to start listening. To learn from the past, and listen to the future. If we don’t, we miss out on an entire generation of people with a different idea of how the world should be.

All audio for this story was collected following CDC safety guidelines during Covid-19.

This story was created in KUOW's RadioActive Online Radio Journalism Workshop for 15- to 18-year-olds, with production support from Kyle Norris. Edited by Lila Lakehart.

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Support for KUOW's RadioActive comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center.