Texans Taking Care of Texans: Meet This Quarter’s Super Volunteers

Last week, the State Board of Education (SBOE) chose to delay the revision of Texas’ social studies curriculum, referred to as the Social Studies TEKs, wasting $200,000 of state funds allocated to workgroups. The members who voted to delay revisions are allowing themselves to be influenced by a fringe minority spreading falsehoods and misinformation. The result is that the voices of our communities and advocates of honest, accurate education are being silenced.

TFN has always fought for Texas school children at the SBOE. But our work would be impossible without the dedication of volunteers who sign up to testify, recruit others to testify, organize at local school board levels, and respond to our various calls to action. While our fight at the SBOE is far from over, we recently sat down with two super volunteers for a brief chat. This is the first installment of a running series. 

Meet Meaghan Bihun (they/them) – San Antonio

“Restoring power to communities to teach the truth and empower our youth will help change the present and future for the better.” 

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Meaghan was a super volunteer at our July 26 Read-In, assisting in passing out books, and welcoming attendees to the event. They also drove from San Antonio to Austin to testify at the SBOE meeting on August 1. We’re huge fans of Meaghan’s passionate commitment to public education in Texas! 

Why did you decide to volunteer with TFN?

My mother was a Texas public school teacher, often outspoken about the rights of educators and students and an active member of her union. As I moved out of state, my foundational education in Texas public schools and listening to my mother share her experience until her retirement helped me see issues in education nationwide and how issues in Texas heavily impact students across the United States. As my family returned to Texas, I settled into the realities of current Texas religious freedom, individual freedom, and educational standards with my own public school students. I believe strongly in public education and found myself dismayed with the ways in which the truth is being hamstrung by current political policy and debate. My own work in nonprofits based around serving Title 1 schools made it clear to me that more hands were needed to uplift the voices of those already speaking on these important issues in Texas, which led me to TFN.

If you had the opportunity to change things in Texas today, what would you first touch?

There are so many issues plaguing Texas right now—religious extremism, political division, hypocritical imposition of limitations on speech and personal liberty—that stem from the lack of compassion of some narrow-minded, self-serving leaders. While these are big problems to tackle, education is the bedrock of all freedoms—a free, public education that teaches facts and history, and doesn’t skip the uncomfortable details. In listening to our lawmakers that enact legislation that harms many communities, it is clear they can’t see the impact on communities they are harming and could benefit from a greater education in the experience and reality of all Americans, not just their donors. Restoring power to communities to teach the truth and empower our youth will help change the present and future for the better.  

Why do you think it’s important to show up for our community?

I left Texas, certain there was no place for me as myself, and I supported from a distance as members of my own communities struggled for the right to marry those they love, the right to exist, and the right to be themselves. When I returned, I found myself needing to carry the fight more directly once again, to give aid to those whose voices are most aching to be heard. Community helps us all find the support we need to live, be heard, and hear others as they live. In community we can know our histories, find our joy, and carry the load of the work to be done together. 

What’s your message for Texans who say things will work themselves out?

Texans have been leaders of innovation and self-determination for most of Texas’s history. What many Texans may be forgetting is that things rarely work themselves out—we need Texans stepping in to help one another, to help our communities, to solve problems and improve our lives. It takes Texans, standing up and working hard together, to make things right; it’s time to be part of that progress for all Texans. 

Meet Shayna Levy – Austin

“When the ballot box is accessible, more people have the opportunity to make their voices heard in important elections that could safeguard civil rights and liberties in our state.” 

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Shayna has been an advocate throughout our Teach the Truth training series. She has attended our Teach the Truth Read-In as our guest student speaker to talk about the implications of educational censorship on her and many other Texas students. She recently testified at the SBOE meeting on August 1 to ensure that the public and board members know the importance of an inclusive and accurate education in our state.  

Why did you decide to volunteer with TFN?

I decided to volunteer with TFN because I really like the work that they are doing, especially when it comes to school curriculums and book bans across Texas. I think their work is really crucial because of the numerous attempts by the Texas legislature to politicize school curriculums. 

If you had the opportunity to change things in Texas today, what would you first touch?

If I had the power to change things in Texas today, I would first protect voting rights and make voting more accessible. Because I feel that when voting rights are protected, it makes it easier to protect other rights. When the ballot box is accessible, more people have the opportunity to make their voices heard in important elections that could safeguard civil rights and liberties in our state. 

Why do you think it’s important to show up for our community?

I think it’s important to show up for our community because regardless of whether or not we are affected by certain issues, working to make the world a better place is our civic duty. 

What’s your message for Texans who say things will work themselves out?

Change has always been made by people on the front lines, fighting to make a difference, and now is no different. “If not now, when?” – Hillel