Although democratic education has long been considered a cornerstone of the developmentally responsive middle school model, current neoliberal priorities in education pose a particular threat to the democratic purpose of education. Due to their emphasis on student voice and civic engagement, youth social action projects present one opportunity to preserve democratic education as a focal point of the middle school concept. In this article, I offer a case description of a middle grades youth social action project. Incorporating student perspectives, I then critically examine the extent to which the project was successful in its goal of promoting student voice and present themes in the lessons students reported learning as a result of their engagement with the social action project. The findings indicate that although middle school students faced significant challenges, the social action project was nonetheless largely successful in incorporating student voice. The majority of middle school participants reported feeling that they had a voice in their school through the social action project. Middle school students also reported learning valuable lessons connected to three themes: 1) hard work and determination, 2) teamwork and leadership skills, and 3) empowerment. In closing, I offer implications for key stakeholders in middle level education concerning the path forward for democratic education in neoliberal times.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.