Raising My Words: I Advocate

For better or worse, I’m pretty soft-spoken. If only I had a nickel every time someone’s first response to me was, “Come again?” Or, my favorite since becoming a teacher, “Use your teacher voice, Kaischa.”

The irony is, when I use my “teacher voice” in my classroom, I don’t generally raise my voice. Instead, I have a small microphone, almost endlessly strapped around my neck. I like it because it allows me to project without shouting, yelling, or screeching. In essence, I keep the peace and raise my words.

Over the last year, I’ve been inspired to raise my words more outside of school, in my community of Traverse City. The inspiration? Being hit at 35 mph while using the Grandview Parkway crosswalk near Elmwood Avenue. The crash devastated my body, which required extensive treatment and a year of physical therapy to recover. It did not, however, devastate my spirit.

I’ve come to the profound realization that living is not anything to take for granted. Moreover, my existence, my message, have meaning and power beyond what I used to recognize. Driven by that gratitude and a desire for positive social impact, I’ve found an avenue to share my voice with Norte’s advocacy efforts. I share their passion for happy, healthy, strong communities and fully support the effort of safe, accessible, and connected places to walk and bike.

Last year, Norte helped me tell my story. I spoke with reporters, AM talk show hosts, and met with transportation officials. Since then, the Michigan Department of Transportation has improved what I affectionately call “my crosswalk” with signals that stop traffic for people crossing the street. I’m thankful for that improvement, yet at the same time recognize we need growing effort and investment that prioritizes safety across the community as standard.

My question to you is: How are you using your voice? How do you raise your words? In Norte, I’ve found a community where my voice is respected, valued and part of something larger than myself. Transformation happens when voices join, and I invite you to be part of a healthy, happy, strong transformation.


Kaischa Smith is a teacher at Willow Hill Elementary and currently sits on Norte’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place Committee. She told this story in Norte’s first-ever Annual Report.

Read the 2019 report online or download a PDF version below.


Download “Norte's 2019 Annual Report” NorteAnnualReport2020-final.pdf – Downloaded 468 times – 25 MB