Student Board of Ed Reps Have Real Impact

Members of the Board of Education listen to student representatives Erica Humphreys and Derek Austin

When it was time for Erica Humphreys and Derek Austin to issue their reports to the Sparta Area Schools Board of Education, trustee Pamela May saw more than two young people standing before her. She saw the future.

Erica and Derek were student representatives during the 2014-15 school year. Even though they couldn’t vote on issues that came before the board, they were cultivating leadership skills through real-world experience that fosters citizenship and prepares them for college and the workplace, May said.

Benefits of student representatives on the Board of Education:

 

  • Develops leadership and public speaking skills
  • Students gain a better understanding of public policy and the democratic process
  • Increases self-esteem, a sense of personal control and identity
  • Students are more likely to run for the school board when they become eligible
  • They learn what’s required to be a policymaker

Source: National Center for Learning and Citizenship

“We need to hear from their point of view,” May said. “They put their heads together to raise money for charities, they interact with adults and act professional.”

In a span of five to 10 minutes, Erica and Derek’s recent reports to Board of Education members included upcoming high school-sponsored activities and the concerted effort they put into planning community-wide fundraisers, including food drives, Toys for Tots and planting wildflowers around the high school.

Change from the Inside

“It shows us how much we can impact other’s lives,” Derek said. “We’re demonstrating what we can do as a community. It represents Sparta in a good way. We’re helping to make us closer.”

In Sparta, student representatives are appointed from the Student Council. Erica and Derek were president and vice president, respectively, during the 2014-15 school year.

They may not have been directly involved in the Board of Education’s workaday responsibilities of budgets, insurance and facilities, but they get to see how the decisions are made that affect their education.

“It gives students a chance to have direct contact with the Board,” Superintendent Gordie Nickels said. “And it gives the Board a chance to ask students direct questions. Derek and Erica have done a great job.”

Trustee Andy Jensen said student representatives are flesh-and-blood examples of why he wanted to be elected to the Board of Education.

“It’s really who we’re working for here,” said Jensen, who had three children graduate from the district. “It’s always good to get the pulse of the students from the students. And they learn what it takes to run a school.”

Trustee Kim Eluskie said the student representatives help her feel she’s in the loop with students.

“Plus, they’re great presenters,” Eluskie added. “They’re speaking to people other than their peers and I believe that experience gives them confidence.”

Derek said his participation and interaction with the school board enhanced his perception of the community.

“It represents Sparta in a good way,” Derek said. “The Board itself is more involved with the activities throughout the town and that helps us be a closer community.”

“Being a student representative means I have to learn different things but that gives me an opportunity to meet some awesome people I otherwise would have never met,” Erica said.

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