Who represents six million students? Meet Naomi.

by Elaheh Khazi | September 10, 2022 | 0 Comments
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Want the job?

In many school districts across California, students can serve on their local school board. The California State Board of Education includes a student seat, too, representing nearly 6 million students. This is one of the most important leadership roles a high school student can hold, in California or anywhere. It is the real, hands-on experience of serving as full board member along with 10 adult members.

Read Ed100 lesson 2.10 for more about students voices in the California education system.

The State Board is currently accepting applications from high school juniors who would like to serve in this extraordinary role in their senior year. This post explains more about the position and how to apply for it by the October 7 deadline.

The current student member of the State Board is Naomi Porter, who attends public school in Los Angeles county. At the 2022 Ed100 Academy for Student Leaders this summer, Naomi talked about the position with Rana Banankhah, her predecessor. In conversation with Alvin Lee, the student host of the event, both student leaders discussed the position and the incredible opportunity of being able to represent their peers.

Rana Banankhah and Naomi Porter’s advice for student leaders and prospective applicants

During the 2022 conference of the Ed100 Student Academy, Alvin Lee, Rana Banankhah, and Naomi Porter had an inspiring conversation about student voice and representation within the education system.

“Youth voice is not only important, but I think it’s critical,” said Banankhah. “[Students] are the major stakeholders and are affected by these policies. So, to not have any youth voice would not only be detrimental to youth but also to policymakers.”

Both Rana and Naomi encouraged their peers to voice their opinions. “We need to listen to students and create places where students can have those opportunities,” said Naomi. She urged students to seek out student board member positions within their school districts.

Naomi also talked about what made her decide to get involved. “Seeing the disparities in our education system has really motivated me to start asking questions and being curious. I just want my voice to be heard at the table.”

Rana said she got interested in education policy as a student in an area where over 80% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged. “It came to a point where I started to question if there is anything I can do to change that.”

Students as advocates

Both student leaders voiced their opinions about activism. They both stressed the importance of making positive change in their communities and taking part in important decisions whether that be attending LCAP meetings or board meetings.

Regarding the student board member position specifically, Rana talked about how she “tried her best to listen to students and try to involve more students in what the board was doing. It was a privilege to be that voice for the rest of the student body” in both her own district and the greater state of California.

Deadline: October 7. Here’s how to apply.

The final deadline for the State Board of Education to receive your complete application packet for the student position on the 2023-24 California State Board of Education is October 7, 2022, by 5 PM.

To be eligible, you need to be currently in 11th grade in a California public school — traditional or charter are both okay.

The application requires three letters of recommendation. In theory, these letters may be sent separately, but it is much safer to bundle everything, including the letters of recommendation, into a single PDF file. This means your recommenders need to send their letter to you, not to the State Board of Education.

How should I prepare?

I am glad you asked. Start by watching Alvin’s interview with Rana Banankhah and Naomi Porter, embedded above.

Ed100 Graduate CertificateThe Ed100 Graduate Certificate

To be a strong candidate for this position, it’s important to do your homework. Sign up at Ed100.org to learn about the education system and how change has happened in the past. If you complete all of the lessons in Ed100, you can earn your certificate as an Ed100 graduate. Be sure to mention this in your application and your resume.

Another great resource to learn about current issues is EdSource, California's news source of record for education. Of course, you should also look at the State Board of Education’s website. You’ll be able to access video footage of meetings, read some of the past agendas, and sign up for emails.

Is it worth the trouble to apply?

Yes. Look, it’s a long shot, but there’s no fee to try and there’s a lot to learn from the application process, and you never know where it will lead. Think of it as early preparation for college applications. Even if you don’t make the first cut, the SABE conference is amazing. Attending it is a required part of the application process, and there’s no cost if you advance to the first round. You’ll meet some great people, including Naomi.

Elaheh Khazi is a senior at Mission San Jose High School. She joined the Ed100 Student Academy as a sophomore, and ever since has been inspired to be a part of the change she looks for in the education system. She has served as an Ed100 outreach ambassador, a discussion director, and a social media leader. She is also a part of multiple student organizations dedicated to student advocacy such as Bay Area Student Activists (BAStA) and GenerationUp (GENup). In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry, watching movies, and learning languages.

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