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High schoolers from across Illinois represent student interests

SPRINGFIELD, IL – High school students eager to learn about state education and policy decisions can apply for one of 13 open positions on the Illinois State Board of Education’s Student Advisory Council. Students who are entering the coming school year (2015-16) as a sophomore, junior or senior in an Illinois public high school are eligible to apply by May 29.

“ISBE’s student representatives provide an important perspective on issues in public education,” said State Board of Education Chairman James T. Meeks. “The board looks forward to meeting and working alongside such talented high school students from across the state.”

Members of the Student Advisory Council (SAC), which was established in 1975, have demonstrated a strong work ethic and the ability to think creatively and work well in groups. The council shares student concerns and provides feedback on ISBE’s existing and proposed programs, policies and regulations and annually tackles one major issue and presents findings to the State Board.

“The SAC has made me value my education and opportunities more deeply,” said Isabella Ruggiero, a member of this year’s council and a senior at Downers Grove North High School. “I have gained perspective and new insight because of my experience working with individuals from all across the state.”

This school year members of ISBE’s Student Advisory Council are exploring a possible statewide program that will demonstrate students’ Career Technical Education skills. They will present their research project at the June 17 State Board of Education meeting. In previous years, the council has examined issues related to cyberbullying, mandatory physical education for high school students, and high school dropouts.

“I have had the pleasure of working with a very diverse group of students. We possess some similarities, but our differences are what made us stronger advocates, collectively, for students in Illinois,” said Niquan Dawson, a junior member of this year’s SAC. “I realize that one of the most important things I learned is that the student voice has the potential to move mountains, as long as we aren’t afraid to use it.” Dawson attends J. Sterling Morton West High School in Berwyn.

The following five SAC members, listed by school, city of residence and current school year, plan to return to the council next year:

Name School City Grade
Niquan Dawson J. Sterling Morton West High School Berwyn Junior
Mackenzie Flynn Stillman Valley High School Stillman Valley Junior
Colleen Madden Carlinville High School Carlinville Junior
Nicole Marcus Naperville North High School Naperville Junior
Travis Whitt Altamont High School Altamont Junior

The following members, all graduating seniors, served on ISBE’s Student Advisory Council for at least the current school year:

Name School City
Annish Aggarwal Neuqua Valley High School Naperville
Hannah Auten Benton High School Benton
Brandy Brown East St. Louis High School East St. Louis
Benjamin Bruce East Peoria High School East Peoria
Luke Hahn East Richland High School Olney
Shelby Ireland Riverton High School Riverton
Mathis Mateus Belvidere North High School Belvidere
Morgan Rich Deer Creek-Mackinaw High School Mackinaw
Isabella Ruggiero Downers Grove North High School Downers Grove
Khushi Suri Proviso Math & Science Academy Forest Park
Kayla VonBurg Carlyle High School Carlyle
Kaylia Williams North Chicago High School North Chicago
Donald Rapier Lindlom Math & Science Academy Chicago

“My favorite aspect of the SAC is sitting in on the board meetings,” said Kayla VonBurg, a senior at Carlyle High School. “Sitting next to a board member and actually watching a meeting take place is an experience that is truly unique to the Student Advisory Council, and those experiences will be memories that I take with me through my postsecondary education and into my career.”  VonBurg plans to attend the University of Mississippi and study international and pre-medical studies.

The deadline to submit an application for the 2015-16 Student Advisory Council is 5 p.m. Friday, May 29. Applications are available online at http://www.isbe.net/SAC/default.htm. Interviews will be scheduled in July for those applicants chosen as possible members.

“Being on the ISBE SAC has impacted my life in so many ways. The experience in general of getting to represent the students of Illinois, specifically from my district, is incredible,” said Shelby Ireland, a senior at Riverton High School. “The most helpful thing I am taking away from SAC is the leadership experience and knowing that when everyone works together, anything is possible.”

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