Jan 23 • 11M

E8: Learning from youth serving school boards

Students represent on average 93% of the people in a school district. So, what is it like to represent thousands of students in a large, urban district?

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Appears in this episode

Eoin Bastable
The people, places, and ideas we overlook & what we can learn from them
Episode details
Byronie McMahon and Parker Myrus, student representatives serving Portland Public Schools

As school boards have become battlegrounds for curricula reform, racial justice, and book bans, it was surprising to learn how few students serve as school board and youth council representatives today.

Students express their opinions about their educational experiences through posts on social media or by engaging in larger-scale actions such as school walkouts. But, behind the scenes in district offices or over zoom calls, students are also engaging in less public forms of activism — where they may find themselves seated at tables with superintendents and district leaders to see how educational policies are hammered out in real-time.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Byronie McMahon and Parker Myrus, students representing Portland Public Schools (serving about 50K students). I also connected with Adam F.C. Fletcher who is an expert in the area of youth Boards and increasing youth voices inside and outside schools.

From these conversations, I gained a deeper appreciation of what it takes to meaningfully recruit and engage youth for membership on School Boards or youth councils. I was impressed with how Byronie and Parker described their roles and how they have influenced school district decisions.

Episode links

Portland Public Schools District Student Council

High School Youth Council in Portland’s McDaniel High School

Guide to Students on School Boards by Adam F.C. Fletcher

Should Youth Sit on School Boards? by Jacoba Urist (Atlantic Monthly, 2014)

Have you figured out ways to integrate youth voice meaningfully into your organization’s Board or advisory committee?

Have you served as a student representative yourself (currently or in the past)? How was this experience for you?

I’d love to hear about your experiences or questions related to this topic. Please consider leaving a comment below.

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