With only one representative from all other participating school districts, Woodstock Principal Bill Sebring said he was honored after an additional two students were asked to serve on the council by State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge.
“I feel really proud to know that we’re definitely well represented,” Sebring said. “We’re excited about it. They’re outstanding kids and it’s a good representation of our students.”
Barge met Luke Sellers and Ben Floyd, students in Woodstock’s video broadcast program, when they followed him throughout his visit to three Cherokee County schools to produce a segment for WTV 7, the school’s weekly news program.
Sellers, son of Jean and Mark Sellers, also addressed the Cherokee County Board of Education during its Oct. 18 meeting to announce his intention to address the General Assembly regarding continued cuts to the state education budget.
Matt Cardoza, director of communications for Georgia Department of Education, said Barge was impressed with Floyd and Sellers during his tour.
“They asked some very insightful questions about policy affecting students so (Barge) thought they would be great additions,” Cardoza said. “He’s very pleased to have them as part of his advisory group.”
The three students, also including Rani Tilva, will meet with Barge twice during the school year to discuss how state policies impact the classroom and other education-related issues, as well as serving as Barge’s ambassadors to their communities.
“The Student Advisory Council allows me to hear directly from students in our schools and discuss major initiatives with them,” Barge said. “The Council also gives students the opportunity to share with me their ideas and concerns, which we can use to shape future state policies.”
According to a release by the state education department, more than 750 students from 121 districts applied to be a member of the Student Advisory Council and answered essay questions. Students were chosen based on the strength of their essay answers.
“It was very difficult to choose the members of the Student Advisory Council because there were so many great applications,” Barge said. “I’m excited about working with this group of students because I know they will be prepared to share their ideas to make education work for all students.”
Tilva, daughter of Mala and Mitesh Tilva, said she received an email from a teacher suggesting she should apply. The 16-year-old junior said she’s not sure what she wants to address at the first meeting in Atlanta, but Sellers said he’s hoping to discuss class sizes and furlough days.
“I’d really like to learn more and just discuss with them,” the 17-year-old said. “The state Board of Education basically took away the furlough day cap because the districts weren’t able to keep funding. I’d like to see what the future plan is because it’s not just hurting the teachers, it takes away instructional time.”
Floyd, son of Gary and Lori Floyd, said he would like to address keeping school relevant for students. He said he’s taken video broadcasting for the last three years and would like to see more of an emphasis on class choices.
“It’s helped me see that someday I want to be a screenwriter and go into the film industry,” the 17-year-old senior said. “I think even though that’s not a core class, like math and engineering… it helps open up what abilities you didn’t know you had and what you can do later on in life.”
Tilva said she agreed, since she has taken marketing classes since freshman year.
“Before, I didn’t even know — what is marketing? Why is that important? But it’s really everywhere, so that class really opened it up,” she said.
The three students agreed that knowing each other prior to the meeting will give them the ability to work as a team.
“Going in there, I think we have very different perspectives,” Sellers said. “But we’ll be able to work together.”
“I think us knowing each other keeps the awkwardness of not knowing someone in there away,” Floyd said...
Sellers has accepted a Navy scholarship to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that would commission him as an officer upon graduation.
After Sellers gets out of the military, he said he’s interested in getting into public policy.
“Shaping public policy is something I’m definitely interested in,” Sellers said. “Mainly because I think as you get older you start to realize how everything that goes through the floor of the legislature, how much it affects you in your day-to-day life or someone in your family. Once you start to realize the personal connection… I think you start to realize that you’ve got a stake in it. You’re not doing your part as a citizen if you’re not staying informed.”
Tilva said she hopes to have the opportunity to weigh in on several of the issues facing students today, as the decisions could impact her peers.
“It affects me and it affects everyone,” Tilva said. “I know that I can make a difference, so that’s what I’d like to do.”
Floyd, who is planning on attending Georgia Southern University with an ROTC scholarship and graduating as a commissioned officer, said he has four younger siblings and is looking toward their future.
“One of my siblings is in the second grade so what I say could possibly help her out further on down the road,” Floyd said.
The first meeting of the Student Advisory Council will be held Nov. 28 at the state Department of Education offices in Atlanta.