Teenagers on State Boards of Education—Why Including the Voices of Young Women Is Essential


Eleni Livingston and Rana Banankhah, each 17 years outdated, are voting members of their states’ board of schooling. Their experiences present the significance of scholar voices in policymaking.

The Future is Ms. is an ongoing collection of reports studies by younger feminists. This collection is made doable by a grant from SayItForward.org in assist of stripling journalists and the collection editor, Katina Paron.

When 17-year-old Eleni Livingston was elected as the only real scholar member of Massachusetts’s state board of schooling, she fearful about getting into a world of stern whispers and political jargon. Nonetheless, when she walked into her first assembly, her fellow board members welcomed her with agency handshakes and encouragement to talk her thoughts.

“On the board it may be intimidating to go in, as a younger girl, as a young person, into an atmosphere like that and leap proper in and begin advocating for my friends,” Livingston stated. “However I believe that’s what’s been superb.”

Like Livingston, Rana Banankhah of California serves on her state’s board of schooling, appearing because the voice of over 6 million college students. After making it by a course of involving detailed essays, utility questionnaires and an appointment by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the 17-year-old now works with skilled and broadly revered policymakers starting from professors to highschool district directors.

“I’ve seen that our state board really does respect you and deal with you simply as each different grownup board member, which I actually admire,” Banankhah stated. “To be handled like an grownup, although I can’t even vote for [U.S.] president, was actually eye-opening.”

Rana Banankhah attends a Modesto Metropolis Colleges board assembly. (Courtesy)

Banankhah and Livingston are two of five teens within the nation who’re voting members of their states’ boards of schooling. They assist determine highschool commencement necessities, decide instructor {qualifications} and develop state scholar assessments. Additionally they bridge the gender hole in schooling management—since girls make up solely 31 percent of school district chiefs.

Having girls in coverage making positions “does incorporate into the dialogue a perspective and a set of points and priorities that may in any other case be absent,” stated Jennifer Lawless, professor of politics on the College of Virginia. “And for younger girls specifically, it’s important as a result of they’re the subsequent technology.”

Since July, Banankhah has targeted her consideration on rising teen COVID-19 vaccination charges. Presently, 64 percent of Californians between the ages of 12 and 17 are absolutely vaccinated. Her digital outreach efforts embrace a vaccine information and promotion webinar hosted by California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond that reached over 500,000 properties. She is also working with the California Affiliation of Pupil Councils to draft and move legislation to create an advisory group for present and future state scholar board members, permitting for extra teen involvement.

“College students have a particularly helpful perspective that not one of the different board members have, which is one wherein they’ve really lived the insurance policies that the board is passing,” Banankhah stated.

Rana Banankhah makes a touch upon Zoom throughout her first California State Board of Training assembly. (screenshot supplied by Rana Banankhah)

Livingston serves on the price range committee and usually promotes the funding of mental-health targeted assets for college kids {and professional} improvement geared toward educating lecturers on the indicators of a scholar in misery.

Having younger folks on state boards promotes fairness in schooling by permitting for direct scholar suggestions, Nationwide Affiliation of State Boards of Training President Robert Hull stated in an interview with Ms. State boards are more and more prioritizing scholar voices and Hull predicted that the variety of states with scholar voting members will enhance. Presently, Garren Hamby (Tennessee), Kevin Bokoum (Maryland) and Angelita Peña (Vermont) function the one different voting teenagers on state boards of schooling within the nation.

“All of us have completely different backgrounds,” Livingston stated. “All of us have completely different experiences. There’s by no means an ideal option to just be sure you’re together with everyone, but it surely’s actually necessary to strive from an fairness standpoint.”

The Future is Ms. is dedicated to amplifying the voices of younger girls all over the place. Share considered one of your individual tales about your path to empowerment at SayItForward.org.


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