New program gives students a voice in front of district leaders

Local News

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — More than 1,000 students walk the halls of Urbana High School every day. They all come from different backgrounds and have different points of view. Now, Urbana’s Board of Education is going to get a better idea of what they stand for thanks to three student ambassadors.

Sophomore Parker Schroeder and freshman Mycal Turner are the district’s first ever BOE Student Ambassadors. Sophomore Achly Ramos is an alternate.

This program started because board members want to know more about what students are going through and what they think about district-wide policies. The students applied for the positions, went through an interview process and took an oath to serve through the rest of the school year.

“I feel that although it’s easy for somebody from the board to come for a day or two, us students actually know what’s going on on a daily basis,” says Turner. “I want to show the students, that especially look like me, that there’s nothing wrong with standing out and fighting for what you think is right.”

Ambassadors won’t be able to vote or go into closed executive sessions, but they will serve as the voice of the student body. They will study the agenda, chat with their peers and then answer board members’ questions or share concerns.

“I think it’s an important job for someone to do, I’m kind of honored,” says Parker Schroeder.

Schroeder hopes this program leads to a behavior shift inside of the school.

“I think if the student’s opinions were heard, it would change a lot. It might motivate them because they actually feel needed,” he says.

Turner has a long list of changes he wants to see. One of them? A stronger presence of teachers to lessen hallway disruptions during passing periods.

“There’s already many staff members that have lots of great relationships with students, so if we put those staff members there, I think that would have a positive outcome,” he says.

Ramos is leading a charge to get her peers involved in school activities, and her participation in the BOE Student Ambassador program has already yielded action. She asked if the board agenda could be translated into Spanish to help her and other students. The district agreed and there will be a Spanish version of the agenda moving forward.

“I’m Hispanic, I’m Puerto Rican … not many Hispanic kids do a lot of stuff like this because some of them are scared, or they’re just not interested, so I’m trying to make that change,” she says. “There were so many things I wanted to do when I was a kid, but I didn’t get the chance because I was too shy and I would have preferred that someone else do it first and then I would do it — but there was nobody who did it, so I’m trying to take the first step.”

That first step can be a tall task, but it’s one all three ambassadors feel prepared to take on.

“I want to make this school safer. I want to make sure every student that comes in here does not have to go home to their parents and say anything about not feeling safe. I just want this school to be the best that it can be,” says Turner.

A total of nine students applied to be part of this program. Applications for next school year will open in the spring.

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