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Get to Know Our 2023-24 Student School Board Representatives

Get to Know Our 2023-24 Student School Board Representatives

At Richfield Public Schools, we strive to make sure student voice is always a part of the decision-making process. Leading the charge are our three student school board representatives. We sat down with our 2023-24 student reps: Gerardo Castañeda Lopez, Chimdalu Dibua and Paola Hernandez Zuniga. They shared with us how they make their voices heard at the school board level, their goals and aspirations, and advice for future student board representatives. You can read their responses below. (These responses have been lightly edited.)

Gerardo Castañeda Lopez

Gerardo

How do you communicate with the adult members of the school board to ensure that student voices are effectively included in decision-making processes?

One very simple but effective way to communicate my ideas is to simply speak up. When I talk, everyone makes me feel heard, and they always reassure me. They create a friendly and comfortable environment which pushes for student-led discussions.

What are your future goals and aspirations as a student representative, and how do you hope to leave a lasting impact on RPS after you graduate?

As a student representative, my future goals revolve around advocating for student needs and creating a positive environment. I want to better the communication between students, staff and administration by making sure that all voices are heard and valued. Ultimately, I hope to leave a lasting impact on RPS by empowering future student leaders and leaving behind a history of collaboration, empathy and positive change.

In what ways have you been able to advocate for changes or improvements within RPS based on student feedback and concerns?

One thing which started a discussion in one of our meetings was me bringing up how students were upset with our medicine policy. I would consistently hear students being upset and frustrated by the rules so I decided to mention it. This ended up getting most of the members to start asking questions and trying to get answers from the student representatives, which made me feel very listened to and valued.

What advice would you give to other students who might be interested in becoming student representatives on their school boards? What qualities or skills do you think are essential for success in this role?

My advice to students interested in becoming student representatives on their school boards is to get involved in school activities and to show their leadership skills. It's also important to be passionate about representing the students in your school and advocating for their needs. Additionally, being open minded, empathetic and resilient will help to fulfill the responsibilities of a student representative effectively.

Chimdalu Dibua

Chimdalu

How do you communicate with the adult members of the school board to ensure that student voices are effectively included in decision-making processes?

Honesty. It can get really easy to think that adult board members know everything about everything. However, when they do get things wrong about what it means to be a student, I try and make sure to first, understand that they may be approaching a problem as an adult, who have experienced more than we have as current students. But ultimately, my job is to approach their concerns and questions with my experience as a current student, in an honest yet understanding manner.

What are your future goals and aspirations as a student representative, and how do you hope to leave a lasting impact on RPS after you graduate?

Last year, my main goal was to try to learn how the school board system worked. Now my goal is to make sure that people outside of our board, especially students, understand not only why some systems are put in place for them, but also for me to open doors for students to get to know the people who serve them as well.

In what ways have you been able to advocate for changes or improvements within RPS based on student feedback and concerns?

Many people have different perceptions of what it means to be a student board representative, and the power that I hold. Because of the many perceptions, I use social media and most importantly offline conversations to not only listen to students' concerns but also to help them understand what I can do for them as a student board representative.

What advice would you give to other students who might be interested in becoming student representatives on their school boards? What qualities or skills do you think are essential for success in this role?

It can feel intimidating to not only have serious conversations with adults but also advocate for hundreds of students; but just know if you were chosen to take on this role as a student board representative and want to make your voice and other students' voices heard, then you can do it. And there are so many people who cheer you on as you become a student board representative.

Paola Hernandez Zuniga

Paola

How do you communicate with the adult members of the school board to ensure that student voices are effectively included in decision-making processes?

To communicate with the school board members, I ensure that if I don’t understand something, I ask questions to clarify the situation to understand best if there is something I should add to the conversation. This helps me see if there is something I should say to best communicate student needs. If I feel there is something that I should further communicate, I talk to board members individually regarding something they can help with or something I think they should know. 

What are your future goals and aspirations as a student representative, and how do you hope to leave a lasting impact on RPS after you graduate?

I hope to continue being a part of important discussions regarding Richfield Public Schools so that the students who remain in these schools can have a school experience that continuously improves as it is constantly being worked on while including the voice of current students who want to voice any thoughts or ideas they have about the schools in this district. 

In what ways have you been able to advocate for changes or improvements within RPS based on student feedback and concerns?

Being a part of the conversation at school board meetings has allowed me to voice my perspective as a student who currently attends Richfield High School. This has caused me to share ideas or concerns I or any student has regarding things that occur at the school to best find a solution or have a discussion with board members who have the power to create good changes in students’ school experiences.

What advice would you give to other students who might be interested in becoming student representatives on their school boards? What qualities or skills do you think are essential for success in this role?

Be bold and confident. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion because once you’re there, you’re the voice for the students who might not have been as courageous as you to speak up on any issues or ideas students have. You get to be a voice for change so as long as you’re confident and willing to speak up, you will be able to contribute to a positive impact as a student board representative. 

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