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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — There's a new face at the round table at State College Area school board meetings every Monday night.
State High senior Reilly Ebbs, 18, is the first student representative on the board, acting as the voice for the student body.
She sits at the end of the table next to board member Laurel Zydney, and even has her own nameplate.
Ebbs is not a voting member, but she addresses student needs that she recommends should be met by the nine-member board of directors.
And she is taking the role a step further with a goal — by the end of the year — to make it an elected position at the high school.
"Residents vote for board members, so why not have students vote for their representative?" Ebbs said.
She said the idea to get students more involved with the district came last school year after having a sit-down with former student body president Kevin Drago and vice president David Smith.
"We knew of some other schools that had a student rep and wanted to get one here," Ebbs said. "Members of the student government attend board meetings three or four times a year, but wanted a position that was more permanent."
Ebbs, the former student government secretary and current president, took the idea to State High Principal Scott DeShong, who gave the green light to present the idea to the board.
She said she pressed the issue last summer and into the beginning of the school year, and in December officially got the OK.
"The board was shocked — in a good way — and really excited, and agreed to have one of us there," Ebbs said.
Without the intention of being the first to hold the position, she officially took the seat in January.
"Reilly expressed interest in the board, and I think ... she spent a lot of time working with the community and doing tours of the high school and being really proactive, and wanted to make sure there could be a position for students where someone was present at meetings," DeShong said. "I think she thought a meaningful role could come out of the whole process with her peers, and I think she was invested in her school and recognized the contribution she could make."
Ebbs will attend every board meeting to express student concerns and, in return, debrief students on what happens at the meetings.
The new block scheduling at the high school next year will upset a lot of students, she said. "So I bring up their questions, and then facts back about how the schedule could benefit them," Ebbs said. "We also have something new called the express (lunch) lane, and as per the students, I suggested to the food service coordinator (Megan Schaper) that maybe the district could make it an app-based system, and was told back that they would look into that."
By the end of the school year, Ebbs said, she hopes all the paperwork will be done to make it an elected position.
A requirement Ebbs is working on with members of student government and school administration is that a nominee must have at least two years of student government experience.
Student government is composed of two branches: the general assembly, which oversees each class; and leadership council, which represents student clubs, extracurricular activities and athletics.
"My goal is to have one or two underclassmen from leadership council nominated by teachers who select students for the position," Ebbs said.
DeShong said the high school would come up with a voting process for students that would be a "sound and fair process, with an outcome that can positively impact the student body."
"I'm hoping kids strive for this instead of just making it something to put on a college application," Ebbs added. "For students who are actively involved in our district, this is the ultimate position to allow hands-on experience and discussion with the district leaders who make our school's decisions."
Information from: Centre Daily Times, http://www.centredaily.com
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