Student reps get seat at the table

Washougal High School principal: ‘These four students will ensure all voices are heard’ at Washougal School Board meetings

Washougal High School students have a voice at Washougal School Board meetings once again.

Seniors Lana White and Robert Stevens and juniors Kaitanna Burk and Daisha Paz-Mendoza are representing the school’s student body at meetings during the 2021-22 school year. The school didn’t select representatives during the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These four students will serve with honesty and integrity, ensure that all voices are heard, and truly represent our pillars of pride — perseverance, respect, integrity, diversity and empathy,” Washougal High principal Sheree Clark said during the board’s Sept. 28 meeting. “These students are not future leaders. They are current leaders — they lead now in AVID, fine arts, athletics, classroom (activities) and all that they do, and this opportunity will only continue to grow their leadership skills.”

The students were nominated for the positions by Washougal High staff members who “see their unique abilities, their drive for excellence and (desire) to be a part of a school system where they are challenged and cared for,” according to Clark.

“I want to be a student representative so that I can provide the school board with (information) and gain some perspective from the school board,” White said via Zoom during the meeting. “I think that’s really important.”

Clark has also formed a “student guiding coalition,” whose members will meet regularly with school administrators and other leaders to voice their concerns and participate in decision-making processes.

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve received feedback from students about wanting to have more voice in decision-making and to have a platform to be heard about what’s going well and what needs to change in our high school community,” Clark said. “And they are right — we need to elevate our student voice. This is their school, their high school experience, and their voice; it is incredibly important for them to be a part of this process. This future team of students will represent the diverse voices, personalities, gifts and talents that make up our student body at WHS. The expectation of these students is to model our ‘pillars of pride’ and be motivated to provide input and feedback, even when it is hard to.”

Assistant superintendent Aaron Hansen agreed with Clark, saying that students “should have ownership of their learning and (be able to) make choices about what is happening to them.”

“Later this month we’re going to be (sending) out a healthy youth survey to sixth-, eighth- and 10th-grade students. That’s one way they have an opportunity to share with us, in an honest way, about their lived experiences,” he said. “Last year we spoke with different student groups and asked them specific questions about their experiences at school and what connections they had made. It’s so important for our students to have a voice. We’ve learned about how important it is for students to be included and known, and that’s a focus of ours.”