Jaimee Nguyen represented more than 63,000 students in the Elk Grove Unified School District in the last school year when she sat on the podium during her district council meetings.
She became the first member of the district’s student council when administrators appointed her to its board last September. They chose the latest from Monterey Trail High School from 10 Elk Grove Unified high school applicants.
“I can offer students the opportunity to be heard and I can create a legacy for students to leave their mark on the district,” Nguyen told Citizen last September.
During school board meetings, the student joined the board discussions and cast symbolic votes that were not counted during the board votes. He also formed a student advisory committee that had representatives from each integral high school in the district.
Nguyen graduated last month on the Monterey Trail and enrolled at Yale University this fall.
Before ending his term, he presented what he learned as a member of the school board during the June 14 school board meeting.
“I definitely got into this wanting to make big changes like a lot of people do, but what I think is hard is just understanding how much there is on the school board that I realized, and how much there is a learning curve,” Nguyen. he told the school board. “I didn’t do everything I wanted to, but I think I came out with a greater understanding of how this system works.”
The representative focused primarily on the concerns she heard from students when she conducted student forums for the district’s nine comprehensive high schools.
Most forums were held online, due to security issues related to COVID-19. Nguyen noted that he held a forum in person at Franklin High School.
“I made it clear to the students that this is a safe space and that what is being said is being used for me,” he said about inviting students to express their views. “It was very important for the students to feel like they had an ally who was helping them.”
A common problem has been the misconduct of school staff and how students can report problems to staff without retaliation from teachers.
“Many students were very (open) with the negative experiences they had with their school staff, and were very sincere in feeling that it was almost impossible to involve the (administrators) of the site or that actual disciplinary action had been taken,” Nguyen said. .
He mentioned that all schools have an anonymous reporting system, but some schools have problems with students not taking them seriously or using them “as a joke”. He added that some students felt that there is no transparency in the operation of that system.
“If students can’t feel comfortable doing something for the system, its purpose is missing,” Nguyen said.
Other student issues mentioned by Nguyen were the closure of campus restrooms, lack of student access to female hygiene products on campus, school offices communicating to students about campus emergencies, and lack of access to school administrators.
For the future, Nguyen recommended that student forums be held at the school during lunch so that there is more student participation. He also wished to have scheduled meetings with school administrators after the forums were held.
Nguyen also wants the district’s student advisory committee to have quarterly meetings and also focus on middle and elementary schools.
Nguyen will be succeeded by Laguna Creek High School student Oliver Trach as a member of the student council next month. Councilor Carmine Forcina asked her if she had any advice for her successor and she replied that she is writing a “practice manual” for future student council members. He said his advice is to look to the school board for a mentor to guide him throughout the school year.
After Nguyen’s presentation, several administrators praised his work as a member of the student council.
“You were an exemplary first board member and we can’t be more proud,” Councilwoman Beth Albiani said. “I think it pushed us a little bit and I appreciate it and we’re changing.”
Forcina complemented Nguyen for being visible in the school district and attending various district events, especially those that honored students for their achievements.
“He says you care, they’re not empty words,” Forcina said.
Administrator Tony Perez called Nguyen a natural leader and encouraged her to become a district administrator.
“As a board of directors we are very lucky to have you,” he said. “You don’t realize how much you’ve done sitting in that seat and walking the campuses of our district and community … I want you to come back and sit here as a board member, you already have it.”
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