The Student's Voice

By Lottie L. Joiner

The parking lot of the Anne Arundel County Department of Education is filled on this unusually cool Maryland evening in mid-October. Parents, teachers, students, and community members pack the boardroom, waiting to plead their individual cases.

A tearful mother begs the board to keep an elementary school open. A concerned father argues for redistricting. A community member asks for security officers at a nearby middle school. A high school teacher seeks funds for a student band trip to London.

As a College Board representative completes a report on Advanced Placement (AP) courses and the PSAT, board president Michael McNelly calls on a fellow member who wants to comment.

"Ms. Nathanson," he says.

Clad in a black sweater and beige top, the board's student member can barely be seen behind the big wooden dais. Ashley Nathanson, a high school senior, is the only female among six men, but she's not intimidated by their age or the surroundings.

That she is even sitting at the board table illustrates another point: The person often missing from school board meetings is the very one whom policies affect the most -- the student.

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