Claire Harrison

The new student advisors to the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 school board this year are seniors Claire Harrison and Elena Pinedo. The two replace last year’s student advisors Lily Adlesick and Michael Ciszewski who both graduated last in May. 

Adlesick and Ciszewski were the first ever student advisors to the RBHS school board. They were selected after former board member Tom Jacobs pushed for adding non-voting student advisors to the school board.

The school board felt that that having student advisors was valuable and decided to continue the positions.

Harrison and Pinedo were selected this year from a field of six applicants. They have different backgrounds and experiences. Harrison has been a very involved and vocal student. 

She became especially interested watching some of the drama unfold on the school board last year. Twice last year she made statements during the public comment portion of school board meetings, defending teachers who backed remote learning at a time when some school board members were advocating for a quick shift back to in-person school. 

Harrison also made a public comment at a December meeting criticizing the way a few school board members spoke to band director James Baum at an earlier school board meeting.

Elena Pinedo

She also has been involved in many different extracurricular activities at RBHS. As a freshman and sophomore she served as president of her class. This year she is a drum major for the marching band, an editor for the student newspaper and a leader of the RBHS Model UN Club. 

Harrison has served as the stage manager for a number of the high school’s theatrical productions and also manages to find the time to work two part-time jobs.

Pinedo transferred to RBHS from Fenwick High School after her sophomore year when her family moved to Riverside from Berwyn. She is a varsity softball player and a member of the Organization for Latin American Students. Pinedo said that she applied for the student advisor position after being encouraged to do so by Principal Hector Freytas. 

She said she thinks it is significant to have a Latino student advisor, since students who are members of minority groups might to be more attuned to the concerns of minority students. The most recent Illinois School Report Card indicates that 36.7 percent of RBHS students are Hispanic.

School board President Deanna Zalas and Jacobs, who left the school board in July, interviewed all the applicants for the student advisor position. Zalas said she liked that Harrison and Pinedo bring a different set of experiences to the board with Harrison having extensive experience in the performing arts and Pinedo being a varsity athlete.

Jacobs, who resigned because he moved out of the district, liked having two student advisors and once said that he thought it would be a good idea to have one boy and one girl. This year the school board decided two girls were the best fit for the position.

Harrison said she feels it is her job to represent all students and not just share her own opinions. During the first school board meeting the new student advisors attended on Aug. 10, Harrison demonstrated that she will not hesitate to ask questions. 

She twice asked unprompted questions, one about how RBHS’ student vaccination rates compared to other schools in the area and one about how funds set aside for executive-functioning instruction are used.