The two new student representatives to Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education both live in North Riverside and have gone to the same school at least since they were in fifth grade at Ames Elementary School.
Seniors Aja McKay and Paulina Carmona attended their first District 208 school board meeting as this year’s student representatives on Aug. 9. Both student representatives will bring a strong focus on equity to the board table.
“I applied because I wanted to be a voice for the students, and I also wanted be a person of comfort to those who look like me as we do have a growing minority population at RB,” said McKay, who is biracial.
McKay said that she would like to see more diversity among the faculty at RBHS.
“All throughout my schooling I’ve never had an African American teacher,” McKay said.
Initially, only one student applied for the student representative position so administrators and teachers encouraged students they thought would be a good fit to apply. Ultimately the school board received applications from six students, according to Principal Hector Freytas.
McKay is a member of board for the RBHS chapter of the National Honor Society, is a co-captain of the girls swimming team and is a high jumper and sprinter on the girls track team. She spent the summer working as a lifeguard at the Riverside Golf Club.
She was encouraged to apply for the student representative position by Freytas.
“I thought that was a big motivation, because if he sees something in me then I can be a voice for the students,” McKay said.
Carmona said she was encouraged to apply by her counselor, Melissa Carey. She is also a member for the National Honor Society as well as the RBHS Math Team, the Girls Who Code Club and the Spanish National Honor Society.
This past spring Carmona was one of six RBHS students who participated in the Young Community Changemakers program of the Hinsdale-based Community Memorial Foundation. The program exposes high school students to philanthropy, working in a group to decide how to donate some of the foundation’s money. That experience, plus her counselor’s suggestion, gave Carmona the confidence to apply for the student representative position.
“I really enjoyed making bigger decisions that impact a lot of people,” Carmona said. “That was what really made me try to go for another leadership role.”
Both McKay and Carmona said that they would try to represent all RBHS students as well as give their own opinions.
“I’m very appreciative that I was chosen and thought of to take on this role, and I will make sure to do my best to get opinions from each and every student,” McKay said.
After completing an application which included a short essay about why they wanted to be a student representative to the school board, each applicant had an interview with Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, Freytas and school board members Lorena Gasca and Ryan VenHorst.
“It was actually really intimidating, because we were at a big conference table and they were at one end and I was at the other,” Carmona said.
At their first meeting last week the new student representatives just observed and, when asked if they wanted to say anything, they demurred.
“I was nervous, obviously, but I’m excited to get to work with them and get to know the process of the board meeting better,” Carmona said.
This is the third year that there have been student representatives to the RBHS school board. For the second consecutive year two girls were chosen and five of the six student representatives thus far have been girls. VenHorst said only one boy applied to be a student representative this year.
“I would just love to see more boys getting involved in some of the student government things or what we’re doing with the student representatives on the board,” said VenHorst, who had previously noted that RBHS student government positions seem to be dominated by girls.
This story has been changed to correct the spelling of Aja McKay’s first name. The Landmark regrets the error.