Kentridge senior Austin Freeman was named the first student representative serving on the Kent School District Board of Directors.
According to Melissa Laramie, director of communications public affairs, the opportunity to serve on the school board as a student comes to those students who are apart of the Student Leadership Advisory.
The advisory is a two year leadership program providing opportunities for high school juniors and seniors within the district to develop personal and organizational leadership skills along with awareness of community issues, according to the school district’s website.
Students meet with monthly with Superintendent Calvin Watts.
Freeman said he applied for the role as student representative in January 2019.
Soon after, he said he received an email saying he was selected to fill the role of student representative.
He said he applied for the role because he has known a lot of the school board members for a long time and he wanted to continue his involvement. He also liked the idea of finding a bigger perspective.
“There’s a bigger picture, which I really enjoy because you get to see how to improve outcomes in the entire district, instead of a specific thing,” he said.
As a senior, Freeman said, he is continually looking for different perspectives. He added, an intriguing perspective he has found is one thing that’s important to one high school, isn’t a priority for another.
There were several students from the advisory who were interested in the role, but according to Freeman being a student representative is a big time commitment, not everyone committed fully.
Laramie said Freeman was the only student who finished the entire application process.
To be a student representative, Freeman said he has to attend every board meeting and study session.
Although Freeman is not a voting member of the board, he is able to voice his opinions on different talking points.
“I kind of see it as someone who’s always trying to make sure that I can bring up a perspective that hasn’t been brought up before,” Freeman said.
An example of this is from a meeting that took place about a month ago, Freeman said there was a presentation about the new graduation requirements for students called Core 24.
Freeman said at the end of the presentation he had the opportunity to voice his opinions from a student perspective.
He told the board and others in attendance that some students feel limited by the current class schedule, and others are very dissatisfied with elective classes that are offered.
Laramie said Freeman is very involved and that this role was a really natural fit for him.
Time management skills are what keep Freeman going on schedule, he said. But that in itself isn’t too easy of task when you’re a full-time student who serves on the school board.
“It took my first meeting to kind of acclimate to sitting up on the board with all the other members in a public meeting, which can definitely be overwhelming,” he explained.
He described it as a balancing act of switching between the different roles he serves each week.
“When I’m in my board member role I have to focus on different aspects and take in information in different ways,” Freeman explained.
Since he is the first student representative, there’s been some trial and error trying to figure out how everything works.
Freeman said there are new developments every week and he’s encountered some aspects he was not expecting when he signed on as student representative — in good way, he added.
“I didn’t originally expect how often I would be interacting with everyone, which is really cool and unique and I can say wholeheartedly that whatever controversies come up in the news or whatever happens at school, they are people who care about this district and who work very hard,” Freeman explained.
Looking to graduation, Freeman said he plans to attend American University in Washington DC. He said he’s not sure what he would like to major in just yet, but knows he really likes public affairs and leadership.
Getting to know Freeman has been such a pleasure, Laramie said. She said he’s a great critical thinker and has contributed great ideas to the district.
“I know I am only one high school student from one high school. I can never represent every single student, but what I can do is always try my best and I always try to be very open and have a very open perspective about how things are presented and always consider different factors,” Freeman said.
Contact reporter Kayse Angel at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 425-358-3259.