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Young school board members hope to empower youth voices

Young school board members hope to empower youth voices

Noah Roberts CT

Noah Roberts was elected to the Verona Area School Board within a year of graduating from high school in the district and has since been elected board president. He is in his second three-year term.

About one month after joining the Eau Claire Area School District board, Joe Luginbill was handing diplomas to the Class of 2015.

Many of the 250-plus graduates looked familiar — he had attended school with them just three years earlier.

Luginbill graduated from Eau Claire North High School in 2012 and was elected to the board three years later at the age of 20, the youngest elected officer in Eau Claire history.

“I knew that I wanted to run for the board when I was still young because I think that the School Board, or really any local elected board, it really governs best when it’s made up of people from many different perspectives,” Luginbill told the Cap Times.

He, like Savion Castro in Madison and Noah Roberts in the Verona Area School District, have provided a different perspective on their boards, often for the first time.

“You really have to prove to people that you have a voice that matters,” said Roberts, who was elected in 2016 within a year of graduating from Verona Area High School. “I certainly had to earn the respect of administrators and my fellow board members.”

One year after winning his first election, Roberts was elected president of the board, a position he has served in since. Luginbill, who is also the first openly gay ECASD board member, has served in every office on the board: clerk, treasurer, vice president and president.

Luginbill previously served as the student representative on the School Board, and knew he would run someday after serving in that role. Roberts, meanwhile, said he was not especially aware of the School Board and its work until late in his school career. He received encouragement from teachers and other students to run, he recalled.

“The perspective of a young person was sorely needed,” Roberts said.

Roberts wrote in an email he tells anyone who asks about running for office that “there is no age prerequisite for leadership.”

“Young people can and should take on leadership roles and express their vision for the future,” Roberts wrote. “Their voices must be at the table.”

The presence of a young person on a board, especially one that governs the rules under which students who have no vote in elections spend much of their time, can also bring in other perspectives, Luginbill said.

“One of the powers of having a recent graduate or a younger person on your board is often students really resonate or connect with them,” he said. “It has the byproduct of empowering other students in that school district to look at that person and see them as a peer.”

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.

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The youngest member in the history of the Madison School Board, Savion Castro brings his perspective to an already progressively minded group, one which he says has “a lot of opportunity” ahead to make Madison a better place, especially for its students of color and those with low-income backgrounds. On the agenda? A superintendent hire, a pair of referenda likely next year and ongoing work on topics like behavior and advanced learning.