So that CPS students can play an active role in shaping their education, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has convened the District’s first-ever Student Advisory Council (SAC) – a diverse group of high school juniors who are eager to share their unique perspectives with CPS senior leadership.
Representing 15 CPS high schools, the group began meeting in January and was formally introduced at this month’s Board of Education meeting. They represent a wide range of ethnicities, interests and experiences and look forward to adding their voices to the decision-making process that directly impacts their education.
“I want people to understand how lucky they are to have the opportunity to get an education, and I want to show them why they should use it to their fullest advantage,” said Alexis Murillo, a member of the SAC. “That’s a big part of why I wanted to join this Council. I want to be a leader for students just like me, and I want to help make changes that will impact the lives of thousands.”
For Alexis and her fellow SAC members, the process for joining the Council was rigorous. After completing an application that included essays, art projects and or video, they were required to participate in one-on-one interviews with members of the CPS senior leadership team. All were ecstatic when they learned they’d been chosen, as were their parents.
“My mom was really excited, because I’m the first man in my family who is college bound,” said Raynard Gillespie, a student at Excel Academy of Englewood. “I came from the bottom and now I’m working my way to the top. People will look at me and see that they too can turn things around and make a difference.”
The SAC members are hoping to affect positive change in several areas, including the overall public perception of CPS.
“We at CPS are capable of more than people think,” said Alexis, who is an honors student at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. “Our amazing programs are often underestimated, but I think this Council can change how people view CPS.”
Other areas of interest for the SAC include mentoring, college readiness, security and overall student supports.
“Two of my biggest issues are safety and student supports,” said Raynard. “I want us to work on coming together to solve problems peacefully, and I want to come up with ways to make sure there is equal access to programs that will help all students succeed.”
The SAC will meet regularly with CEO Byrd-Bennett and other CPS officials, gaining valuable leadership, public speaking, decision-making and team-building skills while representing the thoughts, hopes and concerns of over 400,000 of their fellow students.
“I’m a little nervous,” said Sanel Mehmedovic, a student at Whitney Young, “but with the support of my fellow students and teachers, I’m confident that we’ll be able to accomplish a lot. I want students to know that they can address their questions and concerns to me and feel confident that they will be heard. As a Council member, I wish to change students’ lives for the better. I want CPS students to reach for the top and believe in the unimaginable so that every generation that comes after us is better than the one that came before.”
2013-14 Student Advisory Council
- Regan Allen, Kenwood Academy
- Karina Chaparro, Spry Community Links
- Carlos Dent, Chicago Military Academy
- Jose Angel Diaz, Curie Metropolitan High School
- Raynard Gillispie, Camelot Excel Academy (Options)
- Husam Haj, John F. Kennedy
- Shiza Jeewa, Northside College Prep
- Winnie Lui, Whitney Young
- Sanel Mehmedovic, Whitney Young
- Andrea Mondragon, Benito Juarez
- Alexis Murillo, Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences
- Donald Rapier, Lindblom Math and Science Academy
- Martin Roman, Pritzker College Prep (Noble Charter)
- Fatima Sattar, Northside College Prep
- Yevette Smith, Lane Tech
- Crystal Stonewall, Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences
- Ryan Stratton, Kenwood Academy
- Angelique White, Percy L. Julian