Bartow County will have more representation than ever before on a state-level advisory board.
Eighth-graders Addison Payne from Woodland Middle and Brett Lance from Adairsville Middle and junior Abby Matthews from Woodland High were among the 124 Georgia students selected by State School Superintendent Richard Woods to serve on his 2018-19 Student Advisory Council.
This is the most students Bartow County has ever had on the council, which Woods formed in January 2015 during his first term in office, at one time.
"Three representatives from one district is a lot; it’s a number indicative of a much-larger district," Bartow Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page said. "We are excited to see this trend as we work to remain competitive with our peers throughout the state in academic achievement, fine arts and athletics."
Page also said the county is "more than happy to share our scholarly talent" with Woods.
"The value these three students bring to their schools and district is great, and I’m confident they’ll represent us well as they discuss the impact of state policies in the classroom and participate in service projects," he said.
The council, composed of 62 middle schoolers and 62 high schoolers chosen from nearly 1,000 applicants, will meet with Woods throughout the school year to discuss the impact of state policies in the classroom and other issues related to education. The representatives also will serve as his ambassadors to their respective schools and participate in service projects that will benefit schools and students.
“Every day, I’m faced with choices that will directly affect Georgia’s kids,” Woods said in a press release. “Because of the students who serve on this council, I’m better able to make sound, informed decisions. I deeply value their input and involvement.”
Addison, who will serve a second year on the council, said she thinks it's a "great opportunity to be chosen again."
"It was such an honor the first time, and to make it twice was even better," she said.
The 13-year-old daughter of Molly and Rodney Payne of Euharlee said she applied for another year "because I don’t think I got everything I wanted accomplished."
"I have so many ideas and theories that I would love to be shared to the leaders in Georgia’s education system," she said.
Abby, 16, said she is "very proud and hopeful for the experience" of serving on the high school council. "It’s an honor to have my opinion be valued by the adults that make the decisions for our schools," she said.
Her "main motivation" for serving is to "be the voice of the students, speaking for the voice of the youth in the community," she said.
"I think it’s important that the people who are impacted by decisions are given representation when those decisions are made," she said. "It’s always been a goal of mine to speak up for what I believe in based upon my experiences throughout high school, and this opportunity allows this goal to come to fruition for me as well as the rest of those who do, and don’t, share my same desire."
Brett, son of Mark and Suzi Lance of Adairsville, said he is "excited to be selected" for the middle school board.
"I believe that I am representative of the thoughts of many people in my age group," he said.
Council members were chosen from public schools across the state based on the strength of their essay answers, which focused on their ideas for public education as well as their community service experience, that they were required to give on their application.
Addison said she wrote her essay on makeup work.
"This year, I am really going to focus on getting a system for makeup work," she said. "If you’re absent or there is inclement weather, you wouldn’t have to make up the days. Instead, you would just do the work at home that day online."
Brett, 14, said his essay concentrated on communication and testing.
"Some of the biggest issues facing schools today center around communication," he said.
Abby's application essay focused on ways to improve the discipline system.
"I believe we should separate academics from good behavior when we reward students so that both characteristics are encouraged while offering the ability to grow positively towards both directions," she said.
The daughter of Jeremy and Jennifer Matthews of Cartersville also has other issues she wants to bring to the table this year.
"I want to address issues concerning disabled students, including more accessibility and inclusion in schools," she said. "On top of that, I want to discuss options of how to bridge gaps between the students and adults as well as the student body as a whole."
Meetings for the middle school council will be Oct. 10, Nov. 28, Feb. 5 and May 13.
High school students will meet with Woods Oct. 11, Nov. 29, Feb. 6 and May 14.