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State Board of Education Welcomes New Student Representatives

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

State Board of Education Welcomes New Student Representatives

Chris Jones and Kahn Branch Join SBOE

To DC high school seniors Christopher Jones and Kahn Branch, serving as student representatives to the state board of education is more than just another position. It’s about ensuring student voices are heard. “Education is a ticket to achieving success in the future and it is really important that students take an active part. Having your voice heard on policy is key,” remarked Branch prior to the Board’s October Public Meeting.

While Jones and Branch may look like ordinary teens, these students are anything but.  Jones, a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, is involved in the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Program and most recently stood with President Obama during a press conference regarding No Child Left Behind state waivers.  After asking US Education Secretary Arnie Duncan a poignant question during an education conference call, Jones received the special invitation to the White House.

Branch, a senior at McKinley Technical High School, participates in the YMCA’s Youth in Government Program, McKinley’s Student Government, and the Washington-Arlington Catholic Forensic League.  Branch also gained notoriety for organizing a student protest after a round of teacher firings under the Rhee Administration left some McKinley classrooms empty at the start of the 2009 school year. Over 200 students attended the protest. Despite student participation, both Branch and Jones note that student apathy is a big challenge to improving DC schools. “You do need kids that want to be involved. We’ve got to find some way to involve and engage them and get their voices heard without making it seem like a chore,” remarked Jones.

As student representatives, testing and teacher salaries are key issues they would like to see changed. “Teachers should be paid a lot more. They are some of the most important people in our society and I don’t know why we pay them as if they’re not,” opined Jones. Branch added, “focusing so much on tests is no way to advance our country or our city in education.”  Despite the challenges of student engagement and the fact that student representatives lack an official vote on the Board, Branch and Jones remain optimistic.

After graduation, Jones and Branch plan to attend college and continue their careers in public service.  Branch stated, “I’d like to stay round D.C. and look into colleges like George Mason, Marymount University, George Washington, or Georgetown.  I would love to go into education and be a high school history teacher. Understanding the country and our constitution, understanding the system that we live in is something I really want to help influence.”   Jones similarly remarked, ““I’d love to attend Oberlin, but I’m open to any large college. I want to live a life that has some kind of positive impact, either small or large.”