Iowa teenagers hear a lot from adults about what they need to succeed in school and beyond. Fifteen high school students turned the tables March 28 at the Iowa Department of Education in Des Moines. Wednesday marked the first meeting of the Learning Council, a new statewide student advisory group.
The students came from high school classes that range in size from 48 students to 400. Their hometowns span the Iowa map, from Shenandoah to Dubuque.
The Learning Council’s first conversation as a group touched on a range of topics, from how communication technology has changed the way we live and learn to how their personal experiences in school has shaped their broader views on education.
The input comes at a critical time, as educators, parents and state leaders debate the best way to put Iowa on a path to having among the best schools in the world.
“Be bold,” Director Jason Glass told the students on Wednesday. “This is your group. Tell us what you need and not what you think we want to hear.”
One student who came to the United States from Mexico at age 5 spoke of how her first tutor taught her the English language through drawings. Today, the student is an artist.
The student said she wants to find a way to give all young people a great experience in school. “Education has done so much for me,” she said. “I don’t know what kind of person I’d be without it.”
Another student said he wishes his teachers used more high-tech teaching tools than textbooks and worksheets. Another said parents need to set a higher bar for their children, instead of convincing them that “average is OK.”
The Learning Council is a 10-month commitment that includes meetings throughout the year and virtual conversations.
Students in grades 8-12 from public and nonpublic schools across Iowa were invited in January to apply for a seat on the Learning Council. More than 130 students applied.
Selections took into account the applicants’ school experiences, sense of leadership, communication of ideas, and the size and geographic region of their schools.
Members of the Learning Council are:
- Hannah Ritchey, eighth grade, Shenandoah Middle School
- EmmaKate Wichman, eighth grade, Pleasant Valley Junior High School in LeClaire
- Grant Gordon, ninth grade, Van Meter High School
- Jack Hostager, 10th grade, Hempstead High School in Dubuque
- Apple Jackson Amos, 10th grade, East High School in Des Moines
- Sophia Babcock, 10th grade, PCM High School in Monroe
- Geoffrey Bruder, 10th grade, Humboldt High School
- Lillian Nellans, 11th grade, Roosevelt High School in Des Moines
- Mohad Aziz Azmat Awan, 11th grade, Waukee High School
- Tom Bowman, 11th grade, Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines
- Tessa Horn, 11th grade, Manson Northwest Webster High School in Manson
- Monica Figueroa, 12th grade, Storm Lake High School
- Sara Gabriele, 12th grade, Cedar Falls High School
- Andrew Patience, 12th grade, Thomas Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids
- Whitney Leming-Salisbury, 12th grade, Central High School in Davenport