Mitchel Kawash, a 16-year-old junior at George Washington High School in Charleston, participated in the state board’s monthly meetings Wednesday and Thursday. As a nonvoting member, he is free to engage in discussions but cannot vote on any issue.
“I have been impressed with the board members and the passion they have for what they do,” Kawash said. “I’m thankful that they are seeking a student’s perspective. I hope I can help them focus on the students.”
Board Secretary Priscilla Haden, long a proponent of civics education and facilitator of Civic Education West Virginia, suggested the pilot program to give high schoolers the opportunity to see government in action. She recommended Kawash, who is the junior class president and field commander at George Washington, a member of the school’s Teacher Curriculum Team and involved in school and community theater.
“Civics is so important to a well-rounded education in a Democratic society," Haden said. “Having student representatives on the West Virginia Board of Education will not only expose them to how government works but also will provide us with a young voice on how our decisions affect students.”
West Virginia is among only a few states that require students to take civics to graduate. Although civics courses have long been offered as electives, they are now required by all beginning with the Class of 2008.
The student representative pilot project will allow a different student to attend board meetings each month for three months. After the pilot, the board will evaluate the program’s success before determining if it should be offered statewide.
April’s student will be selected from a school located in RESA VII since the board will be meeting in Preston County that month. May’s student will be the state Student Council president. All must complete an application, including a three-part essay, obtain parental permission and submit letters of recommendation from their principal, adviser and a community member.
“While there are many outstanding students I have had the privilege to work with, Mitchel Kawash is perhaps the most outstanding student participating in school governance,” said Nancy Alexander, George Washington’s acting principal. “He is focused, exhibiting outstanding work ethic and exceptional abilities. He will bring to your deliberations a standard of excellence that will assist you in providing a quality educational system for all students.”
For more information, contact the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.