For Immediate Release
Monday, September 10, 2018

State Board’s Student Advisory Council welcomes 13 new members

​Students to meet for the first time at Governor’s Mansion tonight

SPRINGFIELD – Twenty high school students from across Illinois will meet for the first time as the State Board's Student Advisory Council for the 2018-19 school year. The teens will convene tonight at the newly renovated Illinois Governor's Mansion in Springfield. The council provides diverse student perspectives on Illinois education issues and has a front-row seat to observe how the State Board formulates policy.

The council will research and present to the State Board on topics affecting students' success in Illinois. The students' interests and the agency's priorities and needs over the course of the year will drive the council's research topics. Additionally, the council will continue to develop the Student Voices microsite at, launched by the 2017-18 Student Advisory Council this past spring. The Student Voices site provides space for students to ask and answer questions and access resources about preparing for college and career. 

“Every year I am more and more impressed with the creativity and dedication the Student Advisory Council brings to the State Board," said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “I admire these young people for taking the initiative to help shape Illinois' education system to benefit their peers and communities. I look forward to getting to know this year's council members and hearing their ideas."

The council will meet with Smith Tuesday morning and be introduced to the members of the State Board during the Board's public annual planning retreat Tuesday afternoon.

“We are one of the few states and few state agencies with a Student Advisory Council," said State Board of Education Chairman James T. Meeks. “This year we are creating even greater opportunities for these students to contribute and for us to learn from each other."

The 2018-19 Student Advisory Council includes 13 new members and seven returning members. The new members of this year's council are:

  • Faith Drescher, a sophomore at Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale
  • Joyce Coleman, a senior at North Chicago Community High School in North Chicago
  • Domenica Ferdinardo, a junior at Ridgewood Community High School in Norridge
  • Anna Foster, a sophomore at PORTA High School in Petersburg
  • Dylan Hu, a junior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire
  • Corlin Leonard, a senior at Victor J. Andrew High School in Orland Hills
  • Anna Oettinger, a senior at Deerfield High School in Deerfield
  • Zaporah Price, a senior at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in Chicago
  • Z'Sanique Sanders, a sophomore at East St. Louis Senior High School in East St. Louis
  • Carter Shockey, a junior at Freeport High School in Freeport
  • Joshua Slavin, a senior at Yorkville High School in Yorkville
  • Weirui (Nicole) Tong, a junior at Naperville North High School in Naperville
  • Christiana Wang, a senior at Normal Community High School in Normal

The returning members of this year's council are:

  • Neha Arun, a senior at Carterville High School in Carterville
  • Emma Gatz, a junior at Metea Valley High School in Aurora​
  • Bryce Massey, a senior at Anna-Jonesboro High School in Anna
  • Gatlin Miller, a senior at Mount Vernon Township High School in Mount Vernon
  • FanXuan (Carina) Peng, a senior at Northside College Preparatory Academy in Chicago
  • Levi Siebers, a junior at Liberty High School in Liberty
  • Abbigail Thurman, a junior at Rochester High School in Rochester

In previous years, the council has examined topics ranging from school safety and cyberbullying to grading scales and mental health.

The State Board selected the members of the 2018-19 council from more than 100 applications. The students exhibited strong interpersonal skills; the ability to work well in groups, think creatively, and come up with innovative solutions to policy challenges; and an interest in public service.​

ISBE will make applications for the 2019-20 council available in the spring of 2019.

​The State Board established the council in 1975. Learn more at