SPRINGFIELD — Members of the state’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) will convene later this month to begin their yearlong term learning about and participating in state education policy decisions on behalf of the more than 2 million public school students in Illinois. The 18-member council provides the perspective of high school students on a number of issues, delving into topics such as grading, physical education and bullying policies.
“My colleagues and I truly value the input of these bright student advisory members,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “In order to improve the quality of the state’s education system, we must engage all community members, especially students themselves.”
Applicants to the advisory council undergo a competitive review process and those selected demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, the ability to work well in groups, think creatively, and generate innovative solutions. Members share an avid interest in public service and education policy. The advisory council was established in 1975 and all sophomores, juniors and seniors who attend an Illinois public high school are eligible to apply.
Each year, the members of SAC select a topic that they research in depth and present to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). In previous years, students have examined education funding in Illinois, the effects of cyber bullying, the effect of mandatory physical education on high school students and district budgets, the dropout crisis, and standards-based grading.
The council will convene for its first meeting this school year at ISBE’s monthly meeting on Oct. 15 at the CityView Banquet and Meeting Center at Illinois Terminal in Champaign.
The 2014-15 Student Advisory Council includes 11 new members and seven returning members. All are top students at their schools and participate in a wide range of academic, extracurricular and volunteer activities. The new members of this year’s council are:
Anish Aggarwal, senior, Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville: Anish serves on the executive boards of school clubs such as Business Professionals of America and Spanish Honors Society, along with national organizations such as Youth About Business. Anish won the Presidential Service Award in 2014 and the Neuqua Valley Leadership Award. In his free time, he loves playing baseball and following up on the latest episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” He is the founder of Top Tier Learning, a business that aims to offer affordable academic support. Anish plans to major in finance during his postsecondary education. He is the son of Shelly and V.K. Aggarwal of Naperville.
Isabella Ruggiero, senior, Downers Grove North High School in Downers Grove: Isabella has been a member of her school's speech team throughout high school and is currently co-captain, as well as a member of the National Honor Society. She has volunteered at Brookfield Zoo through the Conservation Scholars Program since the summer of 2012. Isabella also sings with the Freshman and Treble Ensembles and the Downers Grove North Choir. Isabella is a director for the Positively North Link. She plans to major in education or communications in college. Isabella is the daughter of Sal and Mary Ruggiero of Woodridge.
Niquan Dawson, junior, Morton West High School in Berwyn: Niquan serves as president of the Student Council. He was recently elected to be a student board member of J.Sterling Morton District 201. He is also involved in the Junior State of America as a leader in the Midwest region. Niquan is a member of the National Honor Society and Freshman Mentor Program. He looks forward to being a surgeon in the future.
Travis Whitt, junior, Altamont Community High School in Altamont: Travis was recently accepted into the Senate Page Program in Washington, D.C., for the 2014 fall semester. He is on the Student Council and is the president of his class as well as his Lutheran Youth Group at Immanuel Lutheran in Altamont and is the editor in chief of his school newspaper. He participates in cross country and track. Travis is the son of Alan and Karen Whitt of Altamont.
Mathis Mateus, senior, Belvidere North High School in Belvidere: Mathis is the president of his school’s National Honor Society chapter and is a member of many programs and organizations. He is also the captain of the varsity soccer team. Mathis was proud to be selected to attend both the Illinois Leadership Seminar and American Legion Premier Illinois Boys State. Mathis currently serves as a Student Ambassador for his school and has served on the Appalachia Service Project in the summer through his church youth group by helping rebuild homes in Tennessee. He plans on majoring in neuroscience before attending medical school. Mathis is the son of Jennifer and Louis, and brother of Tanner of Belvidere.
Mackenzie Flynn, junior, Stillman Valley High School in Stillman Valley: Mackenzie is treasurer of both the Student Council and Renaissance team. She is also a member of Principal’s Student Advisory Council and is heavily involved in community service through her school and church. Mackenzie participates in band and choir and is an active member of the girls golf team, academic team, WYSE team and math team. She plans to major in biomedical engineering. Mackenzie is the daughter of Timothy and Danna Flynn of Stillman Valley.
Donald Rapier, junior, Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago: Donald is currently a member of the Chicago Public Schools Student Advisory Council and a student assistant teacher for Advanced Placement Human Geography at Lindblom. He is the captain of the varsity policy debate team. Donald participated in the “Build On Community Service Organization” in the Englewood section of Chicago’s South Side as well as the Mikva Challenge, a nonpartisan civic organization. Upon graduation, he intends to double major in political science and international studies. He lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood with his aunt and uncle, Ingrid Grimes-Myles and David Myles.
Nicole Marcus, junior, Naperville North High School in Naperville: Nicole serves as the secretary on both the state’s Illinois Junior Classical League Board and her high school's Latin Club Board. She is also mentors and tutors students at her school and in her community. She has been on the honor roll throughout her high school career. She participates in cross country and track and field. Nicole is the daughter of Mayi and Steven Marcus of Naperville.
Benjamin Bruce, senior, East Peoria Community High School in East Peoria: Ben is the chairman of the state chapter of the High School Democrats of America and president of his school’s chapter. He also served as an intern for Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. Ben participates in band, was selected to the Illinois Music Education Association’s All-State Band for euphonium, and plays piano and organ. Ben is captain of the Scholastic Bowl team and is a member of many clubs and teams. After graduation, Ben plans on pursuing a degree in economics. He is the son of Jeffrey and Kim Bruce of East Peoria.
Kaylia Williams, senior, North Chicago Community High School in North Chicago: Kaylia participates in Link Leadership, National Honor Society and Educational Talent Search. She has attended the National Youth Leadership Forum-Careers in Medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago. After high school, she plans to continue her education at the University of Illinois-Chicago and eventually work in the health-care field. Kaylia is the daughter of Kisha Brown and the stepdaughter to Dante Brown of North Chicago.
Luke Hahn, senior, East Richland High School in Olney: Luke is the president of the Student Council as well as his class. He is involved in many clubs. He also participates in basketball, football and soccer. He plans on majoring in civil engineering. Luke is the son of Tim and Suzanne Hahn of Olney.
The returning members of the SAC are:
Hannah Auten, senior, Benton Consolidated High School in Benton: Hannah is president both of her class and the Student Council. She is a member of the National Honor Society. Hannah is beginning her fourth year on her school’s speech team; she won regionals her junior year. Hannah is also a member of Pep Club and Art Club. Outside of school, Hannah works at her town’s print shop, All Stars-n-Stitches. She is the daughter of Brent and Kathy Clark of Benton and David and Laura Auten of Pittsburg.
Brandy Brown, senior, East St. Louis Senior High School in East St. Louis: Brandy serves as vice president of a Christian leadership organization. She participated in law and leadership at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale as well as in Upward Bound Math and Science, a college prep program. She plans to attend the University of Missouri, where she will double major in speech communication and political science. Brandy lives in East St. Louis with her parents, Mr. Robert and Mrs. Willie Brown, and her twin brother Brian.
Shelby Ireland, senior, Riverton High School in Riverton: Shelby serves as class president. She attended a LEAD Conference in Chicago with several peers from across the nation. She is the president of Teens Against Drugs and Alcohol (TADAA) and is a member of National Honor Society. Shelby is a member of several organizations and clubs. She plans on majoring in the medical/health field. Shelby is the daughter of Anthony and Jo Ireland of Riverton.
Colleen Madden, junior, Carlinville High School in Carlinville: Colleen is captain of the track and cross country teams, earning All-State honors. She is a member of the National FFA Organization and serves as the Carlinville chapter’s treasurer. Colleen is involved with many of the CHS bands and the all-school musical. She is interested in studying food science, with a concentration in dietetics. Colleen is the daughter of Elise Schwartz and Paul Madden of Carlinville.
Khushi Suri, senior, Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy: Khushi serves as Student Council president and editor in chief of her school's newspaper. She has written pieces for the Chicago Tribune’s teen publication and Huffington Post Teen. She has also been a certified yoga instructor since the age of 14. Khushi is a Bezos Scholar and is working toward raising awareness about food waste in her community. She intends to pursue a career in environmental sciences and, ultimately, environmental law. Khushi is the daughter of Deepti and Vijay Suri of Westchester.
Kayla VonBurg, senior, Carlyle High School in Carlyle: Kayla serves as the student body president and secretary of Future Business Leaders of America. She is a member of the Student Advisory Council and is involved in several clubs and organizations in her school and community. Kayla plays on the varsity volleyball team. She plans to major in chemistry for premedical studies. Kayla, 17, is the daughter of Craig and Linda VonBurg of Carlyle.
Morgan Rich, senior, Deer Creek-Mackinaw High School in Mackinaw:
Morgan is a member of the Student Advisory Council and is active in her school band as the feature baton twirler. She is involved in several clubs and organizations in her school and community and competes as a baton twirler. Morgan enjoys volunteering with her church youth group in her spare time. She is interested in pursuing a career in film. Morgan is the daughter of Allen and Cheryl Rich of Mackinaw.