SPRINGFIELD — Eighteen high school students from across the state will get a front seat view of state education policy work and a chance to offer their insight and perspective this school year as members of the State’s Student Advisory Council (SAC). The teens will convene for their first meeting this school year at the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) monthly two-day meeting on Sept. 18 in Normal. Members of SAC work with ISBE, voicing student concerns and providing student perspectives on the state’s education policies.
“As the Illinois State Board of Education works to improve the quality of the state’s education system, it is important that we maintain communication with those who are directly influenced by our policies: students,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “The members of the Student Advisory Council are a talented group of young people who offer us tremendous feedback. I look forward to meeting this year’s new SAC members as well as welcoming back those who are joining us for another year.”
Applicants to the SAC undergo a competitive review process and those selected exhibit strong interpersonal skills, the ability to work well in groups, think creatively and come up with innovative solutions. Most have an avid interest in public service and education policy. The SAC 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 State Board of Education. In previous years, the SAC has examined the education funding system in Illinois, the effects of cyber bullying, the effect of mandatory physical education on high school students and district budgets, and the dropout crisis.
The 2013-14 SAC includes 14 new members and four returning members. The new members of this year’s SAC are:
Destiny Alicea, senior, Elgin High School in Elgin: Destiny has been involved in various student leadership groups throughout high school. She spends most of her time as a student youth leader and volunteers at her church throughout the week. She is involved in her high school's student mentor program, Link Crew. This year, Destiny received an internship through her school's Family and Consumer Science Department to be a sixth grade teacher's assistant at a local elementary school. After graduation, she plans to attend a university, major in education and become a teacher. She is the daughter of Jose and Ana Alicea and the oldest of four children and an additional four foster siblings.
Ernesto Alvarez, senior, Oswego East High School in Oswego: Ernesto is the founder and president of his school’s National English Honor Society chapter. The society aims to channel each member’s passion for the English language into the promotion of literacy. As an advocate for education, he began the PACE Hispanic Parent Outreach Group, serves as vice president of his school’s Mu Alpha Theta chapter, and is a member of FIRST Robotics, Scholastic Bowl Varsity and various other clubs. Outside of school, Ernesto volunteers as a translator at the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry, as a certified CEP tax-site assistant, and an assistant teacher for a pre-GED course. He plans on pursuing a degree in school administration. Ernesto is the son of Jaime and Lucia Alvarez of Aurora.
Hannah Auten, junior, Benton Consolidated High School in Benton: Hannah has served on Student Council throughout high school and held office as vice president for one year. She is a member of the History Club, the Scholar Bowl Team and National Honor Society. Additionally, she is the treasurer of the Key Club and has served as an officer for the Pep Club for the past two years and is running for a third year. Hannah is serving her third year as the president of the Class of 2015. She is competing in her third season on the Speech Team and has advanced to state the past two years. Hannah is currently ranked first in her class and plans on majoring in biological sciences in college. Hannah is the 16-year-old daughter of Brent Clark and Kathy Clark, and David Auten and Laura Auten.
Brandy Brown, junior, East St. Louis Senior High School in East St. Louis: Brandy was ranked No. 1 in her junior class. She serves as vice president of a Christian leadership organization. She participated in law and leadership at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), where she received her first scholarship. Brandy also participated in Upward Bound Math and Science, a college prep program, during which she lived on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) campus for five weeks. She plans on attending the University of Missouri, where she will double major in speech communication and political science. Brandy is the 17-year-old daughter of Mr. Robert and Mrs. Willie Brown and has a twin brother named Brian.
Mary Casino, senior, Grant Community High School in Fox Lake: Mary has been active in Student Council throughout high school as well as many other clubs and organizations. She is the current vice president of FBLA Illinois Northern Area as well as president of her local chapter. She was inducted into the National Honor Society her sophomore year and is now serving as treasurer. In addition, she is the chapter treasurer of FCCLA. She has volunteered for various activities, including the Annual Fox Lake/Round Lake Rotary Neediest Children Christmas Party, Adopt-a-Highway roadside cleanups, and Bulldog Buddies, a program with the local library in which she reads to children once a week. Mary has also represented her high school at the Institute for Leaders in San Antonio, Texas, and the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. She is an alumna of the Illinois Leadership Seminars and is currently serving as the Alumni Board Secretary. She plans to major in pre-pharmacy and eventually receive a pharmacy degree. Mary is the daughter of Darryl and Norma Casino of Volo.
Tyler Cozad, senior, O’Fallon Township High School in O’Fallon: Tyler has played an active role with Student Council throughout high school, serving as the executive board vice president and senior class president. Tyler has been a member of the O’Fallon Marching Panthers since his freshman year and the Brass Coordinator for the last two years. He participates in his school’s top Chamber Choir and has played lead roles in his school’s spring musicals. Tyler is a member of National Honor Society and Thespian Honor Society. He plans to attend Missouri University of Science and Technology and major in petroleum or mining engineering. Tyler is the 18-year-old son of David and Lynda Cozad of O’Fallon.
Richard Cunningham, senior, North Chicago Community High School in North Chicago: Richard has served on Letterman Leadership Club throughout high school and is currently a captain of the Varsity Football Team. He participates in charity work around North Chicago. Richard is a member of the Renaissance program in his area, which acknowledges the top students at his school. He plans on majoring in business administration and minoring in elementary education. Richard is the 17-year-old son of Richard Sr. and Lucretia Cunningham of North Chicago.
Miles Healy, senior, North Clay High School in Louisville: Miles has served as a student council representative for three years and has been a member of enrichment for four years. In addition, he has served as president of Business Club and has been a member of National Honor Society. Miles recently attended the Youth to Washington Conference. He works at a bank and a grocery store. Currently ranked first in his class, Miles plans to attend a four-year university to study finance. He is the 17-year-old son of Scott and Julie Healy of Louisville.
Shelby Ireland, junior, Riverton High School in Riverton: Shelby has been a class officer for student government for three years and was able to attend 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. She has participated in softball, musicals, Spanish Club and Key Club. She co-chaired an American Heart Association fundraising event and volunteers at many school and community activities. Shelby serves on the local Teen Court Jury. She plans on majoring in speech-language pathology. Shelby is the 16-year-old daughter of Anthony and Jo Ireland.
Colleen Madden, sophomore, Carlinville High School in Carlinville: Colleen has been a member of Carlinville’s track and cross country teams throughout middle and high school. She earned all-state honors in the 3200 meter run at the 2013 IHSA State Track Meet. Colleen is a member of the National FFA Organization and serves as secretary of the Carlinville chapter. She is an active member of the CHS marching, pep, and concert bands, as well as a participant in the All-School Musical. Colleen plays the piano. She was named a Young Achiever Medallion Winner in 2012 and maintains a 4.0 GPA. She is interested in studying food science with a concentration in dietetics. Colleen is the 16-year-old daughter of Elise Schwartz and Paul Madden.
Thomas Rice, senior, Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville: Thomas is involved in National Honor Society and is currently ranked first in his class of 593 students. He is a three sport athlete, participating in cross country and indoor and outdoor track. During his senior year, Thomas will serve as a Peer Tutor for Dundee-Crown. He is involved in Rotary International and Beta Club and previously participated in the DC Alumni Mentor Program. As a sophomore, he attended the National Young Leaders Conference (NYLC) in Washington, D.C. Outside of school, Thomas works concessions at the local pool. After graduation, Thomas plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in civil engineering. He is the 17-year-old son of Bill and Laura Rice of Sleepy Hollow.
Khushi Singh Suri, junior, Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy in Forest Park: Khushi is treasurer of her school’s Student Council this year and assistant editor of the school newspaper. Additionally, she is an active member of Debate Club, Class of 2015 Club, Yearbook Club and a programmer on her school’s robotics team, the Monty Pythons. Outside of school, Khushi just completed her third year as a youth volunteer at the Brookfield Zoo. Last summer, Khushi traveled to the Himalayas where she took a three-month yoga course and is now a certified yoga instructor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and writing. After graduating high school, Khushi intends to pursue a career in environmental sciences and law. Khushi is the daughter of Vijay and Deepti Suri.
Kayla VonBurg, junior, Carlyle High School in Carlyle: Kayla has served on Student Council throughout high school and currently serves as student body president. She is also active in Science Club, Spanish Club and the Varsity Volleyball team. She has been a member of the pit band for several musicals, both through school and a local cultural society. Kayla has been honored for academics and is currently ranked first in her class. After high school, she would like to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to major in pre-medicine. Kayla is the 16-year-old daughter of Craig and Linda VonBurg of Carlyle.
Rhett Warner, senior, Taylorville High School in Taylorville: Rhett has begun his second term as president of the THS concert choir and his second year as editor in chief of the THS newspaper. He is the vice president of the Taylorville chapter of the Key Club and a member of the swim and soccer teams. He participates in his high school’s spring musical, Madrigals and the Taylorville Dance Factory. In his free time, Rhett is involved in several community theatre productions. Ranked first in his class, Rhett was recently inducted into the National Honor Society. He plans to pursue a major in psychology and a minor in musical theatre. Rhett is the 18-year-old son of Cindy and Wilson Warner of Taylorville.
The returning members of the SAC are:
Austin M. Hansen, senior, Naperville North High School in Naperville: Austin is currently serving his fourth term on Naperville North High School’s Student Government, and holds the executive position of Ambassador to the NCUD203’s School Board. In his previous years on Student Government, he launched and maintained the first ever Student Government website, initiated a school-wide Intramural Program, and led a district wide petition (which was later passed) on behalf of 3,000 signed students from D203. Austin was his school’s first Student Ambassador to the Naperville Education Foundation in 2012. He was elected as the Class of 2014’s Executive Officer twice, and is a member of his school's National Honor Society. Austin is also an Elementary School Mentor, Youth Juror to the Naperville Police Department, adviser to two of Naperville’s local non-for-profits (KidsMatter & NaperBridge), and the Youth Commissioner to the City of Naperville’s Downtown Advisory Council. Additionally, Austin is conducting his own independent research on microalgae and their response to the rising temperature as predicted by global warming. He is CEO and founder of his own start-up company, AP Advertising & Marketing Solutions. Austin is the son of Brent Hansen of Batavia and Karen Sitzman of Naperville.
Sabrina Flohr, senior, Collinsville High School in Collinsville: Sabrina is involved in Latin Club and Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Science Club and Honor Society, Science Olympiad, Student Council, Junior Honor Society, Junior Classical League and Model United Nations. She has several leadership positions including President of Model United Nations, Vice President of Science Club, Secretary of Latin Club, and Treasurer of the Illinois Junior Classical League South, along with this being her second year as part of the ISBE Student Advisory Council. Sabrina plays on the varsity volleyball team, and is one of two captains. During her sophomore year, she was a part of the Diversity Awareness Partnership and during her freshman, sophomore, and junior years, Sabrina was recognized for academic honors for athletics and was on the honor roll. She plans on entering college as a biology major, then mastering in epidemiology. Sabrina is the daughter of Eric and Carol Flohr.
Morgan Rich, junior, Dee-Mack High School in Mackinaw: Morgan is a second year member of the Student Advisory Council. She is very active in her school. She is the feature twirler in band and a participant in cross country, track, scholastic bowl, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Peer Pals. Outside of school, Morgan is a competitive baton twirler at the state and national level, secretary for Woodford County 4-H federation, an Appaloosa Youth Association member competing at the state and national level, and volunteers with her church youth group. She is interested in pursuing a career in psychology. Morgan is the 16-year-old daughter of Allen and Cheryl Rich.
Danielle Segerstrom, senior, LeRoy High School in LeRoy: Danielle has served on Student Council throughout high school, being secretary her junior year and a co-chair her senior year. She is also the vice president of her senior class, and has been for two years. She has served in Key Club and is currently the vice president. Danielle is a member of National Honor Society and WYSE. She is a participant on the cross country and track teams as well. She plans on majoring in broadcast journalism. Danielle is the 18-year-old daughter of Scott and Kathy Segerstrom of LeRoy.