Ava Perry is not an ordinary high school senior. This year, along with classes, senior projects and college applications, Perry is also taking on the task of serving the Prince George’s County Public Schools Board of Education as its student member.
Perry is an incoming senior at Oxon Hill High School and will turn 17 next month. She said she wanted to serve on the board to be the “eyes and ears” of the students. She has previously held positions on the Prince George’s Regional Association of Student Government, and also as student body president at her high school.
“I’ve been in Prince George’s County since kindergarten and I’ve grown up through the school system,” she said. “I’ve seen how it inspires kids and the improvements that they’ve made. But what made me want to do this was just really my passion for improving policy. It’s something that is not the best within our school system, but we’ve made great strides.”
Perry was elected to serve earlier this year by her peers. She was sworn in on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at a ceremony in the Sasscer Administration Building. The process of nomination involves an application, multiple letters of recommendation, an interview, a selection of the final two candidates, and a vote after a speech in front of hundreds of students.
“It was exciting,” Perry said. “I was ecstatic when I was elected, because you never know. Where do you go from here? All the work that you put in and all the people that you meet are just so inspiring.”
She said as the elected student member she wants to continue to hear students’ stories and be a voice for their triumphs and struggles. She also wants to make sure students have a greater support system, both inside and outside of their schools.
“What I really want to push for is student support in the form of tutoring,” Perry said.
Perry visited 13 schools while campaigning for the board and found that tutoring was the main concern.
“This showed up at every single high school and middle school I visited,” she said. “And they said they need support. Common core is really taking a toll on them and they need support.
Jeffery Taylor II, the previous student board member, said Perry’s dedication to the students is exactly why she will make a great member.
“I truly enjoy her character, her motivation for service, her communication skills, and her love for advocacy,” he said. “I truly think she is going to make an amazing student member of the board of education.”
Taylor said a student’s service on the board is important because it gives a voice to the other 125,000-plus students in the school system. He said the position is a large task to take on, but it is unlike any other.
“At first it can be a little intimidating because you are 16, 17, maybe 18 and are sitting next to adults, but at the end of the day the members of the board of education are truly open and inviting. They know how to truly help you acclimate and truly serve.”
Segun Eubanks, the chair of the board, is excited to work with Perry. He is impressed with her ambition and her passionate advocacy for students needs. He said having a student voice on the board is “absolutely essential.”
“We represent students. Everything we do is for students,” Eubanks said. “To do this work, and not have the voice of the students in the room, would be disingenuous to what we say our mission is all about. So to have students who are committed, who are ambitious, and are intelligent. Who understand what it is the students need and want and what their challenges are. That keeps us honest.”
As the school year approaches Perry said she is ready to tackle her last year in the school system and ready to serve the students.
“This school system means so much to me,” Perry said. “It has pushed me to where I am. I am proud to represent Prince George’s County. I am proud to represent them on the board of education.”