A group of Las Cruces high school students have a seat on their school district’s Board of Education, and it’s the only seat of its kind in New Mexico.
Founded in 2015, the Student Advisory Council gives select Las Cruces high school students the opportunity to provide input and voice concerns to the district superintendent and Board of Education. Those concerns include lowering the number of standardized tests and preventing student suicides.
Centennial High School junior Cameron Castillo is the Student Advisory Council chair. Castillo joined in 2016 and said he hopes more students take advantage of the council’s unique position to address policy.
“I think every student should have the opportunity to have a voice here in this district," Castillo said. "They need to be able to realize that everything that is decided down here could directly impact them in some way, shape, or form."
About two dozen student representatives from six of seven high schools in the Las Cruces Public Schools make up the Student Advisory Council. Meetings are held the day of school board public sessions.
The partnership gives students like Mayfield High School senior and vice-chair Thomas Wilkinson the chance to attend board meetings and directly report what matters to the roughly 25,000 students in the district.
It’s Wilkinson’s first year on the council. He said he wishes more students would get involved like he did.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into. When I first got here, my mind was blown," Wilkinson said. "Assuming the leadership role of taking what the students have to say, and just my school in general, and bringing it here is something I’m proud I’m able to say that I’m able to do."
Recently, Castillo said the council began studying the potential safety effects of allowing security guards to carry concealed weapons on campus in case of an active shooter. He said serving on the council makes him feel a greater sense of responsibility to his classmates.
“It makes me feel even more responsible for relaying the messages that I hear from my peers every day when I go to class, to the decision makers down here both on the school board and on the office of the superintendent, it makes me feel a greater responsibility for doing so," Castillo said.
Students interested in representing their high school must be recommended by their principal before being interviewed by the council chair and sponsor.