“It’s a great feeling to know I helped students,” said Michaela Garza-Keyes, eighth grade student at Coakley Middle School. “I have always wanted to give back to the community because it has done so much for me.”
Garza-Keyes along with an additional 14 students from secondary campuses across the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District are able to assist in the advancement of their fellow students and city though their participation in the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board (SAB).
Student Advisory Board Members represent the elected student leadership at each of the middle and high school campuses. Students work with the superintendent and members of administration to address concerns at their campus in a positive environment. Their unique insight offers administrators a student perspective on their day-to-day experiences on areas that impact students.
“SAB helps students by giving them a voice to the district,” said Mia Olivares, eighth grade student and SAB representative for Memorial Middle School. “We participate in different projects to make our schools safer, better and more successful. It’s all about teamwork. We discuss STAAR testing and events happening in the district.”
For Garza-Keyes, her input has already helped make a difference at Coakley. She recalled mentioning the desire to include more fruit options in the outside area of the campus cafeteria and walking into her lunch period the next day to see a sign displaying the new options, she said.
“Being in the Student Advisory Board allowed me to make a difference,” said Garza-Keyes. “I saw more people eating fruit instead of junk food. It may have been a small change, but it was a big deal to me.”
Along with providing feedback to the district on behalf of their fellow students, members develop leadership skills by taking back what they learned to their campus, said Olivares. They also take the time to answer any questions students or teachers may have.
Recently, the SAB has moved outside the classroom in their efforts to help others in the community. The group visited residents at Golden Palms Retirement and Health Center for their GrandFriends community service project. Through GrandFriends, students spoke to residents about their life experiences and cultivated new friendships
“It was so much fun,” said Garza-Keyes. “I met an amazing man and he had so many incredible stories. I feel like I made a new friend. Even after the program ends, I’m going to try and stay in touch with him.”
Members will continue to visit their GrandFriends until the end of the year, but for some they’ve decided to take the extra step and volunteer at GoldenPalms in the summer, said Olivares.
With student and community advancement at their top of mind, SAB members have every intention to provide as much assistance as possible to benefit the future of Harlingen. This is the fifth year SAB has been active at HCISD.