Bryan County is one of a handful of counties in the state to have students on both the middle school and high school Student Advisory Councils selected by State Superintendent Richard Woods.
Isabella Martinez, a freshman at Richmond Hill High School, is one of 54 students selected for the high school group after serving on the middle school council the past two years, while Will Kroymann, an eighth-grader at Bryan County Middle School, is one of 54 at that level.
“Meeting with my Student Advisory Council has been, and will continue to be, an invaluable part of my decision-making process,” Woods said in a news release announcing the selections. “To develop child-focused, classroom-centered policies, we have to hear directly from students. We can only improve their educational experience by bringing them to the table.”
Each group will meet with Woods and other state Department of Education officials four times during the school year in Atlanta. The 108 students selected — from a pool of more than 800 — were chosen based on the strength of essay answers.
“It was a really pleasant experience,” Kroymann said of the first meeting for the middle school council on Sept. 12. “We discussed ESSA (the federally mandated Every Student Succeeds Act) and how it is being implemented.”
BCMS Principal Michael Tinney said Kroymann is the first student from the school to be selected for the council.
“It’s quite an honor for him and the school,” Tinney said. “It’s a great way to showcase the positive things going on here.”
Kroymann said different types of educational approaches were also discussed at the meeting.
“They asked us for our input on student-teacher relationships and why we thought some students succeeded while others didn’t,” he said.
Kroymann also plays football at BCMS and is active in 4-H. He said he’d like to pursue a career in the engineering field.
“He’s one of our leaders and he gets along with everyone,” Tinney said. “Sometimes students who are struggling aren’t necessarily lazy and in fact are very smart, but they’re more willing to talk to another student like Will about why as opposed to a teacher.”
Martinez, with two years of advisory council experience, said about half of the students on the high school panel also participated as middle schoolers.
“We’ve actually gotten to see some of the things we talked about take effect,” she said. “There have been a lot of changes over the last couple years, especially with testing.”
Martinez said she has enjoyed meeting students from around the state in the process and learning that there are both similarities and differences among them.
“A big motivation is that we get to voice our opinions and they listen to us,” she said. “What we say is taken into account.”
Aside from the council, Martinez also volunteers locally and is active in soccer.
She spearheaded an effort over the summer in conjunction with United Way to collect school supplies for students in need and recently made the final cut for her age group in Georgia for the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program.
“We filled 75 backpacks and had a lot of supplies leftover that went to the schools,” Martinez said of the ‘Fill the Bus’ campaign. “We put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces when we passed out the backpacks.”