As Berkeley residents consider their choices for the upcoming presidential election, Berkeley High School (BHS) students do the same in the process of deciding who they will vote for in the upcoming Associated Student Body (ASB); of particular importance are the ASB president and vice president, who will be the voices for the entire school.
This year, there are three sets of candidates, all of whom are juniors. One of the pairs running for ASB president and vice president is Syrak Micael and Ultraviolet Schneider-Dwyer. Micael and his vice president Schneider-Dwyer hope to “give everyone at [BHS] a voice” and “believe that by empowering the student body, anything is possible.”
To Micael and Schneider- Dwyer, this position entails promoting and implementing more academic resources, preventing segregation in small schools, and working towards providing more victim support for sexual harm survivors. As president, Micael would like to increase communication with Sexual Health Information From Teens (SHIFT) and Green Dot, two programs at BHS that work towards educating students and stopping harassment. In his campaign speech, Micael discussed the possible creation of a website that would give students opportunities to get tutoring help and learn about resources, scholarships, and volunteer opportunities. This would allow students to get the support they need outside of class.
Also running are Safiya O’Brien and Alessandro Tasso. O’Brien plans to address pressing issues on campus: “Our platform focuses on what we believe are major systemic issues at our school. This includes sexism, discrimination, harassment, and inadequate responses to all health needs.” She will do this by increasing awareness and expanding the resources such as the Simply Supply Center in order to ensure sanitation and well-being for those of lower socio-economic class.
In light of recent events, O’Brien also hopes to increase BHS’ victim support by “empowering student-led campaigns to reform sexual assault policies.” Other major goals are to “improve support and student-teacher relations in classroom environments” and “provide underrepresented students a voice in leadership discussions.” To do this, O’Brien would appoint a diverse leadership team, hold frequent meetings with student representatives of all small schools and student associations, and hold similar meetings with administration to “prepare all adults to be advocates for underrepresented voices in classrooms, and to be responsive to survivors, and students with mental health needs.”
The third and final pair of candidates is Spencer Paik and Matthew Gallati. As president, Paik wants to represent all students and makes resources available to everyone. He plans to do this by organizing in-class presentations from institutions like the College and Career Center (CCC), identity-based clubs like the Black Student Union, and counseling services.
In addition, Paik and Gallati want to address the treatment of survivors and the rape culture at BHS by creating avenues for support and community growth. “We are hoping to facilitate creating a space for healing circles for sexual assault survivors on campus to feel safe, reconcile their trauma, and be heard,” said Paik.
Paik stated that he wants to provide a space for boys to create a “constructive male culture and discuss, without judgement, how we as men can become allies instead of bystanders.”
Another goal of Paik and Gallati’s campaign is to make BHS a place where everyone can succeed, including students with learning disabilities. Paik has set out plans to create an “opt-in neurodivergent mentorship system to support and advise students on strategies to succeed and advocate for their needs.” Paik and Gallati are hoping they can make BHS a place where everyone is safe and successful.
All candidates described the large time commitment of campaigning, and that it could sometimes overwhelm other responsibilities and needs. O’Brien said, “Sometimes I find myself prioritizing the candidacy over my education.” Additionally, Micael mentioned the difficulties of ensuring that everyone is fully inf o r me d . “I wish I could visit more classes and tell more students about our agenda and platform,” he said.
In the process, candidates must consider how to be inclusive of the entire student body. O’Brien explained the importance of inclusion: “We must be equally aware of all students’ needs, and do our best to find solutions and make change.” Paik also expressed his gratitude for the experience; he said, “We are so lucky to have been able to talk to so many people across the school and learn so much in the process.”