Estella Hemp, a Berkeley High School (BHS) junior in the small school Communication Arts and Sciences was elected to represent BHS on the Berkeley Unified School District School Board for the 2019-20 school year.
Hemp was inspired to run for school board representative when she campaigned for various school board members and got to know them on a more personal level. Five elected adult members, and two student representatives, one from BHS and one from Berkeley Technical Academy (B-Tech), make up the school board. The student representatives lobby for and against decisions, as well as attend private school board meetings.
Of her campaign experience, Hemp said, “You’re always trying to come up with the best poster ideas or you’re missing a bunch of class trying to go and campaign.” Hemp is looking forward to many elements of being school board representative. Specifically, her goal is to “get closer with the members on the board right now, because I really respect them and like them as people,” Hemp said. She’s also excited for the conventions she will attend because she will be able to meet people who do the same exact job as she does.
“This position gives me more opportunity to expand on projects that I wish to start, especially when it comes to mental health and teacher training,” Hemp said. As a student representative, Hemp plans for greater emphasis on support for mental health issues. More specifically, Hemp believes in giving middle and high school teachers more specific tools and support when it comes to recognizing signs of mental health issues in their students. “I really want there to be more support for mental health taught in the regular classroom,” Hemp said.
Hemp believes this support could potentially come in the form of teacher training. “Teachers should have better training when it comes to spotting problems … and being more knowledgeable about warning signs and how to create their classroom to be a safe space where students feel like they are actually genuinely supported by an adult they see every single day,” she said.
Hemp’s campaign message focused on the establishment of a transparent relationship between the students and the school board members. Hemp believes this could generate greater awareness of decisions being made by the school board.
Hemp plans on utilizing social media to provide updates on board business decisions, which would allow students to submit questions and get in touch with her about school-wide issues they want the school board to focus on in the coming school year.
Overall, Hemp already has many concrete plans to make BHS a better place for students.
Disclaimer: Estella Hemp is a photographer on the Jacket.