By Izzy ben Izzy
On Aug. 31, Maddy Roberts, a senior at Berkeley High, will face one of her most important challenges yet: representing the 9,000 students in the Berkeley Unified School District.
Roberts, 17, was elected in May to serve as the Student Director for the forthcoming year, which means she will sit on the school board and represent the diverse student voices in the district.
Roberts won the position in a race that attracted the high school’s most politically ambitious and passionate students. While there are numerous leadership roles at the school in student government, the position of Student Director is the only one that reaches outside of Berkeley High and into the Berkeley community.
Campaigning was fierce in the weeks preceding the election. Flyers littered the hallways and there was a convention to introduce all the candidates. Robert’s campaign strategy including giving a five-minute talk about her plans in 62 different classrooms. In some Spanish classes, she gave her presentation in Spanish. While Roberts’ talks allowed the Berkeley High community to feel connected to a candidate, it also helped her to better understand “all the little subcultures of Berkeley High.”
“I got to answer a lot of questions, and got people interested,” said Roberts. “It improved communication between me and the students.”
Roberts set up a Facebook page to explain her candidacy.
“In my last three years at this school I have met such incredible people and have had so many amazing experiences,” wrote Roberts. “I am so lucky to attend a high school that is like no other in the world, and I want to ensure that future students have just as life-changing (if not better) experience at the school as I have had. I enjoy working with adults, and I love hearing the opinions and ideas of Berkeley students, and these are the reasons for which I am campaigning to be able to represent our school as your next School Board Rep!”
Roberts, who is replacing last year’s student director Lias Djili, will be expected to accurately tote the voices of thousands into the boardroom every few weeks.
“I’ve been interested in politics my whole life,” said Roberts, who held several other leadership positions before trying for this one. She served in a leadership role in the International School at Berkeley High and was a Berkeley Youth and Government delegate. Roberts also served as co-president of the Surf Club and the Shoreline Ecology Alliance, and was treasurer of the Photography club.
Roberts hopes the position allows her to address the issues that she is passionate about. One such issue is that of students failing math and science. Because of growing class sizes and budget cuts, it is crucial that students get the extra support they need.
Another issue that Roberts will be taking a stand on is the allocation of resources during this time of tight budgets. It’s clear that money is short, and some programs will have to go, but Roberts wants to cut “as little as possible from classes where students can explore their passions,” she said. She also hopes to preserve sports programs.
Roberts also believes that the equity/achievement gap (which she likes to call the opportunity gap) needs to be addressed in the early stages of a student’s education. She thinks that the gap begins when students are much younger, and there are many factors that are often unnoticed, such as resources available, their family life and their extracurricular activities, she said. This is more of a long-term solution, but still effective.
So starting this week, Maddy Roberts will be found sitting at the famous city hall desk at the public school board meetings. Her position is fairly unique, and as the voice of the students, Roberts hopes she can have an impact on the decisions made by the School Board.
Izzy ben Izzy is a lifelong and dedicated Berkeley resident, and will be a junior at Berkeley High School this year.