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Norwin junior gives Pa. Board of Education a student’s perspective

August 2, 2018

Ashley Svec in front of the state Department of Education office in Harrisburg.

A Norwin High School junior will have a voice on policies affecting fellow students across Pennsylvania in her role as a student representative on the state education board -- the first Westmoreland County student to serve on that board.

Ashley Svec, 16, of North Huntingdon, is the junior representative on the Pennsylvania Board of Education’s Council of Basic Education.

“I was really honored and excited to be chosen,” said Svec, who was appointed to the board in April.

The 21-member board, which has a council on basic education and one focused on higher education, works with the state Department of Education, policymakers and educators in reviewing, developing and adopting regulations that govern significant components of basic education and higher education.

Although she is a non-voting member, Svec sees her role as providing a student’s perspective to the adult board members, some of whom graduated years ago. The board meets every other month. Svec attended meetings in May and July.

“I can voice my opinion on a potential problem ... along with just being the voice for the students because everyone on the board is older,” Svec said.

Having a “student perspective on policies that may impact them is invaluable,” state Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said in a statement. It provides “a way to gain feedback from one of our most important stakeholder groups as we develop policies and make decisions that affect all student.”

The board changed its bylaws in 2008 to permit student representatives. The higher education council also has a student representative.

Student representatives are essential because of their unique viewpoint on education, from inside the classroom, said Karen Farmer White, education board chairwoman.

Svec is the treasurer on the Norwin Student Council. Her board application was reviewed by the Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils, which recommends a student representative to the education board.

“I’ve always been eager and ready to work in my school and my school environment to help improve it,” Svec said.

Her high school principal, Michael Choby, wrote a letter of recommendation, noting that “service is a huge part of Ashley’s life, and I believe that the involvement she has had with several co-curricular activities related to this have helped develop her strong work ethic.”

Svec also served as a student representative on the Norwin School Board for a part of the past school year.

Choby stated that he had seen Svec in the classroom, communicating with her peers, and interacting with adults throughout the high school.

“Every day she continues to prove to me that she is more than just an outgoing, persistent student; she is an outgoing, persistent, extraordinary, young woman,” Choby added.

Rose Ann Fulena, executive director of the state Association of Student Councils, said that Svec was “fantastic” in the interview process for the student representative position.

Svec was one of five finalists and the only one from Western Pennsylvania, said Fulena, who interviewed Svec. As part of the interview process, finalists discussed the issue of student walkouts and were watched by the judges during their interaction, said Fulena, a teacher in the Union School District, Lawrence County.

“Norwin has such a strong tradition of putting forth terrific students. She will be a source of pride for both Norwin and the Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils,” Fulena said.

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