At 16, Ashley Macias has already demonstrated leadership through involvement in the student council and National Honor Society at Mojave High School in North Las Vegas.
But this year she’s taking her public service to a new level, serving as the voice of all Nevada students on the State Board of Education. She’s also serving on Gov. Brian Sandoval’s statewide school safety task force.
She acknowledges that the responsibility of being the lone student representative on the board is daunting, but she says other students are counting on her.
“It’s not about you. It’s about everybody else,” she said.
Her experience on the student council at Mojave, which enables her to interact with other student councils around the state, will help her make sure she’s aware of issues at other schools that may be relevant to the state board, she said.
From her perspective, she wants to make sure the state board is aware of the challenges high school students face “just making it” to graduation. Personally, Macias said she has very strong support from her family, friends and staff at the school, but she’s aware that’s not the case for every student.
She said she’s tried to help create that kind of environment at Mojave for students who may not have it at home.
To be chosen as the student representative, Macias had to fill out an application, write an essay and secure three letters of recommendation. Student applicants were then reviewed by the state Department of Education, and two finalists were sent to Sandoval, who made the final choice.
Problems and solutions
Mojave staff members see Macias as a consummate professional and a go-getter. As part of her involvement with the National Honor Society, Macias coordinated and oversaw all the volunteer efforts, said Joseph May, a science teacher at the school and the adviser for the society.
“She’s demonstrated good ability to identify problems that need solutions,” he said.
Among the problems she focused on were school safety and student engagement.
Macias said she feels safe at her school, but she’s more concerned about students committing acts of violence than an outsider. That fear would lessen if all students had proper support systems, she said.
There are also some physical improvements that could be made to make schools safer, she said, like making it more difficult for people to get on or off campus unnoticed.
Safety ties directly to the problem Macias sees with student engagement. She doesn’t have the silver bullet to fix the problem, but she says Mojave has made strides in improving student morale.
Take Spirit Week, for example. Schools traditionally hold weeklong events with a different theme each day and invite students to dress up to match each theme. Macias said Mojave this year made an effort to stick with simple themes, such as a “blackout day” where students dress in all black, to make it easy for students to get involved.
Most students have at least one black shirt or blouse they can put on and feel part of the community, she noted.
Getting teachers and staff involved is key to helping students feel more engaged, too, she said.
Macias has already attended one State Board of Education meeting and three or four safety task force meetings.
“They’re really intense,” she said, adding that she prepared for hours for the state board meeting, making sure she read all the background materials.
She also prepared a cheat sheet to help her when staff and board members use education acronyms that weren’t familiar. She hopes, as the year progresses, to be able to provide the board with more context on the student perspective.
In addition to her state service, she’ll be taking five Advanced Placement courses at Mojave, one elective course and one course in the school’s medical career program.
She hopes to attend a four-year college after high school — probably in state to save money — and get a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. Ultimately, she’d like to be a physical therapist.