A woman speaks in front of a microphone with a laptop and cup of coffee in front of her

Joud Dahleh, a junior at the Ignite Institute, is the current nonvoting student member of the Kentucky Board of Education.
Photo by Joe Ragusa, Feb. 7, 2023

In my application to become the nonvoting student member on the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), I started my narrative with a quote by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

The saying that inspired me to apply has continuously pushed me to keep going.

At the beginning of my educational journey, I knew I wanted to be engaged in a process that changed education for the better. The past year has transformed my engagement with education. I learned to look at education from a lens grander than my desk. My role as the nonvoting student member on the KBE has opened doors to many incredible opportunities both statewide and nationally.

As students, we experience the decisions made at a state level firsthand. No matter how technical the issue, all decisions impact our education. I realized early on that change in education is inevitable. It is up to students to participate in that change and take the initiative in learning.

As students, we often forget how important our voice is and the power we hold. As soon as we utilize our voice, we unleash and understand the power we carry. For example, I was able to voice my concerns regarding school connectedness and behavior management in a data-driven presentation. This was an issue I was very passionate about. I brought student concerns and testimonies to the board, where I was met with support and resources to continue the work.

This role has taught me to utilize many valuable skills like leadership, communication, cooperation, responsibility and problem-solving. I also learned and am continuing to learn about all aspects of education. From governing factors to stakeholder engagement, this position allows you to view education as a whole rather than from one lens.

The primary role of the student member includes attending Kentucky Board of Education meetings. These meetings are typically held over two days and cover an array of topics regarding education. Board members and Kentucky Department of Education personnel value student voice, making this a phenomenal platform to voice your concerns and also share ideas from the student perspective.

As a non-voting student member, the position automatically places you onto the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council. Students from all over Kentucky form this council, all with a common goal: to improve education. The commitment takes student engagement to another level, amplifying student voice through student-led projects, giving us access to a variety of opportunities to network and allowing us to collaborate with different professionals in the education world.

As a student representative, you may attend many educational events throughout the state. From attending award ceremonies to showcases, you are constantly networking with those passionate about education. The position also opens up opportunities nationwide. I had the privilege of working with National Association of State Boards of Education and attended out-of-state conferences where I met and interacted with student board members and other representatives across the nation.

Overall, this position is especially significant and rewarding. Though the role carries a ton of responsibility, I found it was more than worth it.

By applying for this role, you are willing to represent Kentucky students from all backgrounds and areas. You are establishing that student voices matter in education and are paving the way for change.

If I have learned anything from this experience, it’s that you are never alone. From fellow board and department members to student organizations and even those around you daily, there is always someone there to support and aid you in this journey.

Both the student and teacher seats on the board are open for the next school year, so if you’re interested in this position, applications are open through March 6. More information can be found on Kentucky Teacher.

Joud Dahleh, a junior at the Ignite Institute, assumed her role as the non-voting student member of the Kentucky Board of Education on July 1, 2022. She hopes to continue advocating for education and working on other student committees.