Picture of Joud Dahleh sitting at a conference table, talking and smiling.

Joud Dahleh

This year has been the most fulfilling time in my life, and that is not an exaggeration. In terms of opportunity, knowledge and connections, this year has been phenomenal thanks to my position on the Kentucky Board of Education. I would like to say thank you to all members of the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education, who have a special place in my heart. You have provided me with guidance and support in a role that is crucial in the enhancement and evolution of education.   

My journey into the world of education was and still is fueled by the words of Nelson Mandela. Mandela once said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” KBE Vice Chair (Sharon Porter) Robinson can testify firsthand that changing the world is one of my goals. Mandela’s words opened my narrative when I applied for this role and continue to inspire me as this journey comes to a close.   

Just last week I had the opportunity to dive into the world of student voice during the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council meeting. When asked how we as students identify the impact of student’s voices, students answered that “the recognition of the efforts of students by those in higher positions” and when students “see adults take into consideration the concerns of the students and take action” we know our voices are impactful.  

On this board, I speak for the student body when I say I am grateful and proud to have been surrounded by a group of individuals who listen and value student voice. This position was created to elevate the voice of the students, and I can assure anyone who has doubts that this board has done exactly that and will continue to support the students of Kentucky.   

At my very first board meeting, I expected to stay quiet and just listen to those around me. I was extremely nervous, and I wanted to get situated. Of course, I did not stay quiet for long as Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass started asking me questions. It was a day I will never forget. Just two months later, I was at my first-ever conference, a national conference at that, sitting on a panel representing our state. Two months after that, I gave a presentation about school connectedness and behavior management to the board as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I also was fortunate enough to work on the school safety project with the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council and the recognition and response to that were incredible. Following those events, I have engaged more in creating a change in my own district. I became involved in my district’s disciplinary committee and our code of conduct committee and I am continuing the work that I was passionate about here and bringing it to a local level. 

My position on this board has opened so many opportunities to me that I never could have imagined. Most importantly, I have made connections that will never be forgotten. I have connected with students across the state, and the nation, and we have talked about the issues that we face. We’ve had conversations regarding our fears, insecurities, hopes and dreams. In each and every dialogue, we have come to an understanding and agreement that we want to better our world and our environment. What better way to change the world around us than to be educated in an institution that values us? That is what student voice is, that is what fuels us. We are the future, but we choose to be involved in the present. Students are powerful and our voices will be heard.   

The past year has felt so surreal and many emotions flow through my head as this chapter of my life ends. Along with sadness, I am also filled with gratefulness and fueled with ambition. My journey in education is far from over. I will continue to push for student voice and student projects, continue to work on my projects and my own goals, and lastly, I will continue to learn.   

Once again, I want to thank you all for this amazing year. Although I am saddened to leave, I am excited to pass the torch that Solyana (Mesfin) handed to me. Just last month in the middle of the school day, I received an email from a younger student telling me that she wanted to change education and that she wanted this role to be her own one day. She was just going into middle school, so she was fairly young. That message cleared away any doubt I could have possibly had about the future of this position and student voice in Kentucky, because students like her are the future.  

Although today is my last day in this chair at board meetings, I am certain that the students who will follow me, including the incoming student, R.J. (Ronald “R.J.” Osborne), are going to have such an amazing impact. I am very excited for you all to meet him and hear what he has to say.