The board, heading into its second year, is increasing involvement at school and in the community.
The last Parent Teacher Student Association meeting, in senior Pooja Desai’s memory, drew four students. Two of them were Desai and senior Anton Zheng, the two PTSA student representatives for the academic year. The third was a reporter from this publication. Therefore, Desai concluded, the total student attendance at the Aug. 27 meeting was really more like one.
“It’s the P-T-S-A,” Desai said. “And there are not a lot of students there.”
Last year, PTSA members founded the Student Board to combat that very problem. Class of 2013 alumnus Preston Yeung, who served as last year’s student representative, collaborated with adult members of the PTSA to set up a 12-person student body — headed by one or more student representatives — aimed to increase student involvement.
Despite the fact that the board existed last year, Desai and Zheng agree that starting this year, they will have an opportunity to start focusing on having an impact on the school rather than on the logistics of the board itself.
“Last year was sort of testing out the waters,” Desai said. “This year, we’re trying to really make it something big.”
Finding a purpose
Ever since the Parent Teacher Association became the PTSA around five years ago, bylaws have required the presence of at least one student representative. However, according to PTSA President Jim Cunningham, the representative’s responsibilities were not clearly defined.
“The student rep himself, he was trying to figure out what his role should be,” Cunningham said, recalling an instance where one student representative presented a half-hour long PowerPoint to meeting attendees. “To me, it didn’t quite click.”
Yeung shook things up a little: He brought in additional students, including Desai and Zheng, to serve on the Student Board. The members of the board, according to Cunningham, shadowed the adult committees, including those in charge of Reflections, the Job Shadow program and Bike/Walk to School Day.
Other projects taken on by the board included organizing a Red Cross fundraiser and volunteering at A.J. Dorsa Elementary School, a low-performing school in San Jose. However, for Desai and Zheng, the board still had not reached its potential.
“What we ultimately came to at the end of last year was, we want to be involved in the community,” Desai said. “But at the very least, we want to make sure we serve our community first.”
Shaping the school
Desai and Zheng are approaching this year with two overarching goals in mind. First, they want to reduce the stress experienced by students; second, they want to help broaden students’ worldviews beyond the “Cupertino bubble.” As of now, their plans to achieve these goals include booking guest speakers to present “TED Talks” that introduce unique career possibilities and perspectives. Additional plans are forthcoming.
On a larger scale, Desai and Zheng hope to use the Student Board as a vehicle to increase awareness of the PTSA’s goals and importance in the school community.
”I think most students don’t know what the PTSA is, and they don’t know when they meet,” Zheng said. “They just know, ‘Oh, it’s that form that you get at the beginning of the year.’”
What students are not aware of, Desai and Zheng said, are the opportunities that are made available through the PTSA. Students who are members can vote on any issues that are brought up — from what to spend the budget on to what event to organize next. Clubs that need funding can also approach the PTSA to request it.
Moreover, students can run for any position on the executive board, including president. As of now, however, the only student on the board — aside from Desai and Zheng who, as student representatives, are members of the executive board as well — is Secretary junior Janaye Sakkas.
“We’re at this school for four years,” Desai said. “The least we can do is have a voice in what happens here.”
You can apply to serve on the PTSA Student Board here. The next PTSA meeting will be held Oct. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the library.