Image courtesy of: Elk Grove Unified School District

Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD) currently does not have a Student Board Member. The EGUSD Board consists of seven adults to represent the seven geographic origins that make up EGUSD. Seven adults voting on the values, the beliefs, and priorities of students, without any official input from an actual student.

This has caused major miscommunication between EGUSD and the students. For example, on Apr. 13, 2021 EGUSD’s Instagram page (@elkgroveunified) released an apology post that read: “We apologize for the offensive social media post that went out the other day as part of our #FightRacism campaign. Your comments and emails of concern were taken very seriously and we deleted the post. We thank you for speaking up and pointing out where we messed up.” Their post that led to the apology included insensitive racial stereotypes and provided no relevant information to dismantle systemic racism, which they are preaching through their #FightRacism campaign.  Many high school students around EGUSD expressed that having a Student Board Member would have made it so a racially insensitive post would have never made it onto social media. 

Prayer Noyogiere, a junior at Cosumnes Oaks High School (EGUSD), expressed her opinion on EGUSD’s racially tone deaf Instagram post through her own Instagram, “This [post] is why it’s so important that we have a student board member position on the actual school board. This is all extremely unnecessary and could have been avoided with better communication with actual students where policy decisions are made. EGUSD can do so much better.” Noyogiere and many other high school girls in EGUSD are taking action on the misrepresentation of students through the organization, GENup. 

GENup is a California-based, nationwide student-led social justice organization and student-activist coalition that strives to advocate for education through the power of youth voices!” according to the organization’s website.

GENup started their Elk Grove Chapter last summer, to specifically advocate for EGUSD students.

“We hope to have more student representation in our district by raising our voices and not staying silent in things that matter,” states @genup.eg, GENup Elk Grove’s official Instagram.  

In Feb., GENup EG launched their Take A Seat Campaign

The Take a Seat Campaign works to place a student on the EGUSD School Board with The California Student Board Member Association (CSBMA). This position will involve more student voice in important decisions made regarding student rights and education.”

Noyogiere, who is GENup EG’s Director of School Board Relations, explains that a Student Board Member, “would be responsible for having direct communication from our schools and us students. They will advocate the issues we as students are going through and will be responsible for relaying that information, just basic communication.”

Tinsae Birhanu, a sophomore at Cosumnes Oaks High School and Co-President of GENup EG, reveals “[A Student Board Member] will also have what they call a preferential vote. That means they vote first when decisions are made, but it is not officially counted, but it is logged in the meetings. If the board members go against that, they don’t look so well. It will make them think twice too.” 

Tinsae Birhanu (Top Left), Sammi Bringas (Top Right), Prayer Noyogiere (Bottom Center)

The high school girls that make up GENup EG are very passionate about obtaining a student board member. 

Noyogiere states, “There is a major importance of actually having a student voice and student representation on the actual board. That communication will be to mitigate all the confusion. Our board ironically consists of adults. They kind of just assume that this is what students want or these are the issues students are going through. But by actually having a student board member position, they no longer have to assume because it is that direct communication from a student to directly state ‘This is what we want. This is what we need to see.’”

Birhanu emphasizes, “I think student representation is really important to creating an education system that effectively serves us. If we are not represented well, I don’t think anything else will run any smoother.”

In order to make any progress within their campaign, GENup EG needs at least 500 signatures from students of EGUSD in favor of the Petition. Once GENup EG reaches the needed signatures, they will then reach out to the EGUSD Board of Education to read over their petition and form their response. 

Birhanu adds, “It’s also bigger than students, as a community we could do this. [The Board] has public comments. It would be really helpful if a student or anyone in the community could be able to speak up a public comment, write letters, to bring forth what we’re doing right now. This is a campaign that is super important to us students and it’s truly for the students in our district.” 

Birhanu and Noyogiere highly encourage other EGUSD students to join GENup EG

“We are youth led, it’s just us high schoolers. It takes commitment and it pays off. We are doing stuff that has not really been done before. There are many issues in schools, so if you want to work to find solutions for that and actually implement change, then GENup is where to meet,” says Birhanu.

Noyogiere expresses, “I think it super important because I feel there’s a stigma with students. You know, ‘students are incapable of making change.’ That theory just seems to float around the education system in general, but I feel GENup is an opportunity to show that, that is absolutely not true.”

“We are definitely capable, we do have a voice and our voice does matter,” adds Noyogiere. 

Birhanu concludes, “Honestly, if we don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for us. So we got to take that initiative.”

If you want to get involved with GENup Elk Grove visit: GENup Join Us!

If you are a student at EGUSD and are for a student board member sign the petition here.