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Kealakehe senior is first BOE student member from Big Island since 2004

Updated: 
July 15, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — A West Hawaii teen will serve as student member of the state Board of Education for the first time in more than a decade.

Maya Gee, a senior at Kealakehe High School, will assume the post this month. She’s the first Hawaii Island student selected to serve since 2001 and the first neighbor island student since 2004.

“It’s been a very, very long time,” Gee, 16, said last week. “I’m just really excited to serve, especially as a neighbor island member. My goal is to promote not only this position, but to show the neighbor islands that they have a voice and they are important.”

A student board member is selected each year from the Hawaii State Student Council, a statewide student government organization that meets monthly to discuss student concerns and raise issues to lawmakers and the BOE, according to the state Department of Education’s website.

As student member, Gee will fly to Oahu twice-monthly board meetings and give feedback to the board on policy issues. She’ll serve a one-year term and she is a nonvoting member, much like the BOE’s military liaison.

The tradition of a BOE student member is longstanding — Hilo-based attorney Brian De Lima, who also is the board’s vice chairman, was the first student member in 1972.

“It was an eventful year,” De Lima said Friday about his time as student board member. “We were able to have the board adopt our proposed student bill of rights and responsibilities that year, and we had a teachers strike. So I was thrust into the controversy, so to speak.

“The value of the student representative, in terms of providing input on issues before the board, is critical to making decisions about issues that affect students,” De Lima added. “And I think it’s exciting. We’ve met Maya and she was asked to make comments … and she’s very articulate and very confident and she will be excellent.”

Gee has a 4.6 weighted grade-point average at Kealakehe and serves as lead delegate of the Model United Nations team. She also is an avid swimmer.

As student board member, she said she wants to help students adjust to upcoming changes in the state’s public education system. For example, the state will operate under a newly updated strategic plan next year and the new superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, starts Aug. 1.

Gee said she also wants to encourage more students to testify at board meetings.

“We often see a lot of teachers and administrators come in, but I’d really love to see more students,” Gee said. “I want them to have a say in it and realize, we’re all in this together. They really have so much power giving testimony and being in the room and giving their voice, and I want them to be aware of that.“

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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