OAKLAND — Oakland High School junior B.J. Barnes likes knowing about state education policies that affect him and relishes that he has a hand in shaping them.
Once a month, Barnes, 17, travels to Salem to serve as the student adviser to the Oregon State Board of Education.
“It’s really interesting to see how decisions are made at the top and how they come down,” he said. “I see them talking about the new graduation requirements and then I come back (to Oakland High) and experience them.”
The state board appointed Barnes as the sole student adviser in December for a one-year term. Since then, he said he’s striven to be the voice of Oregon’s students when he gives feedback to the board.
“I try to come there and provide as good a student perspective as I can to help them,” Barnes said. “A lot of the time, they ask for my input, and they say that they like having a student perspective.”
Board of Education Chairman Artemio Paz said the seven-member board appreciates input from a student adviser.
“All of us feel that it is important to have a student voice there,” he said. “We genuinely want to hear from the students.”
Barnes said he applied to be the board’s student adviser after serving on former state Superintendent Susan Castillo’s Youth Advisory Team last school year. As a member of the advisory team, he met with about 20 students from throughout Oregon in Salem to discuss education issues.
“I went to several of those meetings, and they were always very engaging and interesting to see how education is in different parts of the state,” he said.
When the opportunity arose to advise the Board of Education, Barnes said he was eager to stay involved.
“I like to try to give back to the community and state however I can,” he said. “It’s a pretty amazing opportunity.”
Barnes said he’s learning a lot observing and interacting with members of the board.
“I hope it gives me skills and experience of being on a committee,” he said.
Although he wants to be a doctor, Barnes said he could also see himself getting involved in politics. At Oakland High, he’s student body vice president and said that next year he plans to run for student body president.
Last school year, he was the student representative to the Oakland School Board.
Along with participating in student government, Barnes is an athlete. He plays football and basketball and wrestles.
He’s also a member of Oakland High’s National Honors Society and has participated in Future Business Leaders of America.
Barnes said he only attends State Board of Education meetings when members talk about issues affecting K-12 schools. Before each meeting, Barnes said he receives an agenda and supporting information, which he studies closely.
“When they have discussions and stuff, I’ll interject and make comments on how I feel that affects students,” he said.
Barnes said he likes that he gets to represent smaller schools like Oakland High, which has fewer than 200 students.
“It’s good to have a perspective from a small school because you can see how it affects the little guy,” he said.
Serving the State Board of Education has been enlightening, Barnes said.
“It was just very different to see what actually happens and how those (policy) decisions get made,” he said. “I was surprised initially that there are actual people making those decisions.”
Oakland High Principal Jeff Clark said he’s impressed with Barnes’ achievements.
“He’s just an amazing student that takes care of business in the academic realm, athletic realm and leadership realm,” Clark said.
Clark said he was pleased when he found out Barnes would be the State Board of Education’s student adviser.
“I thought it was an incredible honor, but I can’t say I was shocked because that’s just the kind of thing B.J. does, just kind of sets the standard for all students,” he said.
• You can reach reporter Inka Bajandas at 541-957-4202 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s really interesting to see how decisions are made at the top and how they come down.
B.J. Barnes, student advisor to the Oregon State Board of Education