Are you cut out to be the next student member of the California State Board of Education?

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Anya Ayyappan, left, being sworn in as the student member of the California State Board of Education by Board President Linda Darling Hammond.

Credit: Courtesy California State Board of Education

As education policy and issues at school boards across California continue to grab headlines, it’s more important than ever that K-12 students — especially those in a state as diverse as ours — have a representative at the table who can voice concerns and have their opinions and input heard.

That’s why, as the current student member of the State Board of Education, I strongly encourage all eligible high school students to apply to be the student member for the 2025-26 school year. The application window is now open.

As student member, you can represent the voice and perspectives of millions of students across California. Your input ensures that student concerns and interests are considered in educational policymaking and decisions made by the State Board of Education. Your insights and experiences as a student can shape policies related to curriculum, standards, assessments and other aspects of education in California.

During my term, I have advocated for increased student involvement in decision-making processes like adopting instructional materials, designing local control and accountability plans and determining actionable goals based on school climate surveys. I have also forged connections with student leaders across California’s various regions, including the Central Valley and Northern California, that have been traditionally underrepresented.

These channels of communication allow for coordinated student-led initiatives and diverse input on items discussed by the state board. Based on my conversations with students, I have supported the integration of artificial intelligence in classrooms and increased project-based learning opportunities.

Recently, I joined the Statewide Model Curriculum Coordinating Council to review lesson plans on Native American history and culture, ensuring they capture authentic, diverse voices. I will be continuing this work beyond my term.

In addition to providing me with the opportunity to serve my state, this role has given me a deeper understanding of California’s education system. Seeing the incredible work that is being done, along with all the work that remains to be done, has had a profound impact on me, sparking my desire to continue exploring education policy in college.

Serving on the board provides you with a unique learning experience regarding governance, policymaking, and the educational system. You’ll gain valuable insights into how decisions are made at the state level and how they impact students and schools.

The application is the first step. The selection process starts with the board’s Screening Committee reviewing all applications and selecting 12 semifinalists. Of those 12, California law requires that student members of a school district governing board select six for further consideration by the State Board of Education. The state board uses the annual Student Advisory Board on Education conference — which takes place Nov. 10-13 in Sacramento — to perform this function. 

At this conference, the semifinalists make individual presentations to all other advisory board participants about why they should be the next student member — an incredible opportunity to gain valuable experience and make personal connections. Following a secret ballot by the advisory board participants, six candidates will be submitted for further consideration by the state board’s Screening Committee.

Each of the final six candidates will be interviewed by the committee, after which committee will recommend three finalists to the State Board of Education. Following the board’s action to select the three finalists, the names of the three finalists will be sent to the governor for the final decision.

Hopefully, after reading this, many students will be inspired to apply. If you or someone you know qualifies for the student member position and wish to apply, you have from now through Sept. 20 to do so. And with summer coming soon, we encourage you to apply soon.

If appointed by the governor, you’ll have the opportunity to network with other board members, educators, policymakers and stakeholders in the education field. This networking can open doors to future opportunities and collaborations.

Serving on the board can enhance your leadership, communication and advocacy skills. It’s a chance to develop as a leader and make a meaningful impact on education in your state while also enhancing your resume and future academic or career opportunities.

Merely going through the process allows you the chance to gain valuable experience and provides many opportunities to help your community. It also helps you think more critically about the education system and how your help can impact students across our state.

As a student, your voice is powerful. I highly encourage you to apply!


Anya Ayyappan is currently serving as the student member of the California State Board of Education. She is a senior at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon.

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