In an effort to forge links among a small—and scattered—group of student leaders, the Alexandria, Va.-based National Association of State Boards of Education is tapping into a medium that teenagers know well: the online forum.
The Student Leadership Network Forum, launched in February as part of NASBE’s Student Leadership Initiative, is designed to give the 25 students across the country who serve as student members on state boards of education a place to exchange advice, chat about their experiences, and learn about what their peers are doing.
“Often there is only one student on each board, and they work mostly by themselves,” said Lori Meyer, the project director for NASBE and the moderator of the online forum, which is sponsored by the MetLife Foundation. “We wanted to give them an opportunity to connect with each other.”
Fewer than half the states have a student board member, although some states have more than one. Some simply attend board meetings and act as advisers, while others are allowed partial or, in some cases, full voting privileges.
Before the network was created, students had difficulty connecting with other student members. As Ms. Meyer noted, students typically cannot afford to travel to conferences and events where they can interact with other student leaders.
Now, each student board member is invited to join the forum as a part of his or her orientation.
“I had always wanted to [talk with other members], but there was no convenient way to do so,” Brian Frazee, a student member of the Maryland state board of education and a student at Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, Md., said via e-mail.
“[This forum] is an excellent way of connecting state student board members from across the country because it allows us to share ideas, goals, and issues,” he said.
Jacob Kleinrock, who serves on Tennessee’s state board of education and attends Martin Luther King Academic Magnet School in Nashville, agrees.
“The forum has made [me] more confident with my decisions on the board because I can talk to other members and get their advice on state issues,” he said in an e-mail exchange.
Student board alumni also will retain access to the forum, Ms. Meyer said.
“This is the way students interact now—through technology, through the Internet,” she added.
A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2007 edition of Education Week