Every year, one student from each Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) high school is chosen to represent their peers as a Student Board Member of the Board of Education. During their one-year term, Student Board Members have a responsibility to create a connection between students, staff and the district.
The Student Board Members learn about local school governance and build important communication skills, rotating turns sitting at the dias alongside the board members and reporting on the activities on their campuses. Though Student Board Member votes are preferential, thus non-binding, they are recorded in the board meeting minutes.
Board Vice President Carol Crane, who oversees the Student Board Members, gathered the group together this summer for an orientation meeting, during which the students toured the conference and board rooms, discussed official meeting protocols, and participated in team-building exercises. Prior to each board meeting, Crane will meet with the Student Board Members and answer any questions relating to the current agenda.
“We cannot emphasize enough to our Student Board Members their value and importance in representing the numerous voices of their campus and student body. The Board has been heartened by the insightful nature of our Student Board Members. They provide us valuable feedback as we formulate decisions to support their respective high schools,” Crane said.
The 2023-24 Student Board Members are:
Brianna Garcia, junior, Newport Harbor High School: As a Student Board Member, Brianna aims to project the voices of her entire student body in an effort to provide a positive environment for students across the district. She believes the role will also allow her to further develop her public speaking skills, which will be valuable in school presentations as well as in her future career opportunities. In addition to being a part of Newport Harbor’s Associated Student Body and member of the field hockey team, Link Crew and National Honor Society, Brianna volunteers with the Project Kidz Connect program at Whittier Elementary School, where she helps younger students with their homework. After graduation, she intends to pursue a career as a social worker.
Jose Gomez, junior, Estancia High School: As an intern for Costa Mesa City Councilman Manuel Chavez, Jose has been exposed to the democratic process and collaborated with numerous local politicians and organizations. The experience increased his passion for politics and leadership. He believes that everyone should have a voice in decisions that affect them, and he hopes to be that voice for his peers at Estancia. He also intends to keep them informed of what goes on at board meetings. He was recently named a Simon Scholar, a program that provides high school students who meet the rigorous criteria with the tools and training they need to excel academically and socially and achieve a college degree. Jose regularly volunteers with the Newport Sunrise Rotary Club and Costa Mesa for Better Streets, as well as other organizations. At Estancia, he is part of the Lyceum Program and the Drama Production team. He plans to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, and major in creative writing while also participating in the pre-law or pre-med program.
India Howerton, junior, Costa Mesa High School (CMHS): After hearing India speak at an NMUSD Board of Education meeting, Costa Mesa High School Principal Dr. Dipali Potnis encouraged her to apply for the Student Board. “Dr. Potnis knows me well enough to know I am not afraid to speak my mind and stand up for myself as well as other students,” India said. She is determined to foster an environment that empowers student participation as well as increase student involvement by encouraging attendance at board meetings. India is ASB secretary for the junior class, president of the CMHS film club, and active in drama and the varsity dance team. She also volunteers with Olive Crest, which provides services for foster youth and families in Orange County. She intends to pursue a degree and career in filmmaking after high school.
Victor Jimenez, junior, Early College High School: Victor is excited by the opportunity as a Student Board Member to implement positive strategies concerning student participation and well-being at his school and throughout the district. He was inspired to apply for the role by a former Student Board Member, who shared with him the far-reaching benefits of collaborating with his fellow students from other campuses. The position will also allow him to expand on his public-speaking skills, as he develops ways to better present information to the board, the community and his peers. He is the vice president of Early College’s ASB and the chess club, and he is also a member of the Get Active and ping-pong clubs. Outside school, he shares his passion for music as a member of his church choir and the band Maniacal Martians. Victor plans to study civil engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Valeria Orozco, senior, Back Bay High School: Looking to a future in nursing, Valeria knows the importance of using her voice to speak for those who are too shy or feel powerless. This is why she seized on the opportunity to be a Student Board Member when it was suggested to her by her ASB Advisor. Valeria intends to listen to her peers’ concerns and ideas, as well as catalog her own, then bring them to the Board of Education to help improve students’ experiences at her campus and beyond. At Back Bay, she is president of ASB and an active member of the dance team. In her free time, she enjoys going to the beach with her friends.
Peyton Vovan, senior, Corona del Mar (CdM) High School: Peyton knows what it takes to bring ideas to fruition. As the founder of CdM’s Girls Flag Football Club, she helped to grow the sport, which is now an official part of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the governing body for all high school sports in the state. She intends to bring the same focus and tenacity to her role as a Student Board Member. In addition to having a platform to inform the larger community about events on her campus, she wants to bring to CdM new ideas from collaborating with her peers from other schools. Peyton is a part of CdM’s Academy of Global Studies, volunteers with various community groups and plays club soccer.
The selection process for Student Board Members includes the submission of an application, resumé, transcript and letters of recommendation. They must be in good academic standing and demonstrate active involvement in their school community and with their social peers. All candidates are interviewed by members of the NMUSD Board of Education prior to selection.