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Teen is school board's voice of the students

July 02, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

In her debut as the Washington County Board of Education's student representative, Sarah McDonald didn't say much.

But the 16-year-old Williamsport High School senior said she plans to bring a strong voice to the School Board.

On June 15, she sat in for Beth Hose, the student representative for the past year whose term officially ended Wednesday.

McDonald said she spent the business meeting observing and learning how the School Board operates.

She said she wants to speak for students. "I feel so many times decisions are made and they don't get student input," she said. "To be sure you're making a decision on behalf of students, you have to hear from them."

The student representative is allowed to speak on any issue but does not have a vote.

The Washington County Association of Student Councils is trying to change that.

The organization advocates giving its student representative partial voting rights, McDonald said.

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Although she doesn't expect the change to come this year, she said she wants to help it happen. "Hopefully, I can be the trailblazer."

The Maryland State Board of Education allows its student representative to vote on everything but budget issues, legal appeals and firings. Other county school boards have the same practice, McDonald said.

She is the daughter of Pamela McDonald, a Williamsport graduate who is an office manager for Stephens Excavating, Inc. and Arch McDonald, a vice president at Citicorp. Her parents and friends encouraged her to become a student leader, she said.

In 1997, she was appointed sophomore vice president of Williamsport High's student council. By the end of the school year, she wanted to be president.

"It was a definite goal of mine," she said.

In her junior year, she was a delegate and representative to the Student Council Association. She is now president of her student council. The association elected her to be its representative at the end of March, she said.

McDonald holds the county and regional records for pole vaulting - 9 feet, she said. She has participated in track and field for four years, runs to stay in shape and is a two-year member of the cross-country team.

She has a 3.9 grade point average and recently qualified for the National Honor Society.

Her favorite subjects are science and math, and she wants to become a biomedical researcher. During the summer, she and her father will visit several colleges.

She has seen St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland and Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg. She wants to stay within a two-hour drive from home.

"I am so close to my family and friends that I couldn't handle being so far away," she said.

She will spend the rest of her summer attending board meetings and working as a cashier at the Food Lion grocery store on Virginia Avenue.

To McDonald, student government is a valuable experience. It helps develop leadership abilities and helps one achieve goals, she said.

"It's something that builds on itself," she said.

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