Advocacy Club meets with school board, discusses climate change and sports funding

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Audrija Ghosh

School board members Jeff Todd and Pam Hill take notes as the Advocacy Club describes ways Parkway can be more environmentally friendly. Advocacy Club sponsor and English Teacher, Erin Fluchel oversaw the meeting and assisted the club when needed. “It takes a lot of work to prepare for something like this. I am incredibly proud of the research they have done. I was beaming at the end of their presentation,” Fluchel said.

Parkway West High is ranked fifth-best public school in Missouri; still, there are some issues the school’s Advocacy Club wanted to address. The club focused on two specific topics一climate change and inequities in sports funding. Then, they met with two available school board members, president Jeff Todd and member Pam Hill, to highlight the issues and make suggestions for the school board to address. The club focused on lobbying at the state and national levels in the past, but they wanted to focus on more local issues this year. Senior Leah Schroeder is the club’s president and has been a part of it for three years.

“The meeting was special to us because we got to connect with [the school board] on a more personal level, and it felt a lot more local,” Schroeder said. “We thought it would be useful to meet with people who are in charge of the school and have the power to create change. It was just special that we had the opportunity for them to hear our voices and hear about different changes that we wanted to see as students.” 

In the meeting, the climate change group suggested funding more community gardens in schools, providing gas-efficient buses and upgrading the school’s air conditioning systems to be more environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, the sports funding inequities team addressed that many low-income students cannot participate in school sports due to monetary issues. During the meeting, junior and club member Allie Byergo was optimistic about the school board addressing these issues as part of the sports inequities team.

“I do not think [sports inequities] should be difficult to resolve,” Byergo said. “[The school board] seemed super receptive and moved by what we were saying, and they made promises. They would try to talk to their colleagues and try to make these changes which were good.”

Social media director of Advocacy Club and senior Mira Nalbandian has been with the club for three years and was part of the climate change group during the meeting. On the other hand, Nalbandian offered a different take on the school board addressing some issues. 

“[The school board members] agree with a lot of things and are supportive of our causes,” Nalbandian said. “But, it’s really hard to follow through on [climate change] things that we want and there’s a lot of red tape and blocks and challenges to achieving these things. Sometimes it is challenging to get what you want directly. Funding can be a big issue and also just other priorities the school has to place first.” 

Members of the Advocacy Club meet at the College and Career Center Feb. 9 with School Board President Jeff Todd and member Pam Hill. The club met to discuss climate change and inequities in sports funding. “One of the best things about being on a school board is meeting with students and seeing the incredible work they’re doing. I was impressed by the thoroughness of the presentation that the students had put together and their passion. I just enjoy talking to smart students about what they care about. It was a meeting that I enjoyed immensely and was really grateful that they had invited us,” Hill said. (Audrija Ghosh)

Despite these challenges, board members are trying to help aid these causes. Though a few Parkway elementary schools have community gardens, the high schools do not. Todd said the board would discuss how they can incorporate community gardens into other Parkway schools. As for sports funding, Todd has asked Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty to do some research and give the board more information on how money is distributed to athletics. In addition, the board has thought to ask athletic directors and other administrators to make sure there is more equity in the fund allocations. 

“As a school board member, we do not typically get to interact with students, so when we get invitations to come to meet with students, we just love that. [The meeting] was extremely well presented; they had lots of facts to back up their claims and offered solid ideas and suggestions for how we can address both of the issues,” Todd said. “Making change is a very collaborative effort. We need to be able to talk back and forth to help each other. This is a perfect example of students thinking outside the box and getting a conversation started.

Nalbandian, Schroeder, Byergo and the rest of the Advocacy Club, have considered lobbying at the city level and attending a Chesterfield Board of Aldermen meeting. The club is shifting its focus to a bigger audience while maintaining its prior goals of advocating at the local level. 

“I believe it’s really important for any student to be able to look around them and see how they can make the world a better place. It’s important to think about how [you] can make the world kinder and more positive,” Schroeder said. “As students, we have a responsibility to make sure that everybody feels welcome. It’s cool that we can use our voices to advocate for these changes.”