Delegates of the future


Rosalie Hobbs

Student delegates from various high schools spent the day at the State Capitol to discuss issues that affect high school students.

Rosalie Hobbs, Reporter

There is a place where concerned high school students meet every year, and that place is called the Hawaii State Secondary Conference (HSSC).

On February 13, 2017 students and chaperones alike checked into downtown at the YWCA Fuller hall, and prepared for a packed legislative agenda chalk full of interaction.

Student Delegates walked the walk and talked the talk, on the house floor alongside public figures, and got their first glimpse of what civil engagement truly means.

Advised by Tiffany Frias and maintained by volunteer staff and HSSC Alumni, it’s a group of dedicated high school students who work tirelessly to promote leadership and reach solutions for almost every and all issues in public education.

As a group, HSSC is made up of student representatives who take up roles of responsibility back home at each of their schools. Their role could range from student body government all the way down to committee chairs in their school community council.

So no matter what titles they hold, they are individually recognized as student leaders or student delegates for their concerns and the effort they pour into their work towards making the public education experience better.

With partnerships with the Board Of Education, as well as other collaborations including the backing from the Hawaii State Legislators, the work done at HSSC caused a butterfly effect. The group of student leaders grew into something bigger, the idea and purpose behind the state council branched out and is now the core of H.R.S. Title 18’s Chapter 317.

H.R.S. 317, is a Hawaii Reformed Statute that’s been empowering the lives of hundreds of public school students for many years, and thanks to individuals like Danielle Castro who took it upon herself to organize it, this law will be in full effect for many more years to come.

Volunteer Staffer Victoria Kaʻahaʻaina, a Hawaii State Student Council Executive Member and a graduating Senior of the class of 2017 said, “As young adults, we’re the future and have the ability to create an impact now in the present, and this shows our peers that their thoughts and opinions matter.”

Which is why SSC veteran attendee Castro, knew she had to keep her experience from the conference of 2005 alive for the next generation of student leaders to get inspired.

So despite the lack of funding due to recent budget cuts, Castro was determined to keep this project alive. “The opportunities, memories, and education I received which will last me a lifetime – I hope to do my part and share some of that with today’s students.”

And Castro was not alone in this venture; besides the participating legislators, there were approximately 20-30 volunteer staffers from HSSC alone, which did not include the many individual school chaperones who attended the conference to assist in overseeing their student delegates.

Student delegates started the day off with a Keynote Address from Governor David Ige and First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige whom previously worked within the DOE system. The First Lady and Governor spoke especially on the SSC theme of “The “I” In Idea” by sharing their beginnings as concerned students who wanted to make a change and how exactly it led them both down the path of public service and constant civil engagement.

The delegates then attended an hour long legislative lunch with their House Representatives, where they were constantly reminded of how important their role as students served in thriving communities.

Joshua Ibarra, who was a participating student delegate representing Leilehua High School, got an opportunity to sit down with House Representative Marcus Oshiro noted how connected he like many other students felt when it came down to talking over community issues.

Ibarra also stated how “Being here is definitely a privilege” and for students who are thinking of joining next year’s conference or rather any leadership conference, to come with an open mind and be willing to listen.

And Ibarra wasn’t the only student who realized the importance of being proactive throughout the day.

Student delegate, Eryn Lum of Radford High School, said her favorite part of the day was the time spent debating stances on in school issues “We got to express our ideas to see if we could find solutions to solve common problem among our schools”

The last leg of the day was spent teaching student delegates how to draft up testimony by identifying the pros and cons of each topic that was brought about by a conference wide vote held in between sessions.

The topics they covered at the conference ranged from heating issues to bell schedules. However, there was an overwhelming amount of concern brought up for the topic of how qualified a DOE teacher should be when they are place in their departments.

To many of the students present at SSC took notice to cases where a history teacher got transitioned into instructing a foreign language class which he had no prior experience with. For the opposing parties, a school’s administrative actions which may lead to cases like this, would place the integrity of their education at risk. Whereas the parties for it argued that smaller schools may need to use this strategy to keep their courses alive.

Just like the actual Hawaii State Legislators, many student delegates found probable solutions to their issues or at least much more data and information by agreeing to disagree.

All in all, many students were able to share out at a state level; and it was all due to a yearly state leadership conference that caught its second wind thanks to a single individual who truly understood what the State Secondary Conference was capable of.