During the pandemic-impacted 2020-21 school year, Marshall County High School sophomore Jack Johnson undertook his first year as a member of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Student Advisory Council.
Johnson is returning to the state student-led board with hopes of continuing the work and expanding it in his second year.
“The fact that I’m able to do it is an absolute blessing,” the incoming junior said. “I’ve said it before and I can say it again, I can see the impact in front of my eyes.”
Johnson is one of 13 returning public high school students on the KDE commissioner’s council. He is one of 14 juniors on the council and one of five from western Kentucky.
The Student Advisory Council was created to provide feedback from students on issues impacting them and their schools, as well as to work with the KDE staff to develop ideas and solutions to empower students’ voices and improve education.
The council held its first meeting this month and discussed mental health matters, which was a platform Johnson addressed last year with the pandemic.
“That was one of the main things I’ve been pushing for is the constant mental health issues that we’re seeing in our schools, not only with teachers and staff but by our students,” he said.
Looking back on his first year on the council, Johnson, whose older brother C.J. served on the council, said it was an inspiring opportunity.
“I really saw the change I was able to make the first year and just seeing how I could impact the area around me a little more,” he said. “It was really inspiring and really encouraging and I just want to be part of something great.”
Johnson, the son of Mike and Jenni Johnson, added some groups among the council have made presentations to the other state education and political officials.
“It’s awesome to see this push as students and the support from advisors from KDE and bigger,” he said. “It feel like you’re actually making a change.”
This year, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman is planning to do student roundtables across the state, of which Johnson will take part in a roundtable for the west Kentucky region.
“I definitely wan to voice our region’s opinions as they come out of the pandemic,” he said, noting he hopes the tenuous nature of last fall’s school year amid COVID-19 can be a springboard into a stronger 2021 start to the school year. “We need to try and get some momentum initially as the year starts and make the love of school and try to figure out ways we can do that every single day and make kids, including myself, much more engaged in school.
“You get the most positive impact when people are engaged and want to be there.”
Johnson is already contemplating finishing his high school career serving once more on the Student Advisory Council.