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Evan Lu

This year, we welcome three new student board members to our Board of Education: Talia Kotovsky (Alameda High School), Vinny Camarillo (Encinal High School), and Evan Lu (ASTI). (An Island High School representative will join the Board later this fall.)  

The students were sworn in at the Board’s August 23 meeting. We sent these student leaders five questions to help introduce them to the community. 

What drew you to the student board member position? 

  • Talia (AHS): I really wanted to get more involved in the inner workings of school and knew the previous board member for

    Talia with dog

                         Talia Kotovsky

    Alameda High. It seemed like a really interesting position and after learning more from him and teachers at my school, I decided to run. 

  • Vinny (EHS): I've always been fascinated with the process of how things work, logistically, biologically, physically, etc and understanding why things happen. The Student Board Member position was a chance to help me understand how the district and the governing board (the Board of Education) work together to allow our different schools to thrive equally and equitably. I also wanted to be able to explain why decisions were made to my friends who may complain about why something is the way it is. 

  • Evan Lu (ASTI): I think what drew me to the Student Board Member position was the ability to take on a leadership role and make an impact on the district. I’m friends with a lot of the people at ASTI, and I think I’m pretty easy to get along with, so I thought I would be a good person to represent my school. There was also an aspect of getting to know more people outside of ASTI, since it’s a smaller school, and getting to work with the other members of the Board. 

What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure? 

  • Talia (AHS): I hope to accomplish a lot surrounding mental health, and those services provided at our school, including mental health days. I’m also really interested in ways we can promote more sustainability in AUSD. 

  • Vinny (EHS): During my tenure, I hope to establish multiple things: One being what my predecessor tried to establish but didn't have the time to, implementing the State Seal of Civic Engagement, which would be displayed on transcripts and graduation diplomas. This would acknowledge the outstanding students who have demonstrated excellence in civic education and participation. Another being able to either partially or entirely eliminate single use plastics at our schools, and possibly being able to use more sustainable products. 

Vinny Camarillo

Vinny Camarillo

  • Evan (ASTI): During my time as a Student Board Member, one thing I hope to accomplish is to give ASTI a little bit more spotlight, not just on the Board, but also in the community so more people know about it. I’m looking forward to advocating for any environmentally friendly policies or improvements to students’ school lives. Obviously, I also hope to be able to communicate the students’ thoughts to the Board, specifically through interviews and asking students about their opinions and concerns. 

What are some of the most critical issues facing students today? 

  • Talia (AHS): I think the biggest challenge facing high schoolers today is the increase of mental health challenges like anxiety and depression that have been much more prevalent in the past few years. 

  • Vinny (EHS): Some of the most critical issues facing students today are mental health, struggling with adapting to school post COVID, along with school safety. I believe students struggle with retaining knowledge at school, along with having to constantly be alert whether they are in danger or not. 

  • Evan ASTI: One of the most critical issues facing students today is definitely their mental health. Boredom, stress, anxiety, and depression are all serious issues which run rampant within schools. Another issue is one that has been looming overhead for a long time, climate change. With the recent heat wave going above 90 degrees, I’m sure we all have firsthand experience of the effects of climate change, and one of the many reasons to slow it down and prevent its effects from plaguing the younger generations any further. 

What other leadership opportunities are you involved in? 

  • Talia (AHS): I am in leadership at my school, and am part of the environmental committee. I also intern at the School Based

    Evan Lu

                                             Evan Lu

    Health Center and am on their Youth Advisory Board. 

  • Vinny (EHS): Leadership opportunities that I am involved with include: ASB (Student Council), Co-President, Co-President of Filipino Club, Vice-President of the National Honor Society 

  • Evan (ASTI): Personally I’m involved in the Yearbook Committee as a Senior Editor, where I preside over meetings, set up schedules, teach people Photoshop, and basically manage the yearbook part of Yearbook. I’m also a co-president of our school’s Debate Club, where I plan meetings, collect data, make presentations, and help out in debates. I’m also part of our school Leadership team, where we plan school wide events such as Mental Health Week, Movie Night, Prom, etc., fundraise, and raise school spirit! I’m not sure if this next one really counts, but I’m also the Lead Programmer for the Alameda Aztechs, an FRC robotics team here in Alameda, though this is also by technicality since I’m the only student there who codes the robot. 

What advice would you give students who want to take on a leadership role? 

  • Talia (AHS): Don’t be afraid to go for it! I’ve found that it’s always fun to participate and it feels good to accomplish things. Even if it doesn’t always work out, you get to learn a lot of new skills and exercise old ones. 

  • VC (EHS): I'll be honest, it is scary when you first take on a leadership role. Having the responsibilities and tasks to lead your team to success is a stressful thing to think about. It's all going to be a learning curve especially if it's your first time in a leadership role, but the more you ask questions and have the willingness to learn, it will lead you to success. No one is perfect, and it's good to know that a good leader will make mistakes, but an excellent leader learns from those mistakes and becomes better in the future. 

  • Evan (ASTI): The advice I have for any student who wants to take on a leadership role is to simply go for it. Trying is better than not trying, since these roles often open up new doors and opportunities, though I would say the most important part about taking on a leadership role is having the responsibility, accountability, and confidence to follow through with the decision. Thus, it can be important to know what their role entails so they can be mentally prepared. It can also be helpful to know their own strengths and weaknesses, actively contributing where they excel and asking for more information or help where they don’t. 

Please also share any organizations you’re involved with or any information that would be helpful to know about you. 

  • Vinny (EHS): An organization that I am involved with is a local group that I co-founded back in the summer of 2020 which is called the Youth Activists of Alameda, which strives to get youth involved in social justice. I recently volunteered to be on the Action Committee for our School Based Health Center at Encinal. I was also involved with the City of Alameda's Unbundling Police Services Subcommittee, where we recommended an alternative response to mental health crises, and last year, the City Council created the CARE Team (Community Assessment Response and Engagement). I am a staunch advocate for access to mental health resources especially pertaining to youth. 
  • Evan (ASTI): Alameda Aztechs 4186 (robotics team) and Castaway Creative (video production company I interned at for 1.5 months over the summer)