Fast Chat: SWR student on school board

01/26/2013 7:59 AM |
SWR District, School Board, School Security

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Emma Stoll, 17, of Wading River, sitting next to Robert Rose at a Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting.

She couldn’t stay quiet any longer.

Emma Stoll, 17, had attended only a handful of school board meetings since she was sworn-in Nov. 20 as a student rep and nonvoting member of the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education. It didn’t take long for her to make her presence felt.

Almost paralyzed by nerves, this school athlete, ballerina and honors student from Wading River knew she had to stand up for her beliefs in the face of parents demanding school security guards be armed with guns about a month after the Newtown school shooting.

“I remember it vividly,” Emma recalled of that special board meeting on Jan. 10. “I was shaking a bit.”

“I know some parents are saying that they would feel more safe, but they’re not the ones in the school,” she said at the meeting, according to a News-Review report. “I don’t think that bringing more guns into the school is going to make me more safe.”

“And I would say it again,” Emma said in an interview Friday.

The senior believes her experience in extra-curricular activities prompted her to seek a seat on the school board, as well as have the courage to speak up in a crowd.

“I think it’s important that students get involved and have their say,” she said. “It’s easier when you have a seat at the table.”

Emma, who attended her last meeting Tuesday, is involved with varsity track, varsity tennis, yearbook club, the environmentalist group “Global Awareness,” the student art and literary magazine “Cymbals,” the math club “Mathletics,” and the National Honors Society.

She’s applied to 18 colleges and is hoping to get accepted into Cornell University because of its architecture program.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Board of Education?

A: [High School principal Dan Holtzman] said any student that is interested should apply. After taking an AP government and politics course, I decided I wanted to get to know the community better and thought [serving on the school board] would be the perfect opportunity. Three students applied. The district decided to split the term so that each student could have a chance.

Q: What are some of the challenges the district faces?

A: One thing I’ve wanted to address is the condition of the tennis courts. They are in terrible condition. They are deteriorating and the fences are rusty. Fixing them will not only be beneficial to students, but to the community as well, because many residents use the courts. Another big issue is recycling.

The school should have a better recycling program and I believe being on the board will help me achieve that goal. I think when you’re up there and you have the microphone, people listen to you.

Q: Why is having a student representative on the school board important? 

Do you have any advice for the incoming student reps?

A: Although I don’t have a vote, I have the opportunity to express ideas of a younger generation. I have the inside scoop and I believe the other board members appreciate that type of input … The next students should be aware of the school security issue. We’ve had intense meetings since the [Newtown shootings]. I had time to get used to the school board meetings before that. The next student will have to jump right into it.

jennifer@timesreview.com