Hayley Haas said she wants to be a voice for students who don't normally have a voice.
Haas, a junior at Chaska High School, believes she's able to do that by being a student representative on the District 112 School Board.
"I know a lot of people from the school different groups ... I'm part of different activities so I can get a lot of input as to what their opinions are," she said.
Haas joined the School Board earlier this school year, replacing Isaac Schwarz who graduated with the Chaska High School Class of 2016. Sammie Stagg, Chanhassen High School senior, is the board's other student representative.
Student reps are non-voting members of the School Board who provide updates on what’s going on at Chaska or Chanhassen high schools and can weigh in on various issues that come before the board. They serve a two-year term as juniors and seniors. The board has one rep from each high school.
When a vacancy for a student rep position opens up, the outgoing rep’s school advertises to sophomores in the spring about the opportunity to apply. The application process includes listing their activities, why they’re interested in becoming a student rep and getting two letters of recommendation. The School Board reviews all applications and interviews a pool of applicants to choose a rep.
"Choosing a student rep is a tough decision because we always have a great pool of candidates. Hayley is very involved at Chaska High School and has a good connection with the faculty and students so she can readily share their perspectives at the board table. She is representing them well with insightful questions and commentary," said Board member Amy Logue.
Board member Heather Nelson said she always enjoys interviewing students who are interested in becoming student reps. "The students bring fresh perspectives and insights that are not always brought forward to the board level. Hayley was a stand out candidate for me during the interview process because she is passionate,positive, and seems to have a keen sense of what really matters to her student peers. She will not be afraid to bring forward any and all issues that our students are facing," she added.
In addition to being a student rep, Haas is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and has played girls varsity softball as a third baseman since her freshman year.
She first heard of the opportunity from Tara Halvorson, manager of Chaska High School’s college and career resource center.
"I didn't know that was an option for students. I started reading into it and I kind of fell in love with the idea of being a student rep," Haas said.
Haas said adults often get caught up in what they see from students rather than what the student may be feeling. She believes it's important to make sure adults understand there's sometimes more than meets the eye.
"There's a lot of different things going on in school," she said. "That's important for them to realize so they can make a decision that will benefit the students."
One topic that's affected her class recently has been changes made with standard based grading. She's heard from students that they're not used to this method of grading or they're not sure what their actual grade is in classes using the system. She wants to learn more about why the district is doing it, and how it works so she can pass that on to her peers.
"That's been a big change they've been a little frazzled about," she explained.
According to Haas, her updates to the board have and will typically include information about activities and sports going on at the school. "I also will talk about what I'm seeing at the school, what's working," she said.
On the Friday before a meeting, she usually asks her peers if they have an concerns or opinions on issues, and follows up with those people the Tuesday after with what was discussed at the meeting, she said.
Haas said from what she's seen so far, the School Board members care about students and what goes on in their lives.
"They really want each student to succeed and that's something I think is amazing," she said.
As for her plans for the position, Haas said she wants to put her "whole heart into it" and take advantage and come away with a great experience. She added it's a great opportunity for students who have a passion for getting involved with the district and being part of their school.
"I like it because I like being the voice for the kids who don't feel like they have a voice," she said. "I think a lot of students are intimidated to talk to a teacher about a problem they might be having or get lost in the shuffle. I think it's important that each and everyone of them has a voice."