As the newest adviser for the State Board of Education, 16-year-old Amberly Phillips already has quite an agenda: She wants to encourage school leaders to maintain funding for agriculture programs and to keep God in schools.
Phillips, a junior at North Johnston High School, has been named one of two student advisers for the State Board of Education. Gov. Bev Perdue appointed Phillips.
Student advisers don't vote on the board. But they serve as ambassadors, giving board members a glimpse of how their decisions affect students every day in classrooms across North Carolina.
The board includes the lieutenant governor, the state treasurer and 11 members appointed by the governor. Along with two high school students, the board has five other advisers, including the state's teacher of the year and principal of the year.
"I think I'm most excited about being able to give my opinion," Phillips said. "I'm very opinionated."
Those opinions help school leaders get a feel for what's happening in schools, said Vanessa Jeter, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
"They're there to give (the board) a sense of how their policies play out in the schools," Jeter said.
Phillips is the first Johnston County student to serve on the state board. Johnston Superintendent Ed Croom called Phillips' parents over the summer and said she was a good candidate for the job.
"It was all a big surprise," said Phillips, who lives in Kenly.
She joins the board as the state's education system faces big cuts. As lawmakers balanced the budget, schools took a budget slash of more than $450 million. Some school districts laid off teachers, teacher assistants and assistant principals to make ends meet.
Backs farm programs
Phillips said she realizes budgets are tight, but she wants to be an advocate for agricultural programs in schools. The teen was surrounded by farms growing up, and she is now the chaplain for the Future Farmers of America club at North Johnston.
"I really don't want any programs like that to get cut," Phillips said.
She is also a member of her school's Fellowship of Christian Athletes and attends Selma Tabernacle Church of God. Phillips said she wants schools to maintain a focus on God instead of keeping religion totally separate.
Phillips' mother, Mandy Yelverton, said her daughter has always been eager to learn. She's never brought home less than an A on a school report card.
"(She's) always been very self-motivated," Yelverton said.
In her new role as a board adviser, Phillips will attend a monthly State Board of Education meeting in Raleigh. She'll add that to her to-do list, including a class schedule of a college-level language class, Latin, health science, animal science, horticulture, English, honors pre-calculus and honors chemistry.
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