Meghan Webber Submitted photo

As a member of the Maine Department of Education’s Student Cabinet, Meghan Webber brainstorms with Commissioner Pander Makin and the 31 other members (two from each county) on issues important to students.

The cabinet was created in 2019 as a way for the DOE to receive student input on decision-making, coordinator Rachel Paling said.

Meghan joined the cabinet this school year.

Name: Meghan Webber

Age: 17

Town: Leeds

School: Senior at Leavitt Area High School

What is the Student Cabinet and what does it do? The student cabinet is a board composed of 32 hand-picked student representatives from all around the state of Maine. Our goal is to give students’ perspectives on real issues that affect Maine’s school system in the hope to make it even better for future students.

Why did you want to serve on the cabinet? I was first made aware of the cabinet by my mother, who is an educator. There was an email sent to teachers in her district asking them to possibly reach out to some of their students and make them aware of the cabinet so they could apply if they were interested. My mother immediately thought of me, forwarded me the email, and I submitted my application that same day. I am so lucky to be able to represent the other students of both my school and county on this board.

How has that experience been? In my first meeting with the cabinet, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised. At the first meeting, I got introduced to the commissioner, deputy commissioner, and many key players in the Department of Education. I immediately became very excited, because even at the very first meeting I felt like I had accomplished something and that my voice was being heard. It’s amazing as a student to feel like your concerns are being not only listened to but that solutions are being created as well.

What issues did you tackle this year and why were they important to the cabinet? One issue that was deemed important in all of the smaller groups split up by age was how mental health can be affected by school. For a long time, mental health and talking about mental health was a very stigmatized subject, but now I think we’ve reached a point where we can talk about it without being immediately shut down. Although it has come a long way, there is still room to get better, as there is with everything. As a student cabinet, one of our big focuses is on this topic with more education and awareness. At the moment, we’re in the process of brainstorming possible solutions.

How did the commissioner respond to these issues? Again, we’re still in the process of brainstorming and creating proposals that can hopefully be brought to the DOE and commissioner, but so far she has responded very well to the issues we have brought to the table. She is very supportive of the cabinet itself and very excited to see what we come up with.

How has the pandemic affected these sessions? Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, instead of being in person for these sessions, we have been on Zoom. Now, while not an ideal situation, I think Rachel Paling, who runs and organizes these meetings, has done a wonderful job navigating Zoom and running successful meetings.

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