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Meeting with School Board Members: Alli Dangio and Keala Minna-Choe


GSC members Keala (pictured) and Alli discuss how to stand up to the school board for change.


ALLI

June 15th, 2023: the day the San Diego Community College District passed the resolution

that I had been campaigning then to pass for the past six months. This success would not have been possible without learning how to meet with the Associated Student Government leaders throughout the district. Beginning this campaign was something completely new for me, as I had never before done anything similar to this. The first thing I had to do was reach out to someone in a position of power, so that they could tell me if passing a resolution at the district level was even possible. As a student at San Diego Miramar College, I was able to connect with my student government president. After scheduling a time to meet with him, I had to figure out how to talk to him and how to get him to support our initiative. While not the same as talking to a politician or an elected board member, talking to a student rep was just as scary at first. I did not know what level of formality he expected, if he was going to be supportive of the resolution, or even if he was going to be able to help me out.

I realized after the meeting truly how unprepared I was. The meeting went well, mostly

because of how supportive he was. He was ready to connect me with the other 3 Associated

Student Government presidents at Miramar’s sister colleges, and was willing to help me bring the resolution to the Miramar Student Government. During the meeting I struggled to keep the topic focused and to concisely relay the goals of the resolution and the overall timeline of the campaign. I struggle to ask him good questions because I was so nervous, I ended up having to email him later with more. I realized that for this campaign to be a success I needed to learn how to hold my ground and easily converse about the demands of the resolution. So, I sat myself down and fully prepped for my next meeting, which was going to be with all the student government presidents from the district and their advisor

Before arriving at this moment, there were many hoops and setbacks would occur. Not

having done anything like this before I had to ask for a lot of help to understand how to get

started: who do I reach out to to make this happen? I started by reaching out to student members of the Miramar College Associated Student Government, and was able to get a meeting where we could present the resolution to the Student Trustees of the SDCCD Board. The meeting went really well and all of the Trustees were interested in passing the resolution through their respective colleges’ Associated Student Government, along with wanting to get the board to pass it. We left that meeting feeling really excited and energized, thinking we would achieve this goal in no time!

What we did not realize was that we still had a lot of emailing and networking to do to

make this happen. Sending emails to our student representatives and not receiving any sort of response for months was definitely something we did not expect. This was proving to be the biggest roadblock thus far, as how do you push for the passing of a resolution if no one even seems willing to have that conversation? Finding one person who we could rely on was the turning point. As students of Miramar College we were able to connect with our ASG president, who was working with us to the resolution on the agenda of one of the ASG meetings. When that day finally came, we were so excited! We were finally going to have the opportunity to present the resolution with the hopes of it being passed, but then the nerves hit: this presentation would be in-person, and high stakes as we may not get another opportunity. On the day of the meeting, we showed up early, hyped ourselves up, and went in hoping for the best. After the presentation, there was a period where we were being asked questions both about the resolution and the economy of climate change in general, which was something really stressful as these complicated topics are hard to explain in short, high stakes time periods.

In the end, the resolution was passed 8-1, and now San Diego Miramar College is a part

of the growing number of entities that have signed on to this resolution. Our next focus is going to be the rest of the schools in SDCCD, then the board itself. The biggest goal we have is to get the resolution passed through the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, which represents all of the community colleges in California.


KEALA

My first ever meeting with a school board member was not ideal. I was signed up to

facilitate the meeting and had no idea what to expect. It was my freshman year of high school, and it was a few months after starting our campaign. We had done the research and were very well prepared to present our resolution. We introduced ourselves, then it came time for the board member to introduce himself. He started talking. Minutes went by. We only had a 30-minute meeting, but by the time it took him to introduce himself, we had a minute left to present. I, as a facilitator, had failed in my job to keep the meeting on track. We ended up presenting and the meeting took an hour. The school board member later voted on yes on the resolution, but I remember thinking how stressed I was in that meeting. It seemed as if he wanted to talk more about himself than our work. Since then, I look at how much I’ve grown from that meeting. I meet with elected officials and their representatives frequently, and do not shy away from asking the hard questions or keeping the meeting on track. In those meetings, I have gotten a lot of practice and have learned how to navigate tough situations. I think the most important message to take away from that meeting is that elected officials are people. At their heart, they are simply people with the same wants and needs as anyone else. Sure, you may have to treat them with a higher status or be more formal, but it is critical to understand the humanity behind advocacy and how sometimes relationships can be the biggest factor in passing resolutions. We both have learned that in meetings with school board members, it is important to be well prepared and knowledgeable about your topic. My best advice is to prepare hard questions

that board members may ask and practice before presenting. Alli’s best advice is to find people in positions of power that support your goal, and network with them and their connections as much as possible to ensure your success. Together, we have collectively passed resolutions at San Diego Unified School District, Sweetwater Unified School District, San Diego County Board of Education, San Diego City Council, and San Diego Miramar College. Alli is currently working on passing a resolution at the San Diego Community College District.

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