HC senior brings voice of fellow students to board

Hinsdale Central High School senior Meghna Mitra will serve as liaison to the Hinsdale District 86 school board for just a few more months, but it's a job that she said will follow her into college and beyond.

"I'm interested in studying public policy and politics on the pre-law track," she said.

One day, she hopes to use all that she's learned to affect health and environmental policy.

As the liaison between the Hinsdale Central Student Council and the school board, Mitra adds the voice of her classmates to issues being discussed and decided upon by the school board.

The committee of the whole meetings that Mitra attends are held just once a month, but the work that goes into the position takes place all month long as Mitra tries to keep herself apprised of the needs and concerns of her classmates by talking to people, conducting interviews and making herself available. She recently began distributing a survey that allows any student to share concerns and suggest topics in need of attention. She said it's important to provide a means for every student's voice to be heard.

The results of her work are presented at the board meetings held the second Thursday of each month. Mitra speaks at the beginning of the meeting, followed by her counterpart from Hinsdale South High School.

One such report addressed the need for social-emotional learning as a part of students' overall wellness.

"Coming out of the pandemic, that was a really big focus of the administration," Mitra said. Her report included suggestions for where the administration's efforts would be best focused.

Through her monthly reports, Mitra said she also tries to bring attention to the many groups and activities that make her school unique, including niche clubs that not even she knew about before becoming the board liaison.

Her reports often are influenced by issues that come up at weekly meetings of the Student Council.

"I basically get representatives from each grade telling me what issues their grade is having," she said.

Mitra also meets regularly with Principal Bill Walsh, who informs her of what's coming up on the board agenda and which issues might benefit from a student's opinion.

Mitra said her role as liaison has given her a perspective that few students are afforded and an appreciation for the work of a decision-making body such as the school board. Much more goes into making a decision than the average student realizes, she said.

Mitra is the founder of her own nonprofit, Sustainable Health, which advocates for environmentally friendly practices in health care. She also is an active member of several organizations in the Hinsdale community. Advocating for change isn't new for Mitra, but through her experience as liaison, she said she realizes more than ever the importance of equity and representation and the role that public policy has on the road to social change.

"I really value the ability to have conversations with representative groups about what changes we need to see," she said. "I'm really grateful for this experience."

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean