Boone County’s Joud Dahleh wants to bring student perspective and representation to KBOE term

Kentuckians may know Joud Dahleh through her many roles: a helper, hospital volunteer, mentor, peer tutor, student and aspiring travel nurse.

On July 1, the incoming junior at Northern Kentucky’s Ignite Institute will begin a new role as the next Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) nonvoting student member.

“Student voice is a huge priority at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and on the Kentucky Board of Education,” said Commissioner Jason E. Glass. “We are excited to have Joud serve in this role to provide valuable feedback on the most pressing issues for Kentucky’s students.”

Dahleh follows Solyana Mesfin, whose term ended in April. Mesfin graduated from Eastern High School (Jefferson County) and will attend the University of Louisville this fall.

Joud Dahleh is the second student to join the Kentucky Board of Education as a nonvoting member. She has also been appointed to the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council. (Photo courtesy of Joud Dahleh)

“I am more than delighted to pass the torch to Boone County Junior Joud Dahleh as the second appointed student member on the board,” said Mesfin.

Dahleh applied to serve in her new role after encouragement from two teachers. She was selected from 18 applicants and recommended by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) Application Review Special Committee for the 2022-2023 non-voting student position.

As a current member of Boone County Schools’ superintendent’s advisory council, she has experience representing student voice in her community.

“The opportunity to become a student member on the Kentucky Board of Education will allow me to represent students across Kentucky,” Dahleh wrote in her initial application. “As students, we often forget how important our voice is and the power we hold. The moment we utilize our voice is when we understand what we are capable of (doing).”

As a nonvoting member of the KBE, Dahleh will not vote on official matters, but will provide input on decisions that affect Kentucky’s public-school students.

Dahleh says she looks forward to diving deeper into education governance and “what factors are taken into account when making laws and regulations concerning education.”

Gov. Andy Beshear said as his administration works to build a future that empowers and uplifts all Kentuckians, he is “enthusiastic about Dahleh’s appointment to the Kentucky Board of Education.”

“Joud’s insight and trailblazing representation will affect generations of Kentucky students,” Beshear said. “I look forward to seeing how she enriches KBE’s work with her perspective.”

Dahleh said she is a good representation of the student population in Kentucky and is excited to bring her and others’ perspectives to the table. She said that she has experienced school as a student-athlete, a member of an ethnic minority and an English learner (EL) student.

A Palestinian born in Jordan, Dahleh recalled her classmates learning about her native region in 7th-grade geography. It was the first time they learned about her identity.

She said she never really had a person she could go to with a shared sense of identity. She wants to be the voice that highlights the diversity among student populations in Kentucky.

“There are people from all over the world that live in Kentucky,” Dahleh said. “We should also be talking about them and what they need too.”

At the Ignite Institute, Dahleh said she has been empowered through educational opportunities to pursue her dreams. She has learned about healthcare through her pre-nursing courses at Ignite and as a volunteer at St. Elizabeth Edgewood Hospital.

“Healthcare was always something I had an interest for. Applying to Ignite and seeing that I could have that career… was really nice,” Dahleh said.

Her high school experience embodies the United We Learn vision for the future of public education in Kentucky. Dahleh said her experience as a financial literacy student connected her academics to real life.

Having access to coursework with real-world connections has helped Dahleh in preparing for her future, she said.

Dahleh said every student has unique educational and life goals, and she wants to bring them to the board’s attention.

“Every goal is important. We need education for every goal,” she said.

As a student member of the KBE, Dahleh said she wants to take on the most significant challenges she sees facing Kentucky’s students, including mental health, school safety and social media’s adverse effects.

“We should really be taking time to focus on the mental health of our students,” Dahleh said.

Many of the issues Kentucky’s students are facing are interrelated, she said.

Dahleh said she knows that this effort will take many difficult conversations. She hopes to foster a sense of open communication between students and adults through her role in addressing these issues.

“I’d rather say something than stay silent,” she said. “I’m a hard worker. I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure our voices are heard.”

Dahleh thanked her teachers Dawn Reinhard, Melissa Cheeks, her teachers, and her parents, Dana and Feras, for their encouragement and support.

Dahleh will begin her role with the KBE on July 1. Her term will expire on June 30, 2023.

She has also been appointed to the KDE Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council, a group of high school student that meet monthly with the commissioner, both in person and virtually, to discuss how decisions made at the state level are affecting students throughout Kentucky.

This article originally appeared in Kentucky Teacher, a publication of the Kentucky Department of Education.

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