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Eli Counce and Charlie Liu will begin their new roles on the school board July 15

PMG PHOTO: CLAIRE HOLLEY - Eli Counce and Charlie Liu.The Lake Oswego School Board will welcome two new student representatives at its July 15 meeting. Lake Oswego High School senior Charlie Liu and Lakeridge senior Eli Counce are the school board's second round of student representatives, taking over from predecessors Penelope Spurr and Anna-Marie Guenther.

Student school board representatives are responsible for attending every board meeting (except executive sessions) as representatives of all students in the district, presenting proposals and opinions from students, and serving as liaisons between students and administrators.

Student representatives can place items on the School Board agenda, but do not vote.

After seeing great results in the first year, the district decided to continue to invite students to the table. Counce and Liu were selected from a pool of applicants by their principals, with input from Guenther and Spurr.

Counce said his two priorities on the board will be student safety and mental health. "I want to make students safer, healthier, more academically successful, more ready to take on the world, and just more prepared to have a voice in what affects them," he said.

Counce is a founding member of Students for Change (alongside Spurr), a student group advocating for gun safety that was established in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. With help from local lawmakers, the group wrote Senate Bill 501 in an effort to curb gun violence and increase safety across the state. The comprehensive legislation called for changes to how guns are purchased and stored, magazine size, ammunition limits and more.

Counce said he hopes to continue working toward student safety while on the board, and noted that the board has made great progress in the past few years. "Students can't get an education unless they feel safe," he said.

He also wants to use his experience with activism to help students become more aware of how to advocate for themselves. "So many students that I've seen are like zombies, just dragging their way through school, getting good grades, asking questions about point values," Counce said. "But they're not actually learning material, or how to speak up for themselves when they need to change their circumstances in a way that works better for them."

Counce hopes to focus on increasing supports for mental health as well. "Physical health and mental health go hand in hand," he said. Counce believes that mental health issues are prevalent at Lakeridge. "I'm curious to see if that problem is prominent in the rest of the schools, and what we can do as a board to stop it," said Counce.

He also hopes to learn while on the school board. "I'm excited to learn how to work with adults in that type of setting," Counce said. "And how to effectively articulate my thoughts and ideas in a way that translates to real policies. Learning about public administration in general is very important to me."

Lui, who transferred to Lake Oswego High School from China in his freshman year, said that for the first three years in the district, he stayed on the sidelines. "I've been acting more like an audience member, versus someone who is actively participating in the community," he said. "With everything that the district has done for me, in terms of my personal growth, I felt like it was time for me to do something for our district."

Liu's family came to Lake Oswego so he could have a better education, and he spoke very little English when he arrived. "Now, it feels very natural," he said. "The first couple of months were the toughest, but later on it began to feel like home. Our district is very inclusive, and that inclusiveness contributed to my growth."

During his time on the school board, Liu hopes to bridge the gap between district officials and students.

"The school district is kind of separate from the students. I want to raise students' awareness not only of the existence, but the function of the school board," he said. "I want to let students know that their voice matters, and they can be a part of the decision making process. The district exists to serve the students. The communication between students and the school board is very important, so I want to serve as a bridge."

Liu also has a goal to enact a district-wide battery recycling program.

"Although there are well-established systems for recycling paper and plastic bottles, there's no established system for batteries," he said. "They can cause great environmental damage if they are disposed of improperly. If they leak chemicals like mercury and cobalt, they can contaminate water and soil."

Liu also sees the position of student representative as a great learning opportunity. "I'm to see how the administrators and school board members deal with difficult situations, how they act as decision makers," he said. "I feel so excited to get to work with these people and learn from them, and see how decisions are actually made that affect our lives as students. It's always good to know what's going on."

Counce and Liu will take their seats on the school board July 15.

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