By Ron Leir
They’re only 17 but they’re almost as busy as adults with family and job responsibilities.
They are Marco Matos and Tiffany Gonzalez, both Kearny High School seniors, who are currently serving as student liaisons (non-voting) to the Kearny Board of Education.
After getting brief orientations from BOE members, they attended their first board meeting on Sept. 16 and will continue to sit in on all regular monthly BOE meetings.
Superintendent of Schools Frank Ferraro came up with the idea of having student representation on the board to ensure further transparency, as a way of students getting school-related information to other students and as a way of students relaying their concerns to the board.
Marco has been assigned the job of collecting input from his mates at the high school while Tiffany has been asked to learn what’s on the minds of kids in the district’s elementary schools.
So far, both appear up to the task.
Since Marco happens to be president of the KHS Student Government, he’s already tied into the official pipeline for the collective KHS student voice so he’ll tap that resource to report back to the board.
Asked how he landed in the liaison slot, Marco said KHS Principal Al Gilson “approached me and said the position was opening up and asked if I was interested.” After accepting the offer, Marco said Gilson then left it up to him to find someone to fill the second liaison slot.
So Marco turned to Tiffany, who serves as vice president of the Class of 2014, and she agreed to step up to the challenge.
Both students have pretty impressive resumes, even without counting the new liaison responsibilities. Both are members of the KHS Honor Society (Tiffany is the high school chapter president) and both are KHS crew team captains.
But that’s just part of the picture.
Never mind being academic whizzes: Tiffany also found time to volunteer as the junior class representative on the Kearny Municipal Alliance and is a current member of the KHS fishing club.
“I’m excited to be part of the new liaison program,” she said. “It was interesting seeing how the board interacts with the community publicly. It kind of gave me a window into how they run their meeting.”
Asked how she planned to make contact with children in the lower grades, Tiffany said she was looking to send out a “mass e-mail” to the principals’ offices at each of the district’s six elementary schools to solicit students’ needs. “And some schools have class officers so I would expect to work with them, also,” she said.
Marco, meanwhile, has been flexing his political muscles and he can now claim some bragging rights, having served as a summer intern as part of the election campaign team for Democrat Cory Booker, the Newark mayor who last week defeated Republican nominee Steve Lonegan for U.S. Senator for New Jersey.
“In June, I heard Booker speak at Boys’ State [where he was a Kearny delegate],” Marco said, which inspired him to serve as a summer campaign volunteer and in September, he secured a campaign fellowship to organize volunteers for Booker in Essex County.
After graduation, Marco is aiming for a collegiate course of study leading to a career in “politics and/or government service.” For current reading, he recommends George Packer’s “The Unwinding,” which describes how big money has displaced many of America’s traditional strengths and Americans’ pride in their country.
As for Tiffany’s goals, she admits to being “torn between a health-related career and politics.”
For now, though, both will be focused on deciphering the machinations of the Kearny BOE.