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Haywood student nominated to advise State Board of Education

Lily Seymour stands alongside (from left) Trevor Putnam , Lori Fox and Jill Barker. HCS photo Lily Seymour stands alongside (from left) Trevor Putnam , Lori Fox and Jill Barker. HCS photo

Lily Seymour has been asked to join the State Board of Education as a student advisor. The Haywood County student’s appointment comes after hard work on other local and state advisory boards. During a recognition at the Nov. 3 Haywood County School Board meeting, Haywood County Schools administration sang her praises.

“When Lily speaks, we listen,” said Lori Fox, Principal at Haywood County Early College. 

A few years ago, Seymour was chosen to be a student representative to the Haywood County Schools’ Superintendent’s Advisory Council. Students were nominated by their principals for the position; Seymour is a student at Haywood County Early College. 

Assistant Superintendent Jill Barker said that creating the local advisory council was one of the most important things Haywood County Schools administration has ever done. When you hear it from the kids, she said, it changes everything. 

“During those meetings, she’s one of the most poised, articulate young women that I’ve ever been around. I would want her by my side; she could really help me do my job,” joked Barker. “She is so awesome.”

A couple of years later, Haywood County Schools had the opportunity to form a committee for Portrait of a Graduate, a statewide initiative created by the Department of Public Instruction. Finalized on Oct. 18, Portrait of a Graduate sought to define the skills and mindset students need for success after high school. Community members, public school students, teachers, parents and administrators worked together to come up with this “portrait.”

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“There was and remains a steady need for students to develop skills outside of what we consider traditional technical skills and academic knowledge,” said State Superintendent Catherine Truitt in a press release Oct. 18. “Data also shows us that durable skills, like the ones included in the Portrait, are in high demand among employers and beneficial to students regardless of the path they choose – be it college, career or military. This newly unveiled statewide Portrait is an important way we can allow, encourage and invite schools to begin emphasizing durable skills in the classroom, and is a tool that will help students develop these competencies during their time in North Carolina public schools.”

Over the course of three months, teams of volunteers collaborated to determine the key competencies that would be included in the final portrait. The design teams included representatives from across the education sector, including the NC Community College System, NC Independent Colleges and Universities, the University of North Carolina System, BestNC, myFutureNC, Communities in Schools, the NC Department of Commerce, the Emerging Issues Institute, the Institute for Emerging Issues’ rural faith community network and the NC Chamber of Commerce. 

The portrait includes seven competencies — adaptability, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, empathy, learner’s mindset and personal responsibility. DPI administration says that school districts can use the Portrait to enhance classroom learning, as it pairs academic rigor with the skills and mindsets that will help prepare North Carolina students for an ever-changing world. 

“She was one of the students we selected to be a part of that, and those were virtual meetings,” said Barker. “She represented Haywood County very well, she made her voice heard and she caught the attention of a lot of people. One of them was our district consultant for DPI, who we have a great relationship with, Jeremy Gibbs.”

Not long after meetings concluded, Gibbs asked Barker whether Seymour would like to go to Raleigh and be a part of the unveiling of Portrait of a Graduate. She not only met State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, but other members of the State Board of Education during the public ceremony. 

“She had a voice at that table,” said Barker. “And she really caught the attention of the State Board of Education.”

So much so that she was asked to be a student advisor to the State Board of Education. Seymour will be traveling to Raleigh once a month to partake in meetings, including closed sessions. 

“We’re going to be represented in Raleigh every month,” said Barker. “When I talk to our principals about how important school improvement is and district improvement planning is, this is why. The vision for that was about that voice, and now she’s in Raleigh. I’m so proud of you Lily Seymour. She’s going to change the world one day, I can feel it.”

Fox noted the commitment that Seymour is undertaking, traveling over 500 miles each month, staying in a hotel room for two nights, all to better public education in North Carolina. 

“That is important,” said Fox. “It’s important that she’s the first one from the Western Region, Raleigh needs to hear from the west. It’s important that she represents Haywood County Schools. I’m most proud that she represents Haywood Early College. She’s very articulate, she’s wise beyond her years, she’s genuine.”

Two student advisor positions had long been a part of the State Board of Education until a three-year period from 2016-2019 when state officials argued over a law that aimed to take the responsibility of appointment from the governor and put it in the hands of the state superintendent. At the behest of students and administrators, the student advisor positions were reinstated in 2020. 

Student advisors do not vote on agenda items but are encouraged to give input during meetings and engage with board members throughout meetings and breaks. Like voting board members, student advisors receive agenda packets well before meetings so they can prepare input and discuss relevant issues with peers at their own school. 

“We’re very proud of her and just thankful for this opportunity,” said Fox. “And she knows, she’s going to learn so much on how policy is made and who it affects, that the ripples continue from the mountains to the coast on the policies that they’re making.”

“I just want to thank especially you guys for this opportunity, because without attending these meetings that I was nominated for, I would have never gone to Raleigh and gotten this opportunity in the first place,” said Seymour. “So thank you.” 

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