Members of the newly formed Student Cabinet met Dec. 20 to begin coming up with a list of educational concerns members would like the see the state address. Courtesy photo / Maine Department of Education

SCARBOROUGH — Casey Maddock has long had a passion for education and dreams of teaching others one day.

“I’d really like to be a teacher. My mother is a teacher here in Scarborough and I am job shadowing at the middle school. I’ve known for a really long time that that is what I want to do,” she said.

Casey Maddock, a junior at Scarborough High School, co-chairs the Student Cabinet, a group formed to give students a voice in some of the education discussions happening at the Maine Department of Education. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Maddock, however, won’t have to wait until she joins the workforce to make an impact on the state’s educational system. She is doing that right now.

Maddock,  a Scarborough High School junior, serves as a student representative on the Maine State Board of Education and was tasked last year to help create the Maine Department of Education’s first-ever Student Cabinet. The group of more than 30 youth will provide a youth voice to Maine’s Commissioner of Education Pender Makin.

“The Commissioner has a strong interest in ensuring students have a voice in their own education,” Department of Education Director of Communications Kelli Deveaux said. “They are our No. 1 consumer. Their ideas bring a french and honest perspective and they are models of both compassionate and innovative thinking.”

The students chosen range from fourth grade to college and represent all 16 counties.

“The big thing we wanted to focus on is getting a diverse group together,” said Maddock, vice president of Scarborough High School’s Key Club, secretary of its Student Council, a euphonium player in the school band and a member of Scarborough Dance Center’s competition team.

One of the things that Maddock said she would like to address through the Student Cabinet is mental health.

“I know it is an issue in Scarborough and southern Maine, but after talking with students from Aroostook County and Machias, it is an issue there and all over the state. We’ll be looking to tackle that,” she said.

Mental health is something that has personally impacted Maddock, a member of Scarborough’s Yellow Tulip Project, a group that aims to break the stigma of mental illness.

“When I got to high school, I struggled with mental health. My teachers had a big impact on me,” Maddock said. “I hope to have that same impact on a student’s life someday.”

In February, Maddock was diagnosed with depression after her motivation and focus in the classroom waned. A French teacher, she said, came up to her after school one day and offered support after noticing things were not OK.

“That made all the difference,” she said.

Student mental health is not the only topic the cabinet wants to address. Maddock said some of the younger members are interested in the issue of bullying. Others noted at the initial session how standardized testing doesn’t show the true abilities of students, as well as the importance of technical education.

“The next step,” Maddock said, “is to break down into groups to focus on what we want to take on and go from there.”

Deveaux said the Department of Education will look to partner with statewide organizations to “come up with a strategic plan” to address some of the students’ concerns, such as working with the Maine Civil Rights Project to ensure Maine classrooms and schools are working towards a more inclusive climate and culture.

“We see this as an important way for kids to have a real impact on their education and learning,” Deveaux said.

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