Walt Whitman High School Senior Jaren Smullian will serve as the Ex-Officio Student Member of the South Huntington Board of Education for the 2023-2024 school year. He was approved unanimously by board members at the first BOE meeting of the school year on Wednesday, September 6th.
Jaren was instrumental in getting South Huntington to put an ex-officio student member on its school board. It was a project he began working on when he started ninth grade at Walt Whitman, with help from his uncle, who is a deputy mayor in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. “He went to a [school] board meeting there and noticed that there was a student representative on that board,” explained Jaren. “So he called me up one day and he said, ‘Jaren, I think you'd be perfect for this position. Does your district have it?’ I said, ‘No, it doesn't.’ He said, ‘Alright, let's see what the law is, and let's craft an email to send it to the board and superintendent to see if we can get this done.’”
New York State law requires that the question of allowing an ex-officio student board member has to be put to the voters. Not long after sending his emails, Jaren got a response from the school board letting him know the proposition would be included in the next budget vote. And the voters passed it. But Jaren was too young to apply because the ex-officio student member has to be a high school senior.
He waited patiently, and now, after a thorough application and interview process, Jaren is the third Whitman senior to serve as ex-officio student board member. Owen Connolly served during the 2021-2022 school year and Samantha Regalado held the seat for 2022-2023.
Jaren promises he’ll be very comfortable letting veteran school board members know when students think something is not working. “I think that the board is always looking for a new way to get the students' point of view because the school district is here for the students. So by adding this ex-officio member, it gives the board a closer opportunity to look into what the students want, need and like, and maybe dislike,” explained Jaren.
School Board President Nicholas Ciappetta called Jaren “a natural leader” and “great ambassador for Walt Whitman High School.” He said, “We know that Jaren will provide important insight and perspective, and we’re proud to have him as this year’s ex-officio student member of the Board of Education.”
Jaren is going to have to fit this new responsibility into an already busy extracurricular schedule that includes several Honor Societies, Virtual Enterprise, Student Council, Student Bookstore Supervisor, the Walt Whitman Drama Club, and Suffolk County Youth Council. It’s a good start for someone who sees both law school and politics possibly in his future. “I think my future aspirations include maybe not just state government, but maybe national government and maybe even being a senator.”