GUSTINE - The Gustine Unified School District Board of Trustees welcomed its first-ever student member during a July 17 special meeting.

Emery Fulgueras, a junior at Gustine High, was seated and will serve on the board in an advisory capacity for the year to come.

Fulgueras was one of three candidates applying for the position, which she won in a school-wide student election late in the school year.

“I just wanted to be a voice for the students and to give back to the community,” said Fulgueras, who moved to Gustine from the Bay Area a year ago. “I want to give (the board) information about what the students are concerned about so that they have a better idea of what the students want.”

Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent, said that the student representative will not have access to confidential materials or be party to closed session discussions, and her votes will be advisory in nature.

Nonetheless, Ballenger said, he believes the student representative will bring valuable insight to the table.

“The purpose is two-fold,” he commented. “One is to provide information to the board on student issues, things that are happening or have happened on campus. The second is that of being a voice for the students and advocating for their education and needs. She does get to vote and express her opinions, and even though that vote is non-binding her opinion could sway people.”

Ballenger said he believes Fulgueras will bring a fresh perspective to the board.

“Having her viewpoint lends itself to being extremely beneficial to our board,” he remarked. “They can’t be inside the classrooms, or in all the social groups. Being able to hear that student viewpoint will be helpful.”

School board President Kevin Cordeiro said he looks forward to having student perspective on the board.

“I think it is exciting. I welcome the student involvement,” he commented.

The board has traditionally had a Gustine High student representative who delivered a report during meetings but beyond that was not actively involved in deliberations or casting even an advisory vote.

A government class project by a group of Gustine High seniors last spring was the genesis for creation of the new student board member position. The project led to a petition asking the district to add the student position, and the students garnered more than enough signatures to meet an Education Code threshold which compels the district to comply.

“The students initiated this. That tells you that they want to be active and have a say in their education. They want to have a voice at the table, and this does that,” Ballenger stated. “I think this is a great opportunity, especially in a small school district where we can be more responsive to school needs and situations that come up.”

Fulgueras, the daughter of Ester and Ernesto Fulgueras, acknowledged that she was nervous at the start of her first meeting but said she was feeling more comfortable by the end of the evening.

She said she hopes to bring information from the middle school and elementary campuses as well to the board so that all students are represented.

At Gustine High, she is involved in AVID and playing volleyball.

Fulgueras hopes to attend Sacramento State after high school to major in business, with the goal of some day creating her own successful business enterprise.