If you told freshman year Saachi Bhayani that she would end up serving as the first Pleasanton Unified School District student trustee as a senior, she said she would probably slap you in the face.
Now finishing her term as student trustee, the recent Foothill graduate reflected on her time and said she is proud of her work in paving the way for future students like Annabelle Kim, the newly elected student trustee.
"I realized that I love this community a lot and some of these issues I care so passionately about. I'm sad now that I can't do more now as a trustee because I'm leaving," Bhayani told the Weekly. "But I'm really glad that some more qualified people like Annabelle can take on some of these major issues as well."
Like her predecessor, Kim is an incoming Foothill senior who said she is aware of the big shoes she has to fill in this relatively new position. However, she said she looks forward to the challenge and enacting change that will benefit students and the community.
"Our district, as beautiful and as vibrant as it already is, definitely has places where it could be made better for the students especially," Kim told the Weekly.
One of Kim's focuses will be to improve transparency between the district and students so that they are informed on everything that goes on at a board meeting.
"No regular student has time to sift through all of the board meeting agenda and all of the funding like matrixes and spreadsheets to figure out where exactly district priorities lie, and then where district priorities may not lie," Kim said.
She also said she wants to address topics such as sexual harassment and work to rebuild the trust between students and adults who might not be handling these cases appropriately. This is particularly important to Kim as she was the editor-in-chief for her school magazine, NOTA.
NOTA, otherwise known as None of the Above, published a special issue in January on Foothill's treatment of sexual harassment, mental health and the socioeconomic privilege of Pleasanton in general.
Bhayani agreed, saying that what struck a chord with her was seeing protests at Foothill this May.
"Everyone always says, 'report it to your trusted adults', but then we hear reports of our 'trusted adults' saying 'boys will be boys' or things along that tone," Kim said.
Bhayani said she is glad to see Kim wanting to advocate for similar issues that she feels strongly about. She urged Kim to continue to be curious and not take anything for face value during these board meetings.
"The thing is, you are representing students. Not parents, not teachers, not the community, students," Bhayani said. "So always stay true to students and stay true to gut and keep asking questions."
Especially after being the first student trustee and being metaphorically thrown into the fire, Bhayani said it's good that the election process was done a lot earlier compared to when she ran last September.
As a result, Kim has more time to study up on things like property taxes -- something she is already fearing -- so that she doesn't have to experience the same last-minute catching up Bhayani had to do with having to study the board packet during her meetings.
Bhayani said she was grateful for the experience and now plans to not only attend UCLA to study electrical engineering, but also to continue lobbying for Senate Bill 1236.
The bill, which she and a few other student board members are lobbying for, would give local school boards the opportunity to promote the student board member into a full-blown board member with more voting rights.
As Kim prepares to start her term in the fall, she said she is grateful for being able to experience more of a normal senior year than others had in these last few years and is looking forward to representing the students as the new trustee.
"I'm really looking forward to building a rapport with all the community members," Kim said. "Whether that's board members, district staff, teachers, student representatives and student-like affinity groups on campus."