COVINGTON - In her search for an after-school activity to keep her busy when she isn't cheerleading or playing for Alcovy High School's tennis team, freshman Arie Smith found a place where she could make a difference on a statewide level.
She applied to be on state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox's Student Advisory Council.
"I wanted to make a difference ... and I wanted learning to be fun," Smith said.
In October, the Georgia Department of Education named Smith and 52 other Georgia high school students to the council.
"This year, more than 550 students from 118 school districts applied to be on the advisory council," according to a statement released by the state DOE.
Smith was the only student in Newton County - and the only freshman statewide - named to the council.
"I was excited," Smith said. "I didn't think I made it because I hadn't received anything at home about it, but they told the school; I was very happy when they told me."
Student members have already met twice - once in October and again in December.
"I look forward to meeting with this diverse group of students from every corner and section of Georgia," Cox said in the DOE statement. "Over the past four years, the Student Advisory Council has played an important role in guiding how state policy is created and implemented."
Smith said the group of students have been talking with Cox about drop-out rates and learning styles.
"For the main part, it's a big group and she'll throw out a topic or question," Smith said. "We'll also break into groups."
She feels that Cox is really listening to the group of students.
"She really takes what we say
seriously," Smith said of Cox. "We're not just talking."
The students are scheduled to meet again in February and April.
Even though the council requires Smith to attend meetings four times a year, as well as prepare ahead of time for discussions and talk to her friends and other students afterward, she said it's worth giving up a little free time.
"It gives me a motivation," she said. "And I still take my school work very seriously."
Since Smith is a freshman, she hopes to apply for the council again in the future.
"I really can make a difference," she said. "I think I can help (other students) and myself."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.