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Midway Middle's Carter is student-advocate for his peers
Midway Middle School student Grayson Carter. - photo by Tiffany King

You’ve heard of student-athletes. Well, Grayson Carter is a student-advocate.

Carter, 13, is sharing the concerns and ideas of his peers as a representative on the State Superintendent of School’s Student Advisory Council.

Carter, an eighth-grader at Midway Middle School, is in his second term on the council and has really enjoyed the experience so far.

Students discuss how state level decisions are affecting their schools with State Superintendent Richard Woods and other Department of Education members.

"It is so that we can get kids all around the state of Georgia to give feedback instead of a teacher guessing what a kid wants," Carter said. "We actually have kids who’ve been in situations that they would like to see changed or not changed. If they (other students) have a change that is pretty reasonable, I will take it up there and discuss it, and we’ll go from there."

The council meets in Atlanta four times a year.

During his first term last year, Carter surveyed students to get their thoughts and find out what they wanted to see changed. He said many of the responses were about school food and others were about Connections, which are extracurricular classes such as art, band and P.E.

Students wanted to take a variety of Connections classes instead of having the same class assigned to them throughout the school year. For example, if a student has P.E. the first nine weeks, Carter said, they are assigned the same course the second nine weeks as well. Students wanted to take different classes.

"A lot of kids were also saying we should have home economics to prepare us for real life. I know high school does that too but it’s easier to start young so they can understand it and grow on it," Carter said.

Carter will meet with the council and Woods on Monday. One issue he will discuss is the concern of some gifted middle school students who already are learning ninth grade content but cannot receive high school credit.

"If they don’t earn it now, then they’re just going to start where we (non-gifted students) are in the ninth grade," he said.

Although this is Carter’s second term, Monday’s meeting will be a welcome for those serving for the first time. The morning will start with a welcome and overview of what the council does. The council then will talk about different issues. Woods will then listen to the students, talk about House bills being considered and give out prizes.

Topics discussed at past meetings have included school lunch, discipline problems with teachers, the pros and cons of advertising on buses, testing and other programs, Carter said.

One program Liberty County Schools currently has in place is Capturing Kids’ Hearts, an initiative that encourages positive, healthy relationships between students and teachers.

"When we were in Atlanta, we discussed that before it even happened. So we discussed it and we put in on it," Carter said.

Carters likes how topics discussed at meetings can become a reality.

"My favorite part is that it’s not just a council where kids go up there and say things and no one takes it into consideration and just leaves it," he said. "They actually sit there and think about it. Capturing Kid’s Hearts, they took that consideration from us and actually made it happen, so that’s my favorite part."

To be considered for the council, students must fill out an application and answer questions about ideas for education, community service and how to accomplish goals.

When Carter applied, he wrote about religion "because a lot of schools have difficulty with religion" and another paper on America. He said 1,120 students applied and only 120 were selected—70 middle school and 50 high school.

Carter also was appointed to a special lunch council called the 2020 Vision for School Nutrition. The goal is to cut down on processed food and have at least 20 percent of every meal to be products from local Georgia growers.

Carter said he spoke passionately about school food at a council meeting and was later asked to be on the food council with three other students and superintendents.

He said he enjoys being on the council and hopes it will help earn him a scholarship in the long run. Right now, he doesn’t have career plans, though some have suggested a career in politics, and his father thinks he should be either a lawyer or member of the Coast Guard.

Carter says he likes to argue, so he’ll consider law. And, Carter said he will apply to be on the Students Advisory Council again when he goes to high school and encourages other students to as well.

"I have actually told other students to apply for it because it’s really fun. We do a lot of activities that helps a lot of people and it’s just some way that you can get your word out," Carter said. "If you have students tell teachers, saying this and this happened and I would like to change this, then this is your opportunity to go up to the head and tell them your change."

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