SAC members eager to help

DULUTH - Duluth High School senior Albert Liao said he is happy to be one of 53 Georgia students chosen to meet throughout the year with State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox.

The members of the Student Advisory Council met with Cox for the first time in October and discussed the state's new graduation requirements, Liao said. The students also suggested ways to decrease the dropout rate.

The group will meet three more times before the end of the school year. The council members provide input on how state policies are being implemented at the local school level and advise the superintendent on issues important to students and communities, according to the Department of Education.

"It's quite an honor," Liao said. "It's really exciting. I'm glad we have a superintendent in the state who really does seem to take our ideas seriously."

Liao said he first applied during his junior year to be a part of the council. He didn't make the cut, but he applied again this year, and was the only student from Gwinnett County chosen.

It's good the state is seeking input on its policies from students, Liao said. Students are the ones who will be affected by the decisions made by state officials, he said.

The first council meeting included an icebreaker to help students get to know one another, Liao said. The students then moved into a discussion about the dropout rate.

A lot of students drop out of school because they feel school is not important, thinking they would benefit more by getting a job, Liao said. But Liao said he feels there needs to be a cultural shift in terms of education, and he thinks schools should find ways to make education relevant to the real world.

Liao said he suggested state officials consider increasing the compulsory age to attend school from 16 to 18 and make it harder for those who are 16- and 17-years-old to get jobs unless they are in school.

Liao is currently taking Advanced Placement classes, and he's involved in several extracurricular activities. He plans to attend college - perhaps Emory University - with the goal of obtaining a doctorate degree, and he said he's interested in pursuing a career in research and science.

Being a part of the Student Advisory Council is a good opportunity, and he said he encourages students to apply.

"It's a good platform to voice your thoughts," he said.