Capistrano Valley High School senior Alex Zhao was recently selected to serve as Student Board member to the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees for the 2022-2023 school year.
Zhao, of Mission Viejo, is president of the Capistrano Valley Volunteer Club, co-president of the California Scholarship Federation (CSF) club, co-president of the Asian American Student Association, and Faction Leader of the National Honor Society (NHS) club.
He is a member of the school’s orchestra, Model United Nations (MUN), International Baccalaureate program, and robotics. In addition to the volunteer work he participates in through the NHS and CSF, Zhao volunteers during the summer at the Irvine Chinese School, and on weekends at the Discovery Cube.
“It’s a really big reward to me being able to get the visiting kids excited about the science demonstrations we put on, and our hope is always to get these kids interested in STEM,” Zhao said.
Zhao, 17, will represent the district’s grade K-12 students during all regular and special meetings, except for closed sessions, of the Board of Trustees during the one-year term.
He succeeds San Clemente High School senior Kanei Padhya, who served the board during the 2021-2022 school year; and Aliso Niguel High School senior Anchal Bhaskar, who served the board during the 2020-2021 school year.
CUSD Insider: Do you remember your reaction and what went into your head when you learned you were chosen as Student Board member?
Zhao: I remember it was all just very surreal, and I knew how strong the other candidates were, so I’m just very honored to be able to have this position and represent the students of CUSD.
CUSD Insider: Why were you interested in becoming the Student Board member?
Zhao: You could say the catalyst was being in MUN and making these hypothetical international policies. And I think that really just made me want to enact real change in a scope which I could observe happening around me. There are also so many cool and unique voices around CUSD that I just feel are unheard, especially at a policy-making level, so I really wanted to promote those views with this position.
CUSD Insider: What about the board position do you find interesting?
Zhao: I find it really interesting how high-level this position really is. Some of the things I have to research dive really into depth and I’ve gotten to learn about different municipal bonds, niche propositions, amongst other things. Things usually aren’t watered down and it prompts good research to be done.
CUSD Insider: What are you most excited about working with the Board on during the 2022-23 year?
Zhao: I’m really excited about implementing new ways of getting student opinions. Right now, I’ve been working with my high school to set up a system of random sampling that could get a really broad range of student opinions. Once I pilot this system at Capo, I want to export it to all other high schools in order to get a really good student opinion feedback system going. And eventually I hope to get a system in place for the elementary and middle schools as well. I’m also excited to work with the board on implementing more student voice into the decisions they make, as it is crucial they hear the perspectives of students when making choices that the students will feel the impact of.
CUSD Insider: What grade are you in? Are you in any clubs or sports at school? What school do you attend? Do you have a favorite subject to study? If so, what is it and why?
Zhao: I am a senior at Capistrano Valley High School. As mentioned previously, I am in a variety of clubs at school and I’ve tried to make an impact within my school community through these clubs. I was a track and field hurdler and sprinter but after injuries and time constraints I had to stop. My favorite subjects are computer science and history because it was really cool learning a coding language that I could use in future jobs, and history was always interesting being able to connect current socio-economic and political implications to the materials we learned in class.
CUSD Insider: What is your favorite thing about high school?
Zhao: This definitely sounds cliché but just being able to meet so many different people and making memories together. Whether it’s just looking at one another after something funny happened in math class or getting ice cream after STEAM Showcase, these small things are the memories that I will carry with me into the future.
CUSD Insider: What is your favorite food?
Zhao: I don’t know if this can be hypothetical but I know my favorite food WILL be A5 wagyu beef once I try it. Otherwise I love grilled lamb chops.
CUSD Insider: Are there any other things you want the CUSD Insider community to know about you?
Zhao: I am always one to try things (this position included), and I look forward to my senior year being filled with adventures. From surfing to taking trips with friends, it’s been an incredible experience so far. And I am beyond grateful to have this opportunity to represent the 45,000+ students in CUSD this year! I am proud to be in this district and I hope to learn even more about the amazing communities within CUSD in this coming year.