The Advocates for Durango High Schoolers


The Durango 9R School District Administration building where the interviews to become a student member of the Board of Education took place. The Board of Education, including last year’s student members, asked questions about the students’ passions, skills, and ability to fulfill the demanding workload.

The Durango 9R Board of Education is the governing body of Durango’s school system. The organization’s job is to make sure that our local school system is compliant with all constitutional and state laws and is able to meet the needs of the students, K-12. This is a tall order for the five board members, Erika Brown the Vice-President, Kristin Smith the President, Rick Petersen the Treasurer, Katie Stewart the Member, and Andrea Parmenter the Secretary. In order to ensure that they understand the needs of students, the board recruits student representatives to advocate for the needs of their peers. These student representatives must attend board meetings, visit other schools in the district, and collect information about their student bodies.

In the 2023-2024 school year, four high schoolers in Durango have been chosen to represent students for the Board of Education, Heidi Clay (Durango High School), Mia Sholes (Durango High School), David Fitzgerald (Big Picture High School), and Michaela Richardson. I was able to ask them some questions about their upcoming terms, and they were gracious enough to answer me.


Mia Sholes (left) and Heidi Clay (right) will be serving as student representatives for Durango High School during the 2023-2024 school year. Clay wants to create a supportive environment that champions mental wellbeing. Sholes wants to help students with diverse lingual backgrounds overcome language barriers.

How are you feeling about your appointment?

David Fitzgerald: “I feel really good, this was a huge goal of mine and I think I’m gonna be a great support for the school board. However, to be totally honest, I am a bit stressed because I’d like to take all perspectives into consideration for the board meetings and much of the time I can only get perspectives from BPHS.”

Michaela Richardson: “I am a very shy and reclusive person, but I am very honored, and incredibly happy to be a student representative and get my voice from an alternative school out into the community.”

Heidi Clay: “I’m feeling very excited! There’s a lot of responsibility and commitment, but I believe that I can learn a lot and transfer that knowledge to helping other students throughout the district!”

Mia Sholes: “I am so excited and happy to be able to be an important person within our student community and I am so glad that I can be helpful. I am looking forward to working with a team of amazing other advocates within our school district. It is an honor to support and represent the student body and I am so grateful that I can help advocate for everyone from every little community that we have!”


Michaela Richardson will be serving as a student representative during the 2023-2024 school year. Richardson is passionate about the environment and sustainability.

Are there any specific issues you plan to advocate for?

David Fitzgerald: “One of the largest issues that I plan to advocate for is the current youth mental health crisis, especially around teachers and staff not being supportive enough and having knowledge around mental health. This is already an issue I’ve brought to the board earlier this year before even discussing becoming a student board member, on Youth Mental Health Night.”

Michaela Richardson: “I’m a plant person through and through, and I am incredibly passionate about anything environmentally friendly and/or sustainable, hydroponics is my niche and I’m always looking to bring ideas like composting, recycling and community gardens to the table.”

Heidi Clay: “I really want to advocate for students’ mental health and help them feel comfortable advocating for themselves and help support an environment where kids actually want to go to school and they have things they are excited about.”

Mia Sholes: “An issue I hope that I can bring to the attention of our Board of Education is the struggle with language barriers within our schools. We need to find better ways to connect and teach our students no matter the language they speak. This is so important!”


Why do you think you are qualified to represent the student body?

David Fitzgerald: “I believe I’m qualified to represent our student body because I truly spend the majority of my time on leadership and building a better community within the Durango 9-R School District. I feel qualified within Big Picture High School because I am one of the students who has the support of my whole school, as the student ambassador. And I spend lots of time working with the organization of BPHS including organizing our middle school recruitment activities.”

Michaela Richardson: “I’ve had a really hard time playing the role of a good student in my past. I was a notoriously bad kid in middle school. Coming into high school, I was shaped into a completely different person and I feel like I’ve turned into a role model I always wished I had when I was in middle school. I would have never pictured myself doing this four years ago and that’s exactly why I want to do it now.”

Heidi Clay: “I think that I can really serve as a line of communication and understand multiple perspectives, which will help me represent students this upcoming year.”

Mia Sholes: “The reason I believe that I am qualified for this position is because I am driven to help my community. It is hard at times to advocate for one another, but when we get the chance to, we should take advantage of it. That is what I hope I can do for all of the students here at DHS, be an advocate.”


David Fitzgerald will be serving as a student representative for Big Picture High School during the 2023-2024 school year. Fitzgerald wants to support the mental health of Durango’s students.

How are you going to gain knowledge about student opinions on school issues?

David Fitzgerald: “Within Big Picture, I am generally always around students and staff, always discussing current events and issues that we see. And within DHS, I would say that my friends would be how I get most of my information about the issues they see, however I’d love to find a way to be more present around DHS and their students’ views on possible issues and concerns.”

Michaela Richardson: “Of course through attending board meetings, but also using other community resources in my school like Sources of Strength and Green Team.”

Heidi Clay: “For me, talking with lots of different people and asking about their perspectives helps me learn more about different opinions on things. I think this skill will really help me support and advocate for students.”

Mia Sholes: “I want every student here at DHS to know that they can reach me both by email, as well as by finding me in the halls to ask for help. I encourage you to reach out if you ever need anything. I am always here and I will always make time for all of you!”

If you have a grievance you’d like brought to the attention of the Board of Education, reaching out to one of your representatives would be an excellent way to make it happen. All of them are easily available through email. Their school addresses can easily be found by typing their names into the address bar when composing a message to them. If you see them around, just talking to them would also be an excellent way to reach out to them. Remember that they and the Board of Education are there to serve your needs and any feedback they can get is invaluable to achieving this end.