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SVHS Student Voice speaks out to School District Trustees

Posted on July 6, 2024 by Sonoma Sun

Victoria Hernández Padilla, Sonoma Valley High Class of 2024, read an open letter to the Trustees of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District at their June 6 meeting. Hernández Padilla was elected 2023-24 Sonoma High Student Voice, a dual role of President of the Associated Student Body and Student Member of the Board of Trustees. In her letter, she asserts that students feel that their voices, even though often sought in surveys, are not respected and heard, and are not effective in helping guide decisions by the District. (See full text of Letter below.) 

Hernández Padilla is a first-generation Mexican American born and raised in El Verano. Her parents immigrated to the US without an education and with minimal opportunities at their fingertips so, she explains, early on she understood the importance of using any and all resources to empower marginalized communities at large. Speaking of her own experience of inequity in her community, Hernández Padilla says, “I became determined to understand and address social and systemic issues by working alongside marginalized communities to transform inequities into spaces for opportunity.”  

The recent Sonoma High grad will attend UC Berkeley this fall, where she plans to major in Global Studies, hoping to “continue to explore my interest in culture, government, public policy, and intersectionality.” Out of the 124,000 applicants to Berkeley this year, she was one of 150 awarded the prestigious Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship, which is a full ride. This summer she will intern in the office of Congressman Mike Thompson.

Vicky, as she is known, was the Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year in 2023, for Sonoma and for Northern California. During the pandemic she founded her own local initiative GENup Sonoma/Diversify Our Narrative SVUSD, which donated a small collection of thoughtfully selected book titles to each of the District public elementary schools. The books were chosen to illustrate, rather than preach, diversity – ethnic, cultural, gender, socio-economic. She also founded three clubs at SVHS, was the Co-Captain of the SVHS Dance Team and Violin Ambassador at Valley Vibes Orchestra. She told the Sun that she recognizes that all of her achievements are a result of working alongside her community. “I look forward,” she said, “to utilizing my education to uplift and inspire others.” 

OPEN LETTER to the SONOMA VALLEY UNIFIED TRUSTEES 

From Victoria Hernández Padilla

I recently found myself reflecting on my experience as Student Voice.

I never anticipated running for this position, it simply just happened. I ran last minute, and was elected as a result of my peers trusting me to advocate for underrepresented communities at SVHS. I’ve learned a great deal about myself during my time on this Board and most importantly I’ve learned about what it means to represent my peers at Sonoma Valley High. 

As I reflect, I feel compelled to share the perspective of many students in this Valley. 

It is no revelation when I say that in previous years, other students in this position may not have been as thorough as I am when it comes to fulfilling the responsibilities that come with Student Voice. I’ve looked into why that is and found that we don’t feel that our voice is truly heard on this platform, that students feel discouraged from even becoming truly involved; they feel that their doing so won’t really change anything. 

While we have a seat at this table, it is often to highlight our successes, but action falls short in terms of what we actually need. For years, students in this Valley have heard the term “Youth Truth” data, but the reality is that data isn’t a true indication of student feelings and thoughts. Students fail to take surveys seriously because they feel as if nothing is ever done with the data. Every time a new survey is sent out students laugh and say they won’t waste their time filling it out, or many simply fill in random stuff or, worse, tone down their feelings out of fear it isn’t really anonymous. 

Moreover, this response can be applied to any sort of District outreach. Students feel discouraged from sharing their true feelings because they feel as if doing so won’t change anything.

When I think of what I learned during my time as Student Voice, I reflect on various positive things; but I also reflect on the realization of how deep-rooted is the mistrust that the Sonoma community has with this School District.

We, as students, ask when will enough data have been collected to finally start going about true change in this Valley? When will enough voices have been heard? When will enough opinions have been shared? Students are aware that very few fill out the Youth Truth survey.  Speaking from my perspective, I am sure that once actions are visible to students, we will get more engagement. We will get more responses and begin to build community. 

I’ve sat here for a whole year. Listen to me. Listen to us. Listen to the next person to come after me. 

I feel like I’ve had a wonderful platform to speak up about what I see SVHS and this District need, and I’ve done everything I can with this position. But I feel as if  “student voices” have fallen on deaf ears.

So if I leave any last message, I urge this District to finally prioritize transparency, communication and most of all, action; to once and for all start building trust with the students they serve. 

Thank you. 

Story by Anna Pier



2 thoughts on “SVHS Student Voice speaks out to School District Trustees

  1. Well said! Thank you for serving and best wishes in your future endeavors, Vicky!

  2. Bless you. Thank you. Your composure this year has been astounding. I wish the school board trustees would act at least half as competent and honest as you have been.

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