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The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

THE STUDENT VOICE: Senior steps into new role on the school board mid-year

Source: Screenshot from Feb. 6 FJUHSD board meeting
Student board representative senior Kathleen Sweeney shares updates about each campus at the Feb. 6 Fullerton Joint Union High School District board meeting.

When senior Kathleen Sweeney was first sworn in to become the new student representative on the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] board of trustees Dec. 12, she had just finished her away soccer game against Sonora High School.

Then the next month on Jan. 9, Sweeney had returned from another away game against La Habra before taking her seat for her second board meeting at the district office.

That explains why the two-sport athlete wore a varsity letterman’s jacket featuring Sunny Hills school colors of black and gold with CIF and Freeway League badges on the back and a volleyball and soccer ball on the left sleeve.

“I didn’t have enough time to change,” Sweeney said.

By the Feb. 6 meeting with no previous game to compete in, her attire was in stark contrast to what she had worn before as she showed up dressed in a white collared shirt underneath a black suit jacket.

“My sports seasons are over, so I don’t anticipate showing up in that jacket again,” Sweeney said. “I have my business attire already picked out for the next four months until my term ends.”

Those are among the sudden adjustments Sweeney has had to make since taking over the role mid-school year as the FJUHSD’s student board member. Before that, the senior served as the district’s vice chairwoman of the Student Advisory Council [SAC].

I think she has the kind of personality and ability to interact well within the board with our other board members and other district employees.”

— principal Craig Weinreich

Ironically, her new title was something Sweeney had applied for near the end of the previous school year in April. That position ended up going to then-junior Esmeralda Lozano of Sonora.

But that became open again – district officials have declined to explain what happened because of student confidentiality – in November as no one sat in the student board member’s seat during the Nov. 14 meeting. 

“I thought this was a really cool opportunity for me to put myself out there and work with so many different people within the district on how to improve the schools and make a difference within each students’ life,” Sweeney said, recalling why she submitted her student board member application last year.

According to the 2023-2024 FJUHSD student board member application information, the responsibilities of a student board member are the following:

  • to present to the trustees at each meeting a report comprising highlights of events from all of the district’s campuses
  • to cast a preferential vote for all items on the board agenda, which involves providing student input as a formal opinion but does not count toward the final numerical outcome of a vote
  • to preside as chairperson of the SAC

As the new SAC chairwoman, Sweeney has to organize monthly meetings to discuss school-related ideas and issues with members of the SAC – the ASB presidents and two additional members of each school in the district. (Sonora High School student senior Grace Nevis has since replaced Sweeney as the SAC vice chairwoman.)


Besides her involvement in girls soccer as the team’s captain and the goalie and girls volleyball middle blocker, it’s clear Sweeney is not one to shy away from leadership roles.

After returning from a girls soccer game, Sweeney delivers her campus recaps at the Jan. 9 FJUHSD board meeting.

On campus, she serves as the Associated Student Body assemblies commissioner, who’s responsible for writing the script and planning the theme and activities of each event – usually held during double second periods on a Friday.

“It’s not really something that just sparked freshman year or anything. … I was in leadership at my elementary school,” Sweeney said. “I was in leadership at my junior high, and then I was in leadership at Sunny.”

Principal Craig Weinreich, who has sat next to the senior at her previous three board meetings, said she has adjusted well to her new responsibilities.

“Whether it was student board reports [that she gives], she fits in great,” Weinreich said. “I think she has the kind of personality and ability to interact well within the board with our other board members and other district employees.”

Girls soccer head coach AJ Arenas supported Sweeney’s decision to add another off-campus task to her loaded schedule.

“Katie did mention to me that she was a student representative [on the school board], and I was excited for her because any chance you have to lead, represent the school or serve the better good, you have to seize the moment,” the head coach said. “I strongly believe there is a reason for everything, and this was meant for Katie.”

Girls volleyball head coach Amanda Donaldson was at Sweeney’s induction ceremony last December since that was also the same night the girls volleyball team was recognized for its accomplishments during the season, reaching for the first time in the program’s history the semifinal round of CIF playoffs.

“I think students and adults are drawn to her outgoingness and contagious positivity,” Donaldson said. “She’s a kid you just don’t ever see sad. There are people who struggle in a room full of strangers, and then there are people like Katie who thrive.”


Sweeney takes over as a student board member at a time when the district is undergoing new approaches to its safety plan on all of its campuses.

I think students and adults are drawn to her outgoingness and contagious positivity.”

— girls volleyball head coach Amanda Donaldson

She said the district remains proficient at enforcing students, teachers and staffs’ well-being at all levels.

“Generally, I feel that we are safe, and I feel the district and the administration has done a good job at that,” she said. “But we all need to be vigilant and aware of our surroundings and just cautious because anything can happen.”

At Sunny Hills, Sweeney said she hopes to address with school officials how difficult it is for student motorists to exit campus parking lots year-round.

“I just hate that parents basically camp out for their students after school and wait in lines in the actual parking lot instead of the pickup lines,” she said. “It makes it a lot more difficult for students to get out because they block our blind spots and even just block us from getting out.”


Interacting with students from other schools in-person at SAC meetings and through consistent messaging, Sweeney said her favorite part of the typically two-hour long board meetings is listening to representatives speak about school activities.

“I don’t know why I’m interested in what the other schools are up to, but I am, and I think that’s what makes it more interesting for me, and I like seeing when all the kids from different schools come and get awards,” she said. 

The student board member said when her term ends after her last board meeting on May 14, she may take up the idea of serving alongside the trustees again – putting her name on the ballot to get elected by voters.

“Maybe when I get older, and I’m actually done with whatever else I want to do with my life, maybe I take it up again,” Sweeney said.

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Julie Jung
Julie Jung, Staff Reporter
After completing Journalism 1 in her freshman year, sophomore Julie Jung joins The Accolade as a staff reporter for the 2023-2024 school year. Although Jung previously found interest in writing feature stories, she hopes to gain more experience in other elements of journalism and make new connections with peers throughout her time in The Accolade. Outside of school, Jung likes to spend time with friends and family and play games.
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