Q+A with Student School Board members Roymara Louissaint and Bella Tietje

The vaping epidemic is a major issue and so are school vaping policies, the school reps say.


  • By
  • | 7:50 p.m. January 24, 2023
  • Palm Coast Observer
  • Schools
  • Share

Between college selection, dual enrollment and a myriad of extracurricular activities, Matanzas senior Bella Tietje and Flagler Palm Coast senior Roymara Louissaint had to carve out time from their busy schedules to be Flagler Student School Board members.

But it's been worth it, they said, to be the voices for their fellow students. Before a recent School Board meeting, Tietje and Louissant spoke with the Observer about their college plans, leading the Teen Town Halls and what the major issues are for Flagler County high school students.

Roymara, congratulations on your acceptance to Stanford.

Roymara: I'm super excited about that. I applied to this program called QuestBridge. And they basically have like 48 college partners, and select students can apply and when you get matched, if you get matched for college, you're required to go there, except for MIT. But I'm super excited to go to Stanford.

Bella, have you narrowed your choices?

Bella: I've applied to 13 different schools. So I have many options. So far, I've gotten into Notre Dame FSU, a couple of schools like that. I'm still waiting to hear back from University of Rochester, and (Florida). (They) are actually my top choices right now. Bright Futures definitely helps out with UF, and University of Rochester has really good merit scholarships.

So, you are both planning on going to medical school?

Roymara: That's the plan so far. I always wanted to go to medical school, but now that I'm seeing that there's other options I could do with (biomedical) engineering,  just like become a researcher, things like that. I'm kind of exploring that area as well.

Bella: I definitely want to go to medical school. I have been wanting to go in the medical field since I was very young. At first I wanted to be a brain surgeon, but then I was like, maybe not. Now I'm leaning more towards trauma surgeon or orthopedic surgeon. I'm good with blood and gore. And you know, if you're a trauma surgeon, there's something new every single day to see. So, that really excites me. And it just seems like I do really good in high pressure environments.

Now that you've had seats on the board for a few months, has the experience been what you expected?

"It's been a pretty rewarding experience, being able to speak for the students at your school. I try to keep in mind the opinions of other students ... that may have different opinions than mine, and I try to voice those."

— ROYMARA LOUISSAINT

Roymara: It's been a pretty rewarding experience, being able to speak for the students at your school. I try to keep in mind the opinions of other students at my school that may have different opinions than mine, and I try to voice those.

Bella: I agree with Roymara. It is very rewarding to be here, especially being in the room where everything happens, where decisions are made. That's very exciting. And exactly like she said, it's good to be able to voice the opinions of the students at your school, even if you don't necessarily have the same opinions. It's just really good to see what everybody else thinks and make sure it's heard here.

You have been running the virtual Teen Town Halls. What are some of the topics?

Roymara: We've done several. One of them was on the natural high, which is basically finding other outlets besides drugs and alcohol to turn to.

Bella: Another was Know the Law, so it's really getting students involved in knowing their rights and what is allowed and not allowed, but having a better understanding of the consequences of your actions, and just knowing to do the right thing.

(Since this interview they held another Teen Town Hall on Jan. 19 on the teen vaping epidemic).

"It is very rewarding to be here, especially being in the room where everything happens, where decisions are made."

— BELLA TIETJE

What are the major issues for Flagler County students?

Bella: It's hard to say because we all experience a lot of different issues. Like I'm currently having issues with Daytona State. I'm having problems trying to find classes right now.

Roymara: At my school, I guess it would be inclusion. People just feel like they're included in spaces, they're not necessarily represented. I know, for example, certain organizations at my school are very cliquish sometimes. And so, it'll tend to lean towards the more higher achievers. But that's not a true representation of our whole student body.

How do you think your classmates would answer that question?

Roymara: I've heard a lot about the way school administration was handling the vaping usage at my school. One girl who is  in a class with me, had to be taken out of class because someone in the bathroom was vaping, but she wasn't participating in that. So, she had to lose valuable class time just because someone else was doing it. They could find a way to handle that.

Bella: I've heard similar things at Matanzas too.

What issue would you like to see the School Board take up this year?

Roymara: Another thing that kind of goes off the other questions but answers this question as well is mental health. I know that we currently have the mental health days every Wednesday. But I know a lot of students don't find it very beneficial. So if there's maybe a more interactive component to it or something that's just surveying students to see what they want in terms of their mental health education and what could really benefit them.

Bella: Building on what Roymara said, I remember during the mental health Wednesdays where we'd have to take our valuable class time to take those seminars. It was very frustrating for a lot of students who were wanting to do better in classes, and they were missing the actual class time. So, I think if they did something else that was still learning about mental health but not taking up class time.

Social media has been blamed for a lot things. What do you think is good, what do you think is bad about it?

Bella: I think being able to share things and having a lot of people see it and be able to interact with it is a really good part of social media, because there's so many events, so many things I wouldn't have ever seen if it wasn't for social media. But I also think that it can be negative because it leaves a lot of room for people to hate on things or comment negatively.

Roymara: I agree with Bella on her negative, because it can cause people to kind of feel left out or think negatively about themselves. In terms of the positive, networking and keeping in touch with people from different programs that I've done, like, for example, I did that MIT summer program, and that includes students all across the U.S. And so I've been able to keep in touch with them. Just seeing what they're up to is just cool.

Bella: I feel like I've done some similar things with my friends who went to college like one of my friends went to BYU Hawaii, and it's been really cool to see her life and how it's changed and how she's enjoying it out there without having to actually reach out.

If you guys were principal of your school, what changes would you make? 

Roymara: In terms of extracurriculars or incorporating programs, having more opportunities, like adding a flagship at my school that would be able to do research for high school students. In the (International Baccalaureate) program, we have the EE (extended essay) which is like our own mini research project. I feel like having something like that available to all students would really show them skills for colleges, providing them with access to higher level libraries and things like that. For example, a program called JSTOR is what we use for our EE. And I know you can have a free subscription. If we have the higher level subscription, it'd be easier for us to access more sources to cite in our research.

Bella: When I was in elementary school, they had the older high school kids do a little mentorship with the elementary students. I think I would do something similar with the upperclassmen with the newer (students) coming in, so they can make more friends and get really involved. I wish I could have talked to a senior to ask what's up, what I should be involved with. We're also doing little sporting events that are fun, like they had the teacher vs. students basketball game at Matanzas recently. So, I think if they had more friendly sporting events where everybody can get involved, not strictly being involved with sports to do sports.