Risa Slater is keeping a family tradition alive.
The Laguna Beach High School senior, like her older sister Lauren before her, represents students at Laguna Beach Unified School District board meetings.
Risa, 17, sits next to district administrators and school board members, updating them on school happenings, from sports team feats to dances and fundraisers. She talks with school Principal Joanne Culverhouse, Athletic Director Mike Churchill, counselors and students to gather the information.
Then she organizes the data to present to the school board, which meets Tuesdays.
"I take notes and then make sentences and transitions, trying to be funny, keeping things fresh and upbeat," said Risa, who juggles the task while taking five classes — including American government and calculus — and holding down a job as a sales associate at Tuvalu, a home furnishings store on Forest Avenue.
She is one of three students, along with juniors Natalie Kimball and Annie Brown, in the school's Associated Student Body who rotate each month briefing school board members, said Yvette Perez, the school's activities director, community service coordinator and varsity cheerleading coach.
The ASB representatives serve one-year terms, Perez said.
Risa interviewed for the position and started reporting to the school board three years ago.
She relishes the task, which she turns into a three- to five-minute presentation to board members, interjecting laughs when appropriate.
Board member Betsy Jenkins has known Risa since she was a little girl.
"I love her enthusiasm," Jenkins said. "She does a good job reporting the high school events."
Risa seems a natural fit for the position — she has been involved in school leadership since the fourth grade.
"I love gathering information, like to research and like to hear what's going on with the community," she said.
Risa's role as liaison to the school board is one of ASB's many aspects.
The group meets several times a week to discuss and decide on school activities and ways to encourage students to become involved.
Risa and 31 fellow students in the ASB class gathered Monday morning to discuss how they would announce the theme of February's winter formal dance to the student body.
ASB manages all of Laguna Beach High's 52 clubs, and students are graded on participation and their performance on projects, Perez said.
ASB President Brooke Michaels, 18, presided over the meeting as students made suggestions about the formal.
"We're going to do a flash mob and magic trick," said Brooke, a senior.
ASB is also giving back to the community this holiday season. Students and teachers donated more than 2,000 pounds of canned and non-perishable food to the Laguna Food Pantry, Perez said.
"This was our most successful food drive ever," Perez said. "The ASB students were very motivated by this and wanted to continue their help in the community throughout December."
The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach provided ASB with a list of local children in need, according to Perez.
Students placed a tree in the school library and created ornaments bearing the names and ages of the children. Students can pick a child and return with an unwrapped gift for him or her.
In addition to the toy drive, each grade level adopted a family through Families Forward, an Irvine-based nonprofit that assists families in financial crisis to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency, according to the organization's website.
Students can donate items such as clothes, shoes, gift cards, diapers and blankets for their particular grade level, Perez said.
When it comes to sparking student interest in school programs, incentives usually help, said ASB Vice President Sarina Strickland, 17, who has been involved with ASB all four years.
"We do a lot of games in the quad, while students are eating lunch," said Sarina, also a senior. "We'll provide incentives such as, 'Do this and get a doughnut," or a T-shirt. We're kids and kids like gifts."
If a poster needs to be made, Risa might be one of the first students to take on the job.
"I love advertising and marketing," said Risa, who will study communications at the University of Oregon next fall. "I love making posters, making different fonts."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun