High school student intent on learning all sides of the story

Brooke O’Neal is sworn in as school board representative at a school board meeting in early September.

Brooke O’Neal is sworn in as school board representative at a school board meeting in early September.

Two books sat on the table — one by Ann Coulter, the other featuring Barack Obama. The books showcased two opposite view points but a there was a single person reading them. Brooke O’Neal, a senior at Redondo Union High School, a 17-year-old intent on understanding all sides of the story, recently accepted the position as student representative for theRedondo BeachUnifiedSchool Districtschool board.

“Brooke is very perceptive,” said her father, Kevin O’Neal. “She is the kind of person that if there is an issue or an argument she likes to be well informed about all side of the issue.”

Brooke hopes to graduate from Redondo Union and study political science. She joined the Associated Student Body and thought that the school board position would be the right fit for her.

“I thought it would be a cool thing to do because there are lots of things that happen behind the scenes,” said Brooke. “You get to understand what teachers think and what people who aren’t just students think.”

According to her parents, Brooke has always been interested in all sides of the story.

“If she is interested in something she will take it upon herself to go out and find the information,” said her mother, Beatrice Henson-O’Neal. “When elections happen she is like, ‘Okay Mom, my friends think this way and they don’t even know why.’ She is really good at digging for information and supporting her own ideas. What parent doesn’t want to see that? I think the (school board) position is perfect for her; it suits her intellectual curiosities she just has naturally by some grace.”

Brooke is not the only person in her family interested in education and government. Her grandparents were lifetime educators. Her grandfather, Joseph O’Neal was one of the founding members of the city of Carson and was on various committees for the city and was a community activist. Her grandmother, Mary-Anne O’Neal, was a school teacher for LAUSD, was a training teacher, a school coordinator, an adviser in the Superintendent’s office and an elementary math specialist. After she retired she became a math evaluator for the California State Department of Education, a member of the L.A. County Board of Education and a commissioner for the L.A County Senior Commission and is currently on the beautification committee for the city ofCarson. Both Brooke’s parents work at universities.

“She seems to be really honoring our family and has a great idea about how important education is and keeping that going,” said her father. “We’re lucky in this part of the world to have certain choices and abundance that a lot of people do not have access to.”

According to her parents, she understands the value of education and is able to relate to both students and adults.

“This is a good way for her to get started getting some insight for how decisions are made and what it means to be part of a group that makes decisions and learn who they are accountable to,” said her mother. “She is a good liaison to students in that matter. She can explain to them and report back to the board on what her peers are thinking.”

At the meetings, Brooke fits right in and isn’t afraid to voice her opinion.

“Before my first meeting,” she said, “I talked to the person that was in my position last year. He mostly said, ‘Don’t be afraid to give your opinion. Don’t sit there quietly.’”

When issues were brought up, even at the first meeting she was able to ask questions and speak her mind about various issues in the school.

“I was surprised there were so many people upset about the IB [International Baccalaureate] program,” said Brooke, “I tried to represent the students as much as I could. My favorite part was getting sworn in. There is something about swearing to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign domestic.”

According to Superintendent Steven Keller, “Brooke is another example ofRedondoUnionHigh School’s very sharp and wise student body. We appreciate her opinion and respect her intellect.”

Redondo Union is Brooke’s third high school. At each of her previous L.A.-area schools she found a void she felt uniquely qualified to fill and took that position upon herself. When she wasn’t academically challenged as a freshmen, she started a club after school where students read newspapers and discussed current events. At her next school she felt lost and didn’t see a lot of people making her feel welcome, so she gave tours to new students and welcomed them to the school. She came to Redondo Union after becoming frustrated with her previous high schools and personally sought out a high school she wanted to attend. Her family supported her decision and moved to the area.

“I’ve been contacting leaders of different organizations at the school so if there are issues, I will know about it,” said Brooke. “Hopefully I’ll have some sort of impact.”

Her father thinks that she is perceptive, curious, open and most importantly humble about it. He also believes she will be a fine asset to the students, the school board, the district and the community.

“She totally surprises me,” said her father. “I wake up everyday and I wonder who that lady is walking around and I realize — hey, that’s my daughter.”

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