Student School Board Member Avneet Pannu
Ferndale High School senior Avneet Pannu, who describes herself as a first generation immigrant, is one of two student members of the Ferndale School Board. At the end of her sophomore year, Avneet decided to apply for an open two-year position on the School Board, writing in her application that her motivation for doing so was to make a positive impact on her community and to help solve problems plaguing some young people. Among the exceptional candidates who sat for interviews, Avneet won the hearts of Board members and a seat next to them at the Board table, with her perceptive insights into the plight of traditionally marginalized students and her quiet conviction that our school district could do more to support them. When asked what strengths or skills she would bring to the position, she promised to offer kindness, generosity, passion, motivation, and hard work -- and she has kept her promise.
As a School Board member, Avneet has participated in one or two School Board meetings per month for the past 18 months, sitting alongside her elected colleagues through the most tumultuous year any of us has ever experienced. Through all of the challenges -- from a devastating levy failure to a global pandemic -- she has shown herself to be open-minded and an eager learner. She loves her school district. At the same time, she is not blind to its shortcomings.
Avneet’s leadership extends beyond her role on the School Board. During her junior year, she worked with one of the high school assistant principals to plan our district’s first-ever Desi Party aimed at bringing together and celebrating the members of our school community whose roots are in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Afghanistan, and Bhutan. All 150+ Ferndale School District South Asian families were invited, along with members of the District Administrative Team and School Board, to the event, which would have included a catered Indian dinner, a few words from Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu, and some special entertainment. Unfortunately, the Governor’s announcement to close all in-person learning and activities in Washington Schools due to the pandemic came on the very day the Desi event was scheduled to occur.
As a junior, Avneet also threw in her support with a group of students intent on raising awareness about mental health issues, an initiative that began with an all-school assembly and resulted in the formation of the MESS Club, which stands for “Mental Emergencies Support Services.” The mission of the club is to educate students about mental health issues and make resources for addressing them more accessible.
During the current virtual school year, Avneet has found ways to continue her service work. Recognizing the social and emotional toll the pandemic has taken on many of her classmates, she has persisted in supporting the efforts of MESS, which have included sponsoring a series of mental health resource nights featuring local service providers. Her most recent project idea involves the creation of a CARES Closet at the high school where students who need food, school supplies, personal hygiene items, or clothing can get them for free.
Beyond the school district, Avneet studies Sikhism to deepen her faith and volunteers in various ways in the Gurdwara, the place where Sikhs come together for congregational worship. She is truly a dedicated learner, but, more importantly, she has demonstrated the power of turning education into positive action within her community.
Currently, Avneet is also working on college applications and looking forward to pursuing higher education next fall. We can hardly wait to see what she will do next.
Thank you, School Board Member Avneet Pannu! We appreciate you!