Meet The 2023-24 BOE Student Representative, Celeste Urdal

Meet The 2023-24 BOE Student Representative, Celeste Urdal

Planning to pursue a degree in political science following graduation, Bearden senior Celeste Urdal is getting a taste of government proceedings as the new Board of Education Student Representative.

The Knox County BOE Student Rep serves as a voice for the students and gives insight to board members. Urdal saw this as the perfect chance to represent her classmates.

“Students work really hard to accomplish our goals, and I felt like I needed to jump on the opportunity to be the student rep,” she said. “The students work hard, so I feel like the school system needs to work for them at the same time.”

Only a few weeks into the job, Urdal has learned about how change is made “up top” and said she has seen how dedicated KCS is to students.

“As a student, when you’re just one of thousands of others, it’s hard to know that people are looking out for you and have your best interests at heart,” she said. “When I became the student rep, I saw that these members really care about the students and care about increasing their chances of success.”

Urdal stresses that she is working for all students and encourages them to come to her with any issue or concern. 

“I just want to be able to fully advocate for what the students need,” she said. “I am a very approachable person, and I will always be willing to talk to you.”

Just as with most seniors, Urdal is busy juggling classes, sports, and extracurriculars. She represents her classmates on the school level through SGA and Senior Committee, and she just began her final season of volleyball, a sport she’s played since third grade. 

She looks forward to continuing on to college and hopes to one day attend law school to further be a voice for others. 

“Growing up being around involved people and helping people has just kind of come naturally,” she said.

Board Seat Gives Kelley A Voice On KCS Policy

Board Seat Gives Kelley A Voice On KCS Policy

Noah Kelley has plenty of leadership experience.

The senior at Karns High School has served as state president of the Tennessee Technology Student Association; Class President at Karns for multiple years; and drum major for the KHS marching band, not to mention recognition as an all-state performer on the bass clarinet and contra bass.

But when his good friend, Hannah Selph, was appointed to the KCS Board of Education for the 2018-19 school year, Kelley was intrigued by the opportunity.

“When she got the student representative role and I got an even closer look to the influence they have, I was like, ‘This is extraordinary, and if I passed up on this opportunity I’d be stupid,’” he recalled.

This year, Kelley is following in his friend’s footsteps and serving as the Board’s student representative, a position that allows him to provide input on a wide range of policy issues and to exercise a leadership style that emphasizes open-mindedness, a willingness to listen and tactful communication.

Jimbo Crawford, director of bands at Karns, said he got to know Kelley when Kelley was a middle-school student, saying that even as a 6th- and 7th-grader he left a positive impression.

The band director added that as drum major, it’s important to find a student who has credibility with the adult leaders, but “he’s also got to have a pretty good rapport with the students. You can’t pick a kid that everybody hates.”

The director said Kelley is nice, and smart in a way that’s not off-putting: “Students all know that he’s the guy that you could go to with a funny meme, and the same guy that you could go to to have help with your homework.”

As a child, Kelley had a heart condition that prevented him from playing sports, and he says that limitation is what led him to embrace other leadership opportunities. It also shaped his goals after high school, which are currently focused on becoming a pediatrician or possibly a cardiologist.

Kelley described his own cardiologist, Yvonne Bremer, as “the coolest woman in the world.” “She always makes my visits fun and it’s never anything miserable and she’s always super-excited to see me,” he said. “So (seeing) that kind of joy and the passion that she has for her career, I was like, ‘I want to do something like this.’”

In one sense, Kelley’s high school career has also focused on fostering joy for students at Karns. He has worked closely with ProjectU, an initiative that aims to promote unity and inclusion, including activities such as “Break Down Your Wall Day”, which encouraged students to sit with new friends and ensure that no one sat alone during lunch.

At another event, student leaders made a huge donut whose sprinkles were small pledge cards, signed by students who committed to showing kindness.

Those lessons about inclusion and unity may also come in handy on the school board, where emotions and passions can sometimes run high. Kelley said he’s realized the importance of being able to adapt as a leader, and to respond appropriately whether he agrees or disagrees with a particular viewpoint.

“Being able to relate with people and seeing their viewpoints and being forced to stay open-minded to all the different viewpoints of the county is kind of a cool thing to experience.”

Karns High School senior Noah Kelley, who serves as the Student Representative on the KCS Board of Education, discusses a project with classmates on August 28, 2019.
Karns High School senior Noah Kelley, who serves as the Student Representative on the KCS Board of Education, discusses a project with classmates on August 28, 2019.