Daniella Ruotolo passes out information at a school board meeting. Photo by Chelsea Sektnan
Last year Redondo Union High School junior Daniella Ruotolo had an easy assignment. For Spanish class, she had to stand in front of her fellow classmates and give a presentation about her family.
“I was holding the poster and my hand was shaking a lot, so the poster was flapping in the air,” said Ruotolo. “I was like, ‘This shouldn’t be happening!’ Then I decided that that can’t happen anymore, and I need to get better at this.”
Sixteen-year-old Ruotolo decided to put a stop to her shaking hand and decided that applying to be the Redondo Union High School Board representative would give her a chance to practice public speaking.
“I thought the best way to do that without actually running would be to do that job since you have to talk in front of people and you’re even on TV,” said Ruotolo.
Her mother, Joan Barnett, was supportive of Ruotolo’s decision to join the board the entire time.
“I think it’s wonderful, it’s a great opportunity for her to be able to express herself in public, and the exposure is great,” Barnett said.
Ruotolo joined former high school council representative Brooke O’Neal for a board meeting before officially joining last year. Ruotolo thought the meeting was exceptionally dull, but has since decided otherwise.
“After that night I expected the board meetings to be even more boring, but they’re not boring at all,” Ruotolo said. “They’re actually really fun. Even though sometimes they’re three hours long… but that’s okay.”
She also enjoys being part of the decision making process.
“Last year I wasn’t involved at all, I dressed up for pajama day at the most,” said Ruotolo. “This year since I’m on the board I’m more involved in the school and the community, and knowing things just makes everything more fun.”
Along with her board representative position she is also a member of Semper Committee, a club at Redondo Union that plans homecoming and does volunteer work throughout the community.
Before meetings she still gets nervous, but she said that Superintendent Steven Keller is a great “relaxer” and helps her shake her nerves before the meeting begins.
Before O’Neal left the board, she gave Ruotolo a couple of sage words of advice.
“She told me to never be afraid to interject, but I’m still trying to get used to that because I’m not used to interrupting adults,” said Ruotolo. “She also told me to pay attention because to make a decision you have to know all the information, and I don’t always know all the information—I really have to pay attention.”
Sometimes she is surprised by what issues garner the most attention, but has learned to ask the board members to clarify the issues so she can make a better decision. She has also spent time talking to her fellow students to understand their point of view on issues around campus. Ruotolo still has a year and a half left at Redondo Union and plans on continuing to be involved on the school board and in other clubs around campus.
“You never know what you’re going to be in life, so take advantage of what comes,” said Barnett. “She may be a public speaker, she may be a politician, we just don’t know. It’s a good stepping stone.” ER