West Orange HS junior chosen by NJSBA to give student keynote speech

Photo Courtesy of WOSD
From left are West Orange High School liaison to the New Jersey School Boards Association Catherine Connors; Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver; West Orange Board of Education member Melinda Huerta; BOE Vice President Jennifer Tunnicliffe; WOHS junior Maura Baker; acting N.J. Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan; BOE President Terry Trigg-Scales; Mrs. Baker; Director of Assessment, Accountability and Intervention Tamika Pollins; and WOHS Principal Hayden Moore.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange High School junior Maura Baker had the unique opportunity to deliver the student keynote opening speech at the 2021 New Jersey School Boards Association virtual workshop, held Oct. 26 to 28. 

Baker is the second WOHS student elected to the New Jersey Association of Student Councils as a State Board of Education student representative. She becomes a nonvoting member but will have the opportunity to raise awareness for important issues impacting students across New Jersey. 

In her speech, Baker discussed her challenges as a student with dyslexia.

“One thing I really want people to understand is that having a learning difference or a learning disability doesn’t mean that you can’t learn, or that you’re not smart. It just means you may have to work a little harder to learn in some cases,” she said.

Dyslexia affects approximately 20 percent of the population and accounts for 80 to 90 percent of individuals with learning issues, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Dyslexic students may have difficulties with reading, spelling, decoding and recognizing words.

Despite the challenges, Baker has founded a blog, website and Twitter account called “Smart Kids Mad Myths,” providing students with tools to focus on the importance of time management, communicate their needs, stay academically sharp during the summer, understand personal learning differences, and seek classroom accommodations that might help them learn better.

Her goal is to improve student experiences in New Jersey, both academically and emotionally.

Baker was recognized at an event held at the Glen Ridge Country Club on Nov. 10.

“We are so proud of Maura and her achievement,” West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore said. “She truly represents our school and the spirit of what it means to be a Mountaineer.”