Every fiscal year, the Malden School Committee looks for a new member to fill a role open only to Malden High School Students: the Student Representative. The student who fills this position is typically a member of the junior or senior class, though this year MHS Principal Chris Mastrangelo opened the application to students of all grades. The student representative is given insight into policy and procedure, but has no vote, and serves to provide a student’s perspective on many of the topics discussed by the committee. From the 25 students who applied, Mastrangelo knew who the best choice for the position was. Christelle Jean was selected and is now officially the Student Representative on the Malden School Committee.
Mastrangelo emphasized the importance of this position, speaking on past student representatives. He stated that when determining who to select for the position, Jean stood out due to her “confidence and advocacy,” as well as her track record of “rich activism, standing up” for her beliefs and uplifting “student voice.”
When deciding on whether or not to apply for the position, Jean felt her “past experiences interacting with the school committee” led to her believing they are the “people you come to when you had a problem in the community that needed fixing,” and she wanted “to be on the inside of that.” In the past, Jean has spoken to the school committee about a variety of issues within the Malden Public Schools, most notably the personal experiences she and her peers had with racial inequality. She noted that “I didn’t see anyone else doing it in the ways I thought we needed so I just did it myself.”
Stepping into this position is a big responsibility, but it is one that Jean is fully prepared to handle. She commented on the “many commitments the committee have made to the community” and how she intends on “being there to see they are met in its fullest capacity.” One of Jean’s biggest goals over the next year is to “address the disconnect between the people in schools who don’t have power in decision making and those who do.” She added that “it seems like everyone feels like they’re in the dark when it comes to the other side,” which is something she would like to help change. She hopes to “have certain discussions and see certain changes be facilitated.”
Mayor Gary Christenson has been very supportive of Jean as she steps into this position. He emphasized how she has been “intimately involved with what happens throughout the Malden Public Schools and … the Malden community … over the past several years,” so it “only makes sense from where she started to where she is now to join the school committee in her senior year.”
He went on to explain that she has “been the impetus for a lot of the progress that we have made” in regards to racial equity, including the forming of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator position in Malden and the recognition of “Juneteenth as a city holiday before the state later came in and declared it a state holiday.” He recognizes her “willingness to help us and support us in becoming a better community,” and how she has worked to “educate us and bring to light some of the things that the City of Malden could do to be better than it already is when it comes to having such a diverse community like we do.
Christenson cited her involvement in organizing the Malden March for Black Lives Matter after the tragic death of George Floyd and the Students for Racial Equity group as just some of the major ways she has been an influence on the Malden community. He felt that due to these actions and other times of past involvement, “when she took her seat at our last school committee meeting it had been like she had already been there for several meetings to begin with.”
He thinks “what [Jean] has been able to do is move us from beyond talking about how diverse we are to knowing what to do with that diversity.” He concluded by adding that “her advocacy has made sure… that this most important issue doesn’t get lost… and has remained at the forefront of what we’re doing here at Malden City Hall.“
At the end of the day, Jean’s biggest hope is to do as much as she can “to make Malden a consciously open-minded community, where we can all be aware of our differences and have it be a unifying quality.”