LINWOOD — Quinton Sullivan, of Somers Point, wishes his school could have more field trips so students could see new places.

Laura Nicholls, of Folsom, wishes there were more funding for the arts and music in her school.

Matthew McCollum, of Mullica Township, and Gabriela Garcia, of Ventnor, would like school to have more individuality and personalization.

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“I’d like to give kids more voice in what we’re doing,” Gabriela says.

The Atlantic County School Boards Association hosted its annual Eighth Grade Dialogue at the Belhaven School on Monday night. The event gives students a chance to tell adults what they think of their education so far, what they’re looking forward to and what they might change if they had the chance.

The 17 participating students said eighth grade has taught them time-management skills and that hard work pays off.

“You’ve got to wake up on time,” said Connor Morrissey, of Galloway Township, to chuckles from the parents in the audience. “Please don’t wait until the last minute to do a project. And do your homework.”

The students are looking forward to high school and said they want teachers to know they are hard workers who are ready to learn.

“I’m going to have a good first day because you only get one chance to make a good first impression,” said Tahani Muhammad, from the Richmond Avenue School in Atlantic City.

Asked who has had the greatest influence on them, students listed family members, teachers and friends.

“My dad is my biggest fan and my biggest critic,” said Ethan Saul, from the Alder Avenue School in Egg Harbor Township, who hopes to be a lawyer like his father.

Karlie Byrd, of Estell Manor, said her math teacher, Charles Morgenweck, tells them how his job doesn’t feel like work because he likes it so much. Laura said her music teacher, Lauren Schmidt, brought her out of her comfort zone and helped her overcome her shyness.

Harrison Horn, of Margate, named a friend he’s had since first grade who’s always encouraged him to be his best. Matthew also said he has a friend he looks up to because of his positive attitude.

Some of the students have specific goals for their futures and chose high school programs that will help achieve them. Others are still searching and hope high school will help them decide.

“I want to take a variety of classes so I can find what I like to do,” said Clayton Sands, of Linwood.

Bailey Norton, of Weymouth Township, will attend the Atlantic County Institute of Technology and hopes to be a pastry chef.

Matthew McCollum will attend the engineering academy at Cedar Creek High School.

“I just want to be the best me I can be,” said Gabriela Garcia. “High school has the building blocks that can take you different places.”

The county events are coordinated through the New Jersey School Boards Association. Richard Sless, a teacher in Atlantic City, school board president in Linwood and president of the Atlantic County School Boards Association, said he learns from listening to the students.

“I’d try to implement some things they suggest,” he said. “They come up with some great ideas.”

Students were quizzed by NJSBA Executive Director Lawrence Feinsod and Army Sgt. First Class Chris Alewine, from the Northfield recruiting office.

Marcia Levigne, the southern region activities coordinator for the NJSBA, said the event started years ago in Cape May County and has expanded around the state. She said she likes hearing students’ viewpoints from different counties and noticed a positive tone this year.

“They are optimistic and upbeat this year,” she said. “That was not always true.”


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