Melih Dookie on bringing everyone to the table 


Melih Dookie

Photo of Melih Dookie

Olivia Theaker, Features Department Editor

*Melih’s portion of the board meeting*

On the night of November 16, 2020, Melih Dookie, a 16-year-old sophomore at Arroyo Grande High School (AGHS), wowed the school board and viewers of the board meeting with his passionate speech detailing some areas of concern and improvement regarding AGHS’ reopening plan. 

Despite being the youngest speaker out of nearly twenty people to give public comments, the board members all seemed to agree Dookie was the most poised and compelling speaker of the night. 

Don Stewart said Melih’s public comment deserved a “mic drop”.

Dee Santos claimed Melih did an “outstanding” job.

Vicki Meagher even called Dookie the “most reasonable speaker” of the night.

Melih has enjoyed speaking since he was young, and his practice in the past has helped him become the speaker he is today, one who finds purpose in giving a voice to those who may not be willing or able to speak up for themselves.

 “I originally started [speaking publicly] in fifth grade… there was an oration contest at my school and then my teacher was like, ‘You should do it’, the day before we had to submit our speeches, so I went home and wrote a speech really quickly and since then I have liked public speaking,” said Dookie. 

“ I really only do it because in most cases I feel like that will be the way where I can help people the most.”

For Dookie, speaking up at the last board meeting was a way of supporting those close to him. 

“On Sunday my mom got an email saying that at the board meeting they will be talking about postponing reopening for elementary school and at that moment I just thought about all of my friends who have younger siblings who go to elementary school… all the teachers at my elementary school…even the staff like the secretaries and the custodians, and I was like those are people I care about because they made me into who I am and I wouldn’t want to see them be put in danger, so that’s kind of like the reason why I decided to speak.”

Dookie mentioned in his public comment that he hopes to see more discussion on random testing and improving scheduling to decrease the number of teachers having to teach both online and in-person, but his main focus, for now, seems to be how to improve the quality of distance learning. He feels that, while there is no one answer that will work for everyone, one of the best ways to go about finding solutions to distance learning problems, is to create a discussion or “workgroup” for people with all different perspectives on the current situation to come together and brainstorm solutions.  

“It’s about making sure that as many kids get a high-quality education as possible,” Dookie began. “And I think we can do that if we create a group from everyone including students to the superintendent to teachers and parents… and we ask what are some problems you face with distance learning, say these are the resources we have available, and how can we use them to solve these problems…I wish there was just one thing we could do that would get everyone perfectly logged in and everyone doing as good as they can, but there’s not and that’s why I think it’s so important to make a group…we should get everyone at the same table together and start trying to think about how we can make distance learning better for these people because that conversation is really important. It’s almost as important as reopening itself.”

Dookie believes the group should consist of any and all who are willing to work out solutions and provide their honest perspectives. 

“I would like to hear the truth. I wouldn’t like to hear them say distance learning has been going great or it’s so perfect, if they’re struggling with it, or if they don’t have the resources.”

Dookie strongly desires to be a part of the conversation himself as well.

“I’m willing to do anything that [the board] ask[s] me to do. I’m always willing to help because if I’m not helping, I don’t know what I’m doing really. I just want to help people and make it better for everyone.” 

Dookie doesn’t seem to be alone in this desire either. 

“[After the board meeting,] I got a lot of calls and emails…there was an outpouring of support…I feel like if so many people saw that board speech and reacted in that way, I’m sure that just a fifth of those people would be willing to sit down [to discuss and come up with solutions]… because we are lucky enough to have people who care so much and I think they would be caring so much as to do this.” 

In order to start implementing the strategies which Dookie sees fit for our school, he has some motions in mind, if the board should ever be open to them. 

“The first one would be a motion to create a workgroup to improve distance learning, bringing everyone from the superintendent to students and teachers and parents in the middle.”

“The second one would be a motion to improve the reopening plan by considering testing students randomly for covid, as other school districts have.”

“The third motion would be a motion to review teacher scheduling to make sure that as many teachers teach either distance learning or hybrid, not both.”

Dookie’s desire to pursue positive change can’t be summed up in a four-minute comment or a single interview. Dookie has a lot more to discuss, but for now, Dookie hopes his comment was able to inspire others, especially students, to speak out when they feel strongly about something or someone. 

“It’s kind of sad that out of seventeen public comments and 48 pages of emails that the most reasonable speaker, in the words of one of the board members, was a sophomore at high school, but then it also gives you hope in a way that our generation will be able to accomplish big things that previous ones weren’t.” 

Dookie believes the road to accomplishing big things is made of civil conversation and a lack of fear.

“Always talk in a civil and decent and reasonable tone because if you come in just screaming I want this I want that, you’ll never get it, but if you talk to people and say hey I know we don’t see eye to eye on this thing, but maybe we can work together on this thing, you can get a lot of things done. And don’t ever be afraid.”

Dookie acknowledges all of the hard work that has gone into making these decisions, thanks those who were willing to listen to him and reach out, and hopes he can be an ally in helping solve problems down the line. 

“I want to thank all of the support that I received. I didn’t go out to get this support, I went out to help people, but I want to thank all staff at Lucia Mar, whether you’re a counselor or a custodian or a secretary or superintendent, and most importantly to our teachers, I just want to thank them for their work, for their trying to make distance learning work, and I hope that I will be able to help them all.”