Maine DOE Student Cabinet Highlights Mental Health Concerns to Legislative Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs

(Pictured: Members of the Maine Department of Education’s 2022/2023 Student Cabinet)

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) Student Cabinet held its final meeting of the 2022/2023 School Year in May, culminating with a presentation before the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee of the Maine State Legislature.

A student-led initiative of the Maine DOE, the Cabinet is in its 4th year, continuing to elevate students’ voices from across Maine. Comprised of 27 students, this year’s cabinet represented students in grades 5-12 from all 16 counties.

The Student Cabinet has allowed the Maine DOE to integrate student voices into decision-making on issues that impact their journey through Maine’s education system. In past years, students have identified mental health needs at school, raised issues of racial equity, and brainstormed ways to better individualize learning.

The Cabinet is facilitated by student representatives from the Maine State Board of Education, with Ryan Hafener and Joshua Leinwand chairing this year’s Cabinet. Members met several times during the term, both virtually and in person, to identify, research, and brainstorm policy recommendations. They also had the opportunity to meet with Maine DOE Commissioner Pender Makin, Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta and work with other members of the Maine Department of Education who helped coordinate their efforts.

Once again, mental health was recognized by the Cabinet as a pressing concern. Every year since the Maine Department of Education convened the Cabinet in 2019, students have chosen to focus on mental health issues impacting students across Maine. This year, students specifically identified resources they believe would help address mental health needs in schools.

The students combined facts, statistics, and their personal experiences to create the presentation, where they asserted that Maine should increase mental health resources for students.

Priorities Student Cabinet members identified included increasing the number of mental health professionals in schools and exploring telehealth options for rural schools. During their presentation, students focused on the importance of mental health to an effective learning environment, the impact of student mental health on life outside of school, and how school safety impacts the mental health of students and staff. Listen to the entire presentation on the Maine State Legislature Website.

The presentation marked the conclusion of the 2022/2023 Student Cabinet. Applications for the 2023/2024 cabinet are set to open in the fall, with half of the seats on the Cabinet open for new members to serve a two-year term, starting in November. Students in grades 4 – 12 and the first year of college are invited to apply to become a member of the Cabinet.

To learn more about the Maine Department of Education Student Cabinet visit: or reach out to Rachel Paling at