La Jolla High School elects first Black female ASB president

Payton Smith is the La Jolla High School ASB president for the 2023-24 school year.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Payton Smith says she wants to help all students make the best of their time at the school.


For the first time in its 100-year history, La Jolla High School has elected a Black female student to take the helm of its Associated Student Body.

Junior Payton Smith was recently chosen for the 2023-24 school year. Equally groundbreaking, the new leadership team also includes ASB Vice President Olivia Smith (Payton’s sister), class of 2026 President Na’liyahh Galvez and class of ’26 secretary Jacey Taylor — all Black female students. Further, girls hold the majority of top-level ASB positions.

La Jolla High School teacher and ASB adviser Whitney Brooks said the newly elected leaders “represent the future of the school” in its diversity and that “it’s important for other kids at the school to see people that look like them in leadership positions. These girls are very dynamic and proactive and have amazing potential to connect with all students.”

And that is exactly what they want to do.

“We want to include everyone ... every type of person in events,” said Payton, a standout runner on the La Jolla High track team. “We’re trying to create more possibilities for students to find what they might be interested in and make new friends. This board is reaching a new demographic of people that might be interested in trying something new.”

Olivia agreed, saying: “We have so many cool clubs on campus and I think there is something for everyone and everyone should be involved in something besides academics. We want to bring energy and hype to the campus. We also want to increase fundraising for the fun class events. These are four years we will never get back, and we want students to explore all that La Jolla has to offer.”

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many students were confined to their homes while school campuses were closed for more than a year, “some people are less willing to try new things, and I think the transition from middle school to high school means some students have a core group of friends and don’t want to branch out,” Payton said. “It can be difficult to motivate yourself to try new things. We don’t have that much time here, but I hope students will make the best of it, and we want to help them do that.”

For Payton, participating in ASB was trying something new, and she’s glad she did.

“I wish I joined my freshman year, but I recently joined to help with social media and publicity to help get more people to know what is going on with ASB,” she said. “Then we went viral on TikTok [in a video] showing what we do around school, and that made me want to do more fun events and help with things on campus.”

At Brooks’ encouragement, Payton ran for president. By winning, she became the first Black female student elected to the position.

“It’s crazy that it is 2023 and I’m the first,” she said. “I know the school has [few] Black people, especially Black females [La Jolla High’s student population is 1 percent Black], but considering no one else wanted to take that leadership role, it worked out for me. I’m excited to be the first … and be different and help the school reach this milestone.”

Jacey Taylor, Na’liyahh Galvez, Olivia Smith and Payton Smith
Jacey Taylor, Na’liyahh Galvez, Olivia Smith and Payton Smith are among the leaders of La Jolla High School’s Associated Student Body for 2023-24.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Jacey got involved in ASB when she stepped in to fill a vacant position. Then “I got to see how ASB was run, and I want to be a part of making people feel welcome and comfortable, because [students of color] don’t always feel welcome here,” she said. “There aren’t many Black people here … so sometimes you feel like an outsider, and I want the incoming freshman class to know there are people like them that are willing to help them feel welcome.”

Payton said the relative lack of representation for students of color is “something you notice” but that it didn’t affect her decision to seek a seat on ASB.

“I wanted to be on ASB because everyone involved wants to make sure everyone loves their time here, and I just wanted to help as best I can,” she said.

But Na’liyahh said having representation — whether for female students or students of color — is “a good thing” for incoming Vikings.

“When I joined, I thought I would be the only Black kid on ASB … because normally when I walk into my classes I’m the only Black kid,” she said. “So walking into ASB and seeing Ms. Brooks [who is Black] and Payton and Olivia made me feel more comfortable.”

“It’s crazy that it is 2023 and I’m the first. ... I’m excited to be the first … and be different and help the school reach this milestone.”

— Payton Smith, first Black female student elected La Jolla High School ASB president

Payton said all the ASB officers are “super open-minded” and “really want change and to get more people ... involved. We want to see an improvement to our school spirit, and everyone on the board is willing to go the extra mile to get there. If someone needs help, literally anyone will step in.”

She added that having a lot of female students involved “empowers girls to be a part of leadership opportunities” and is a “push for change” for future students.

“People in school can try to tear you down for stupid stuff that doesn’t even matter, but having the opportunity to plan something helps build confidence,” Payton said. “To know you made something happen is such a rewarding feeling. When I planned our winter ball, I had so much pride around that. I told my friends I put a lot of work into the event, so they had to come, and it ended up being really uplifting for the school community.

“Seeing something you have as a vision in your head come to life is so empowering. Without ASB, I wouldn’t have those outlets.” ◆