Ask them why they had to enroll in the High School’s Student Council and immediately a flood of adjectives spills out.
Students’ deluge of descriptions include developing new levels of character, integrity and generosity that’s making a difference with the classmates they interact with, such sitting with the guy eats lunch by himself. Many say they’re being nudged ever so effectively out of their comfort zone,and that’s enabling them to discover new pathways to responsible adulthood.
They talk of Talent Tuesday helping them discover their abilities and how it helps them demonstrate their natural skill in front of their classmates. They’re learning effective teamwork, problem solving and time management skills and how to successfully interact with adults when they plan school wide events such as Winter Fest, Homecoming, Fright Night and washing teachers’ vehicles.
Only serious-minded need apply
It’s clear students want to enroll in Student Council. Of the 200 students who applied this school year, 80 were accepted.
Undoubtedly, students consider it an in-demand class because every day is different from the next.
Students set goals for the class, create a mission statement and plan from beginning to end school wide projects including Homecoming, Winterfest, a spring drive-in movie and the Halloween-inspired Fright Night that serves as a fundraiser for a local food pantry.
Then there’s small group projects that challenges them to dream up their own project ideas.
Class work focuses on group discussions and activities for team building and team learning, all intended to stimulate leadership qualities such as character, competence, courage, discernment and generosity.
Student Council intentionally has freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors interact with one another to break down divisions typical between lower and upper classmates. The school year is divided into trimesters, and students can sign up for only one trimester for each school year.
“I’ve noticed a change in my character and personality by being around such a great group of people,” said junior Maddie Clark. “We’re not wearing a mask.”
The district’s Student Council is not set up as a student government where fellow classmates elect officers. Instead, it’s an elective, graded class for freshman through seniors that require those who want to enroll to receive five teachers’ recommendations.
They also need to answer short-essay questions such as what do they consider their biggest weakness and how do they plan on addressing it; what is the biggest goal they have in front of them right now; and what can Student Council do to limit the pressure to drink alcohol, do drugs and experiment with sex?
Nudged out of their comfort zone
“Student Council gets you out of your comfort zone by interacting with people you wouldn’t have talked to,” said senior Alexa Callaway, 17. “Here, we talk to new types of people and we learn to accept people the way they are.”
“Here” is often inside a classroom on the High School’s second floor where learning experiences include Discussion Days every other week where students learn to talk openly about their struggles and triumphs.
“Kids are seeing how they can have a greater effect on the school community and community outreaches such as Fright Night and Homecoming,” said Kevin Remenap, a biology teacher and Student Council advisor who is known to students as “Mr. Rem” or simply “Rem.”
“They are realizing their goals,” said Remenap, “to not be afraid to put themselves out there, to take a step up to help somebody, and if they need something approved, how to deal with adults.”
Junior Sheena Shah said Student Council is preparing her for life after high school.
“We’re growing together because of all the input we get,” said Sheena, 16. “I can’t image where I’d be if it weren’t for this class because I’m seeing some amazing qualities in others and how I can apply it to myself.”
Let’s figure it out
“If we have a great idea for planning an event, he’ll encourage us to figure it out,” said senior Sienna Mohl, 17. “Mr. Rem doesn’t tell us it won’t work but instead asks us how can you make it work?”
As a result, Sienna has tried a few new things she otherwise would not have attempted, such as eating lunch with someone who’s sitting alone, and building friendships with people she otherwise would not have considered.
“Sitting with someone when they’re alone can change an entire life,” Sienna said.
In addition to beefing up his leadership traits, senior Alec Krueger said Student Council has amplified her inventory of vocabulary words through oral presentations.
“We start to see who embodies the word like ‘loving’ and ‘caring’ and what it’s like to really be a role model,” said Alec, 17.
“We’re learning to set the standard, to be the best you can be,” said Alexa. “There are so many classmates that have to be mentored. We’re taking and learning from everyone.”
It’s not a given that if a student was in Student Council one year, they’ll get in the next. Each new school year they have to apply, making the mix of students they’ll interact with different every time.
“Rather than an after school activity, our Student Council provides so much more,” said High School Principal Jim Glazier. “Student Council is a leadership opportunity for our students.”