Middle school politics may get a bad rap, but the new student government at Sparta Middle School is working as a positive force.
The new legislature of civic-minded seventh and eighth graders say they put their names on the ballot to make a difference. It is the first student government Sparta Middle School has had in many years.
“I ran because I wanted to see a change in the school,” said eighth grader Troy Jones. “And I wanted every student to have a voice.”
Eighth grader Bella Elliot was concerned about student morale.
“Something we need to work on is absenteeism. Last year we saw some statistics and it is pretty bad here,” she said. “If students have something special to look forward to, they will more likely come to school.”
“I wanted to be on the government, because so many people wanted things and I wanted to let (administrators) know what they wanted,” said seventh grader Justin Bradford.
Students wanted to be allowed to carry backpacks and/or cell phones into class, to have middle school dances, hold fundraisers, wear hats, have longer breaks and have music during breaks.
Social studies teacher Mar Higgins volunteered to start the government when a survey revealed students had little voice in what was happening at Sparta Middle School. Last spring students were informed about the plan, and given the opportunity to run for office.
“I patterned it after our federal government,” said Higgins. Students serve as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer in the executive branch; two elected students from each grade are in the Senate and one elected representative from each seminar classes (similar to homeroom) is in the House of Representatives.
Members got busy this fall with a series of surveys to assess what their classmates were hoping they would accomplish.
On the Agenda
Event planning took top priority. Every Sparta school celebrates Homecoming week, which is early in the first semester. The elected officials concentrated on spirit week, setting up timetables for special events, deciding on competitions and games to determine the grade winner of this year’s “Sparty Cup.”
Plans are also under way for $1 charity days and an after-school dance/mixer.
An on-going project, also already undertaken, is creating and posting positive self esteem messages throughout the building on windows, doorways, restrooms and hallways.
Another task for the student governors is to plan positive initiatives and bring common student complaints to administrators. The goal is to solve issues in a way that’s a win for students and administrators, said Higgins. “This allows students voice and leadership opportunities.”
Student government officials will put together a list of common ‘wants’ — such as using cell phones in class — from the surveys collected, discuss some of common items and present arguments to building administrators.
“I think it is always important to hear student voice in any setting,” said Middle School Principal Brad Wood. “but especially in middle school where they are learning to be leaders and good citizens.”