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‘Bigger than me’ kicks off newly formed group

Promoting respect, responsibility and looking beyond selves

Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary had never had a Student Council, but that changed this year, thanks in large part to the efforts of fourth grade teacher Carrie Zeigler.

The school, which serves fourth and fifth grade students, now has a 12-person Student Council, one representative for each of Southeast’s classes. Zeigler said the council began as a way to give a different kind of enrichment opportunity to motivated students who are ready to be challenged, and it also worked well with what she and her colleagues are trying to do educationally.

“Since we cover government in the fourth grade social studies curriculum, it seemed like a good fit,” she said.

After a short campaign season that saw students either giving speeches or making posters to garner votes, elections were held in November, once students got to know each other a little better and they had completed the government unit.

The campaign process, students said, was a little nerve-racking, but now that they’ve been elected, they’re enjoying the work and the opportunity to make a difference in their school.

‘Oh My Gosh, It’s So Good’

Fifth grader Autumn Smith gave a speech as part of her election campaign, something she admitted was pretty terrifying. Fourth grader Jonathan Jimenez made a poster telling classmates what he hoped to do if elected, and fellow fourth grader Lily Cano went old-school and talked to most of her classmates one-to-one as she highlighted her goals if elected.

And while the trio took different tacks in seeking election, Autumn, Jonathan and Lily all had similar reactions upon hearing they had won.

Said Jonathan: “It felt good but also a little bit scary. You’re like ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so good’ and then you’re like ‘Wait, oh …’”

At this, Lily and Autumn both smiled and nodded.

“I was happy too,” said Lily, “but also a little nervous.” Added Autumn: “I felt that way too.”

Now that the work has begun, the three, and the other nine students who were elected, are eager to make good on their campaign promises and give back to a school they say has given so much to them.

Student Council meets twice a month for 20 minutes on Tuesdays during recess. Reps are required to attend meetings, present information to their classmates, and lead activities and fundraisers. 

The first Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary student council: Back row (from left): Carrie Zeigler, Karla Chavez, Lilyana Cano, Specioza Irangunda, Marley Eller, Briseida Pernal, Jonathon Jimenez, Brittany Dietz. Front row (from left): Khloe Vandergeld, Sherlyn Alvarado, Cindy Echeverria, Autumn Smith, Ivan Pineda, Iyanna Kilgo. Courtesy of Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary (courtesy photo)

First Project

The theme for the council this school year is “Bigger Than Me.”

“We will explore what that means throughout the course of the year, how we can be of service and make responsible decisions for our classes, school and community,” Zeigler said. “Since this is a brand-new adventure for us, the council will spend a lot of time determining our role within the school and what needs there are that we can address. We will promote respect, responsibility and looking beyond ourselves to recognize the needs of others.”

The council’s first project will be what Zeigler calls a holiday share book. “Each class will complete one (book),” she said, “filled with memories, stories, jokes, well wishes and thanks for our service men and women overseas.”

The students will manage the project and work with their teacher on when and where to work on the books. When they are done, Zeigler will work with two organizations – Hugs for Our Soldiers and Support Our Troops – which will send the projects overseas. 

The new council also is planning to visit and work with local charities, and will sponsor several special days or events throughout the year to raise funds for the council and the school.


Hugs for Our Soldiers

Support Our Troops

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan hails from Exeter, Ontario, but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985. He is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop! Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both freelance writing and public relations work, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level. In the summer of 2019, he began his own freelance writing and communications business. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio or email Phil.


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  1. What a fantastic idea, I hope it all goes well for the students. This is a great way to teach the students so much. It’s nice to work at a school that lets you go with your ideas to enrich the students.


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