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Fourth-graders use their voice to lift up peers

Student-driven council directly impacts school

Wyoming — During a brainstorming session, the Parkview Elementary Student Council decided that adding soccer goal frames on the playground for everyone to use was a way to make the school better.

The council members, advised by fourth-grade teacher Jodi Hartigan, presented the request to Principal Brenna Fraser at one of their meetings. 

She reached out to a local business. The business, which asked to remain anonymous, donated $1,000 for the goals, which are expected to be added to the playground soon. Also on students’ list of improvement ideas are bike racks and yard lines on the soccer field.

The fact that speaking up made a difference makes student Rachel Perez feel “important,” she said. “The balls were always going to the neighbor’s house and it was impossible to get them.”

Hartigan said she has asked for soccer goals for three years. “I’m glad that you guys brought that up, because student voice matters the most,” she told the council.

‘Being a role model is meeting the highest expectation of good behavior.’

— fourth-grader Ben Shoemaker

Student-driven Council

The busy, talkative group of nine fourth-graders meets twice monthly to discuss ways they can help the school. Through their input and feedback from their peers, they are helping shape the school’s culture and climate. 

“I’m just their facilitator,” Hartigan said. “I am here to support and help guide them, but this is a student-driven council. I love that they also want to empower other kids throughout the school.”

The council’s initiatives have school-wide impacts. All have to do with students empowering one another and contributing their voices, Hartigan said.

“Student voice is one of the most powerful things that we can offer as schools and educators. This has always been something I feel really strongly about,” she said. “They have important ideas and amazing things to say. They take it to heart that they are the role models in our school, and they just do such a great job with that.”

The council creates videos — which all Parkview students watch — about being safe and responsible. They are hosting a yearbook art cover competition that anyone in the school can enter, and they deliver sack suppers from Kids Food Basket daily to their classrooms. 

“I like to bring kids sack suppers because some kids don’t have that much food at home,” said Quentin Jones, Jr. “It’s helping kids get food. That’s why I think it’s a great job for me, because I am a very respectful kid and I like to help other kids.”

Fourth-grader Akex Taveras, center, comes up with ideas with fellow council members

They also serve as bus safeties for kindergartners who need help boarding the school bus. 

“Basically we make sure the kindergartners are safe getting on the bus and being respectful, and that they don’t get hurt and stuff,” said Chloe, whose last name is not being used due to parent permission.

Students said they are happy to make a difference for others.

“I’ve always wanted to help people, and this is my chance to help people,”  said Alex Taveras. “It helps me feel happy inside when I can help.”

Added Ben Shoemaker: “Being a role model is meeting the highest expectation of good behavior.”

Read more from Wyoming: 
What will happen to Pumpkin Jack? He’ll be back!
Principal shows up as herself, purple glasses and all

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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