What do you associate with your high school’s student council? In schools across America, the impression of different student councils are as varied as the public opinion of the federal government. For some schools, student council is an overbearing presence, the center of school spirit and the regulator of all extracurricular clubs. For others, student council might be almost nonexistent, a club formed just for the sake of having a council at school. Nonetheless, a few factors unite the different student councils. For starters, unlike many other clubs, the focus is on improving the school itself and the community around it. Officers are elected by school-wide elections, meaning that the student body gets a say in who they want to lead.
For me, student council evolved as I went through high school, and I took part in that process to change the organization. At first, the student council played a very superficial role. The extent of our activities involved merely sitting around in a meeting to do icebreaker and delivering brownies to our local firefighters as a sign of appreciation. By my senior year, with a new sponsor and a very different energy, student council sponsored and organized numerous large school-wide events and earned recognition at the state level for being an outstanding council. The experience definitely was not an easy ride, but being part of the council taught me lessons and soft skills that will prove to be invaluable in future endeavors. I want to share a few perks of being involved in student council that other extracurriculars might not offer.
Serving as Bridge
As part of the council, you get the opportunity to work with several groups of influential people: students, teachers, administrators, and parents in the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Sometimes, you have to also communicate with the school district and members of their board. What does this mean? Interacting with these different groups of people gives you a better idea of how policymaking at the school level takes place. You understand multiple points of view. The administration may no longer seem that daunting.
On the other hand, you will be representing your fellow students. Believe or not, the adults actually value what you have to say very much. They want to know what the students are thinking, and they want to implement programs that help the student body. You get the experience that few other students receive, like sitting and chatting with the principal in his office and the clerks knowing you by name. Most importantly, you learn the value of communicating well.
In a huge public school like mine, there are thousands of students involved in over a hundred clubs and activities. The diversity is awesome, but also overwhelming. As a member of the student council, you are responsible for unifying the student population by giving them a collective sense of pride and support. Many students go through the day of classes surrounded by this bubble of friends without giving a second thought to the lonely and distraught looking girl that just passed by. As part of the council, you have to zoom back and consider everyone’s needs. You will meet people that you would never otherwise meet, people who sit in the opposite end of the cafeteria or kids who can’t even come to school every day because of burdensome family responsibilities.
In addition to planning events and developing programs, student councils also serve as a organizational structure to the mess of clubs. Meetings are forums where club partnerships can be developed and large scale projects communicated. Paperwork and information can be delivered to clubs to get everyone on board and keep people on the same page.
Being the unifying force also means leading a large number of people. That comes with its own set of challenges. Effective communication with the student body and within the council often marks the line between disaster and success. Thought motivating a couple of club officers was hard? Try motivating an entire class to show their spirit during Spirit Week, or try convincing the 40 or so members of the student council to attend the mandatory meeting and complete their tasks. Nonetheless, you gain valuable insights along the way on how people think and what moves them to action. You find the value in incentives and the difficulty in ethical decision making. All in all, in my opinion, I think it is worth the time and the occasional worry.