This article was written by Allie Bougeois, a freshman in Journalism class. Images taken by Jade Walker.
Last spring, U32 held its first student council elections since 2017.
“It was the brainchild of Jade Walker and a great group of students that [had] been talking, [and] put something together [in callbacks],” said Kevin Richards, social studies teacher and advisor to the student council.
“There was a lack of students at the decision making table to give their input as to what [changes] look like from the student perspective and that notion was really important to the whole school community. [We wanted] to give a space where students could actually share their voice,” said Kevin.
One of these students is Jasmine Gruen, a senior and council representative.
Since forming last spring, Jasmine says council efforts have mostly been surrounding “testing the waters, seeing how things work and making the changes necessary. ”
So far, they have created formal processes for proposing change, which make it possible for changes to be implemented. They have also organized into committees, which makes it easier for more projects to get done. Each committee focuses on projects within their jurisdiction.
Right now student council has 5 committees:
- The co-curricular committee, which focuses on the extracurricular activities at U32.
- The finance committee, which controls the student council’s budget and ensures that the school budget is used in a way that reflects the desires of the student body.
- The public relations committee, which controls communication with the student body.
- The education committee, which hopes to better the education at our school.
- And the public health committee, which focuses on finding ways to improve student’s mental health.
A curriculum committee is in the works that would collaborate with teachers and give feedback on what is learned in class. Their goal is to add more student voice to the curriculum.
“We might not be making immediate changes right now, but we are building up this valuable system so that the future student council members can make change in a productive and effective way, and that work is happening internally,” said Jasmine.
This internal work has readied the student council to take on big plans.
“The substance abuse problem within our school community [is] a very important and ongoing conversation that we’re having,” said Jasmine. “That was the main conversation in the TA rep meeting that we had a couple of months ago. It’s obviously very important to the students based on that reaction, so that’s something that we’ve put in the top priority spot.”
The public health committee has taken on this responsibility, meeting with Tony Snow, coordinator of the RISE (Restorative In School Environment) program at U32, to discuss a plan. Collectively they decided on grant money and a substance abuse screener to identify kids who need help that the school can then refer to professional treatment.
“Tony told us that a big driver of substance abuse is isolation and boredom. That’s especially intense in rural areas, so anything that gets students into clubs/extracurriculars/positive social activities is a win,” said Jack Thompson, another senior representative and member of the public health committee.
They’ve also been brainstorming ways to use the grant money for prevention efforts. Some ideas have been credits/exemptions for extracurriculars and school-hosted events to build social capital, but Jack emphasizes that “suggestions are welcome” as the plan is still in progress.
The education committee has been working on an independent learning expansion.
“[It’s] basically about bringing in both more support for the systems that we currently have like Pilot and Branching Out, but also expanding out into the general curriculum and giving non-Pilot and Branching Out students more opportunities to learn through project based learning in their traditional educational classes,” said Jasmine.
Jasmine and many other students have found success with programs like Pilot. This expansion into the general curriculum is intended to give students a chance to test out independent learning.
All of the projects that the council takes on are student led and designed to reflect student needs.
“As a council we should be amplifiers of the student voice,” Jasmine commented. “So I think that we need to continue to do our best to communicate with the students.”
“If you want to attend a meeting, find a council member. They can help you come into one of our meetings and share anything that you feel the student council can help with.”
You can also contact the council through the “Contact Us!” page on the student council website. Links to this website are posted around the school as QR codes.
“Because we are new, we’re the trial run of this group. We haven’t really had the opportunity to do that work yet, but we’re working towards it. We’re getting there,” Jasmine says, “and with every meeting, I feel better about the progress that we’ve made.”