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The City Journals

Responsibilities are handed over to student council

Dec 03, 2018 02:44PM ● By Jet Burnham

You’ve got to hand it to the student council at Vista Elementary—they have a great charity drive planned for their community. (BreAnna Echols/Vista Elementary)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

When Diane Phillips became the new principal at Vista Elementary this year, she was impressed with the work the student council was doing and was surprised they had never had any training.

“We’ve never had the funds to send them anywhere,” said BreAnna Echols, one of the council advisers.

Phillips allocated money from the school fundraiser to pay for the 14 sixth-graders on the council to attend a Leadership Conference at BYU on Oct. 15.

“It was very informative and successful and a great way for kids to build leadership skills,” said Phillips, who said the students returned with renewed enthusiasm and new ideas for the school.

The council is applying what they have learned as they fulfill their responsibilities.

 “The school really is student-led,” said Echols. “They enjoy being treated like adults and making the decisions, and it means a lot to them.”

Student council members are responsible for conducting school tours for visitors and coordinating assemblies, which includes introducing the presenter, setting up the sound system, managing students’ behavior during the assembly and cleaning up afterward.

Council members manage other responsibilities by delegating. Any student can apply for a “school job” to help set up chairs before assemblies or to be a tour guide for school visitors or new students.

“The more people we can train to be leaders, the better, so we give them all opportunities,” said Echols. “We try very much to be student directed, and we feel like it’s a learning process.”

Council member Ariana enjoys contributing to the success of her school.

“I get to help around the school and improve the school for the other students to have an amazing year,” she said.

The council crafted a mission statement that reflects their enthusiasm to serve their school. They identified their focus on responsibility, respect and safety, and acknowledged they are role models with a responsibility to befriend everyone.

“I think the best thing is being able to help people make the school a better place,” said council member, Ellason. “Even though there are a lot of sacrifices we have to make, it's definitely worth it because we can make other peoples’ lives better.”

Sacrifices include giving up lunch and recess for meetings, which are entirely led by the students.

“We sit in there as advisers but they are leading the meeting,” said Echols, one of three advisers. Advisers debrief with the council to help them improve their leadership skills.

Rachel, council president, said they have learned they are more efficient when everyone takes turns to talk and listen to each other.

“Because we’ve had this experience, we know how to work on a team with other people and how to communicate with people, which will make the whole rest of our life easier,” Rachel said.

What is the council working on now?

The council’s next project will improve the lives of their community. The sixth-graders researched possible projects for their annual charity drive and presented the options to class representatives. 

“We remind them that they are just representing their school—they’re not the school voice,” said Echols. “We want them, as much as possible, to take the choice to the student representatives so they can talk to classes and figure out exactly what the school wants to do.”

The student body chose the Super Bowl of Caring for their charity. Students will be collecting food to stock local mobile food pantries such as the one that visits Vista each month.

“When the kids found out that this collected food would go to kids just like them in our own communities who needed it, it was impactful,” said Echols.

Starting in January, there will be two collection barrels in the front office, one for each team competing in the Super Bowl. Donors will choose which team they are cheering for and add their donations to that barrel. The community is invited to donate non-perishable foods, especially those high in protein.

Phillips said it is a great program that everyone can participate in and feel good about helping others, even if their contribution seems small.

“You can bring one can of soup and know that you’ve contributed to the Super Bowl of Caring,” she said.