A Flourishing Tradition:
Over the past ten years Mt. Carmel High School's Student Council in San Diego, CA, USA, has flourished, becoming an integral part of school life. Under careful guidance, school support and student participation, the Student Council has become the backbone of the student body. At the reins of this successful organization is the Associative Student Body (ASB) President, Nicole Kalla, referred to by all her friends as "Nikki." We were fortunate enough to interview Nikki after work, getting an inside look at San Diego's very own, Mt. Carmel Student Council.
One of the most difficult yet intriguing concepts to understand about the Student Council is its organization. As Nikki described to us, there are three branches of our Student Council, similar to the three branches of the United States Government. There is the The Senate, Executive Council, and the Student Review Board (SRB).
The Senate acts as the Representative branch of student government, a student lead group that deals with student issues. A Senate representative from each classroom can ask the class its opinion on certain issues and find out any topics or issues that need to be discussed. In turn, these ideas are brought to the Senate and dealt with accordingly. For example, the biggest student issue at the school has to do with the traffic problems. Finding a parking space in the morning is a nightmare and often students who normally would have been on time are late to school due to their delay in traffic. The Senate is able to identify the problem, propose a solution and then find a source or advisor (every organization at the school needs an advisor over the age of 18) for a committee that can fix the problem.
The Executive Council:
The Executive Council is very similar to the Legislative branch of the government. Its role is to actually put on the activities and programs, serving the school as a whole. It tries to be involved in every aspect of school life, ranging from fun activities, promoting sports, theater productions, teacher recognition, and much, much more. The Executive Council pretty much runs the calendar of the school. It makes sure students never get bored by having activities every month. Nikki points out, "I think the main importance of student government is to be the memory makers of the school. To make school fun for students so they are looking forward to a new day and are never saying there's nothing to do." The executive council also analyzes and budgets the schools funds in perspective to school activities. It tries to promote spirit, pride and respect for the school by finding a way to get students involved, both in and out of sports, clubs, organizations, or just activities.
The Class Council:
The Class Council is a branch off of the Executive council. It's specifically designed for the individual class or grade level. Since Mt. Carmel is a four class high school, ranging from 9th-12th grade, each class has its own council where they can carry on their own class activities, fundraisers, etc. Every year each class competes to become the "Class of the Year." Participating in various class competitions, often during "Pep Rallies" at lunch (which also promote upcoming events, student sports and recognize various student achievements), and other various activities, the winners are assigned a specific number of points. Other activities include community service and "float building," (classes build their own homecoming floats for the annual big football game and dance) where the number of points depends on the amount of students from each grade level that attend the function. Points are also earned at the end of the year for having a certain ratio of students with a 3.0 GPA or higher, and of students who have attended school. These ratios vary every year depending on the class size.
The Student Review Board (SRB):
The Student Review Board is made up of student representatives that actually make the laws to our school. Very similar to the judicial branch of government it makes sure that all clubs and organizations or doing what they are supposed to do. Each club adopts a constitution that it must uphold and meet certain set goals. The SRB makes sure that these goals are met and the clubs are in proper financial standings.
Benefits of a Student Council:
Nikki explains that because Mt. Carmel is an extremely large high school (over 3,500 students), it is faced with an expanding population that has a limited amount of space. Therefore, proper organization and management is critical. A Student Council makes operations run very smoothly and relieves much of the staff and faculty workload. Promoting student involvement, it helps kindle a sense of school pride and spirit. One might forget a teacher or a class taken but school pride is something that will remain an integral part of a student's life. Run by students for the students, it can help make changes and make the student body's voice heard.
Conducting a Meeting:
We asked Nikki how one goes about planning meetings, since obviously it is a critical and essential part of student government. Nikki judiciously suggested several procedures to follow:
Often voting people into office can be a difficult and time consuming task. We asked Nikki how voting and elections were done at Mt. Carmel. She said there were a number of ways that voting takes place. First of all there are elected positions and appointed positions. Over the years the school discovered that having a school wide assembly where students made campaign speeches was too intimidating for many students running for "lesser" positions. Therefore the positions were split; the ones that needed the public speaking attention and the others that did not. The elected positions go through the following procedure:
The appointed positions are given to students after they go through an interview with the President, the advisor, the Vice President, and the Senate President.
The President's Final Thoughts:
One of the benefits of a very large school is that we have students very qualified for each position. This leads to new programs and new ideas that can be put into action. There is a lot of involvement in school functions such as dances, class-competitions, sports, and many more diverse areas. The Student Council is connected with everything providing help and assistance when needed. However, like any organization it does have its share of problems. Being such a large school it is harder to break stereotypes. If there is any negative impression of Student Council it is difficult to get involvement. Often, students take it for granted and disregard the importance of having a Student Council. Finally, it is difficult finding students who are willing to take the initiative to make things happen. Please, do not get discouraged though. One must set small goals yet still aim high. The more you expect from yourself, the more you will succeed and produce in life - "Shoot for the sky because no matter what you will fall amongst the stars."
Talk to Nikki:
If you have any questions or concerns about Student Government at your school Nikki invites you to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org