The student council at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, VA, has been recognized as a National Council of Excellence 15 times, ever since the school first opened. The award recognizes student councils for implementing a strong leadership program that meets council goals; functioning in an ethical and responsible way; and engaging others in leadership, spirit, civic, and service activities. Grassfield Student Council Association adviser Alicia White and SCA president Ethan Clarke share why the school’s student council has been able to maintain such consistent success.

Alicia and Ethan
Ethan Clarke, SCA president at Grassfield High School, and Alicia White, SCA adviser.

Ethan: There is some pressure that comes with it because we want it to be recognized every single year. But it’s also something that we enjoy doing, and we enjoy talking about it. We look forward to filling out the application every year and hearing back.

Alicia: It never gets old because each year there’s a different reason why we’re winning it. We’re submitting different things that we do and highlighting those. A lot of work goes into planning for the year ahead. We start meeting about a month before school starts. We set goals for what we want to accomplish and what our focuses will be. The foundation of a good, positive school year is to start it off right, talking about what we can do better and what went well the year before.

Ethan: One challenge for us is that we have a really big school, and with that comes such a diverse student body in terms of interests and activities. A big thing we strive for in SCA is finding ways to not only make sure that everybody has an activity or club or sport they feel welcome in, but also to connect all of the different clubs and activities together. One of our goals this year was trying to make sure that everybody was coming out to support every club and every sport. One thing we did was to start meeting with all the different captains and presidents of clubs, so they could talk to us about the events that they have going on, and so we as an SCA could promote those events to the rest of the student body. Oftentimes it’s just the football games that everyone goes to. But we wanted to spread the word about things like chorus performances and plays to create more of a sense of community within our school.

Alicia: I love working with these students. They truly are like my children. In fact, I call them my kids and sometimes people don’t know if I’m referencing my students or my actual kids. I look forward to working with every individual student because they all bring something different to the table, and my job is to help them become the best versions of themselves.

Ethan: I don’t think student councils at every school are as lucky as us with an administration and staff that let us try new things, as long as nobody gets hurt. We love to push the boundaries and come up with new things that haven’t been done before with Spirit Week and with our events in general. For example, we have Teacher Appreciation Week coming up, and our whole theme this year is based around the TV show “Survivor.” As part of that, we’re putting together a teacher Survivor game where we’re going to pick out teachers to actually play a game of Survivor throughout the week. That took a lot of planning because it’s something that’s never really been done before. But we’re super excited to start that, and we hope it can continue in the coming years.

Signs promote Service Week, an SCA initiative.

Alicia: School activities are an important part of what we do. We always talk about the impact that we and the events we promote have on our school’s culture and climate. Students see SCA members as leaders of the school. So, if they’re not doing something properly or if they’re not engaged in our school, then it’s noticed. You’ve got to do both; talk the talk and walk the walk. Not only is school spirit important for the climate of our school, but a commitment to service is equally important at Grassfield, so our SCA also emphasizes the community service aspect of giving back. We try to promote that focus to our student body through service weeks. The students came up with the idea of a week of service, similar to Spirit Week. Each day, a different organization gets sponsored, such as a women’s shelter, the Humane Society, or a local LGBT center. Different student clubs on campus sign up to support one of the organizations with donations.

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