Applications for the 2024 National Council of Excellence (NCOE) Awards—representing council activities and projects from January 1 to December 31, 2023—opened last month. To understand the benefits of applying for and receiving such recognition, we spoke with Shawn Freeman, a student council adviser at Ada High School in Ada, OK, and the executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Student Councils. In 2023, for the 11th year in a row, the student council at Ada was recognized as an NCOE. Freeman has worked with the student council since the first year it applied, and she continues to encourage her student leaders to push themselves to new levels of excellence. Here’s why she says other student councils should apply. 

Ada High School’s Student Council with Adviser Shawn Freeman, bottom right.
  1. It’s a nice way to recognize your student leaders. 

The first time we applied, we were looking at all the ways that student council members invest in our school. We realized that a lot of times, they don’t really get recognized even though they do so much to keep things flowing in the school and for the community (such as handling decorations and coming up with school spirit day ideas and promotions, and holding food drives and blood drives). So NCOE was a good way to honor that. 

  1. NCOE status brings state and national recognition. 

I think this award really helps students see their impact and shows them the bigger picture. It’s a national honor that our school receives as a direct result of what our student council does. Every year, our students still get excited when we receive the email telling us we’ve been recognized. And then when they go to the state convention of student councils from across Oklahoma, the NCOE recipients get to go up on stage and receive a plaque from the state association. 

  1. The application is not difficult. 

It may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s really not. And it’s definitely worth it. If your school has a hardworking student council that is doing everything to meet the award criteria, and you keep a good paper trail, it’s pretty easy. I usually fill out everything on the electronic component of the application, but the officers and I sit down and talk about the projects we’ve done, and we see where our work aligns with what the application is requesting. And then students type up the project descriptions.  

  1. It’s a great résumé builder. 

NCOE recognition for our school helps our student council leaders stand out when they apply to leadership programs at college. Specifically in Oklahoma, that includes Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. Those schools know it is something of note. Many of my students want to continue participating in leadership and student government in college. In fact, I have had students who have received full-ride scholarships for leadership programs, and many have worked their way up to important student government roles and other activity positions in college.