Passing the baton: our 2020-21 student council look back on their year
With a new secondary student council executive team poised to take over for the 2021-22 school year, we caught up with the outgoing student council executive team to see how the last year went for them. Was it what they expected? Did they achieve all their goals? What are some of the big wins of 2020/21? What are their tips for the incoming council?
Rising above challenges
Although COVID-19 posed many challenges for these student leaders, student council president Frank and his team knew that they had to be committed and innovative. This mindset would prove to be useful as they negotiated the restrictions imposed by the pandemic and successfully organised events such as Spirit Week, fortnightly Bark video newsletter and Valentine’s Grams.
“It was a privilege to represent the student body,” says Frank, “although virtual communication was a challenge due to COVID-19. We’ve had our share of disagreements and frustrations, but we managed to resolve them all and count ourselves lucky to have worked with one another.”
Valentine’s Grams, for example, was a logistically daunting project that involved lots of planning and manpower, says Frank. Since they weren’t able to organise the annual Christmas Candy Grams in December due to COVID restrictions, the student council decided to do the Valentine’s Grams in February when things were less restrictive.
During this event, teachers and students could send chocolates with personalised messages to one another. The student council would then deliver it personally to their recipients. Although it was a time-consuming process to deliver to recipients in over 90 advisory groups, the money they collected went towards funding future events. Combined with the overwhelmingly positive response from students and teachers made the effort feel worthwhile for the team.
Neil V, director of communications for the student council, says: “Like the rest of the team, my goal was to do what we could with the circumstances we were handed to increase student involvement in our initiatives and school spirit as a whole. The Valentine’s Grams project really epitomised that as we had a great showing and a great enthusiasm for it, especially considering it was something that we haven’t done for some time. I really believe a lot of that chalked down to a job well done by the wider council, and I think it taught us a lot on how to work moving forward. I think we are a stronger, more efficient and more appreciated organisation than we were 12 months ago.”
Fine-tuning the inner workings of the student council
Aside from organising events to strengthen both school spirit and the relationship between student council and student body, Frank and his team also turned their focus inwards — to improve the structure and efficiency of the executive team.
“We worked on improving the member welfare and provided opportunities for personal development by holding one-on-one video chats with every member of the student council during the Christmas break,“ he says. “It was an opportunity for Pari (vice president) and I to get to know our members better, provide mutual feedback and stay connected as coworkers and friends.”
Creating leaders of tomorrow
Frank and his team also believed in nurturing members’ leadership skills, so they encouraged their senior members to take up leadership roles in projects such as the grade 12 digital memory book. It was a project that required much planning and commitment to collaborate with the CIS communications team.
Vice president Pari says, “considering the circumstances, I believe that we achieved all that we set out to do as the Executive Team. I am so grateful for the experience of leading such an organisation, and I truly hope that we made a difference in students’ years. In fact, I’m proud to say that we have exceeded our expectations!”
Secretary Ruwaida couldn’t agree more: “Being part of the executive team and working hand-in-hand with a dedicated team has been an experience I know I will treasure for years to come. One of my original goals was to improve the relationship between the secondary student body and student council. I was able to do that by involving the grade 12s and student council team in the grade 12 hoodies design project. It wasn’t easy to come up with a design that everyone liked but we managed to do that by taking everyone’s feedback into account, which brought everyone closer together in the process.
The importance of leaving a legacy
Leaders set the tone for an organisation’s success and Frank’s team is no different. To ensure that their successors will be equipped with the necessary tools to lead the student council, they have written their first ever transition booklet. It documents all major processes and events, and even includes tips for the incoming executive team to prepare them for a successful transition.
Some of the tips include:
Reflect on past events/projects organised during the year to see how to improve them
Plan projects ahead of time in a systematic way
Involve everyone in the team and utilise their strengths in the process
Establish a mid-year 360 feedback system so everyone gets an opportunity to give and reflect on honest feedback as well as resolve issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug
Ensure that your team members are given sufficient development and training opportunities so they can acquire new skills and sharpen existing ones to perform better as a team
Work together as a team; compromise if necessary and make sure that your plans are in the best interest of the student body
Although COVID-19 made their year leading the student council more challenging, the team is taking pride in their achievements. So what are their parting words as the 2020-2021 team hands the baton to the next generation?
“We sincerely thank Mr Jeff Smith, Ms Leslie Morgan, Ms Sandra Finnaca as well as the entire staff and study body for their trust and support,” says Frank. “Your participation, feedback and advice were invaluable as we came into our own as a team and learned how to function in these trying times. We hope to have made a difference and are grateful for the opportunity. Best wishes to the incoming executive team. We are sure you can surmount the challenges that COVID poses and make a difference at CIS. Go Huskies!”