This year Sequoyah’s high school Student Steering Committee includes ninth and tenth grade student representatives, a change from previous years where the committee only included two co-chairs and the chairs of Stewardship committees. The two ninth grade and two tenth grade representatives were elected on September 13 during Advisory, after the candidates gave speeches to their classmates.
Students who wished to run for the role filled out a form sent to them by RJ Sakai, who oversees the Stewardship program and is Director of the Social Innovation Program, where they nominated themselves. Sakai explained that he “gave candidates notice that they’d be giving a speech to their grade.” After candidates gave their speeches, students from each grade voted for who they wanted to represent them in Steering Committee and the administration later tallied the votes. He announced the results privately to each winning candidate and then emailed the results to the grades. Sakai noted the “thoughtfulness with which all students gave their speeches and the respect with which the audience listened to their peers.”
The roles of the ninth and tenth grade representatives are similar to the roles of other Steering Committee members, although they represent their grades instead of their committees. According to Sakai, “ninth and tenth grade reps join in on conversations during Steering Committee, just as committee chairs do. In the past, these conversation topics have included all-school events, tech policies, election procedures, and committee collaborations.” Sakai believes that “as Steering Committee grows into this new structure … the way the grade representatives contribute to the meeting might become more formalized.”
Emilia Peters, current co-chair of the Steering Committee, said ninth and tenth grade representation was added to the Steering Committee so “we make sure we meet the needs of every grade.” She added, “Because Stewardship committees can only have eleventh and twelfth graders represent them in Steering Committee, it seemed like a good idea to have two ninth and two tenth grade students represent their grade, too.”
Peters relayed a few of the expectations she holds for the grade representatives, including that they constantly “bring in the concerns and ideas of classes and students,” as well as “making the school feel represented as a whole community.” To tenth grade representative Julian Suh-Toma, being a representative means “embodying the voice of the grade” and making sure what he does “reflects what the grade wants.”
Tenth grade representative Remali de Silva said a “suggestion form is in the works” to make sure everyone in the student body’s voice is heard. The suggestion form would help “make sure they [students] get what they have in mind for the better of the school.” Will Maples, a ninth grade representative, said he ran for the position because the students at his old school had “no voice in anything” and he wanted to represent his class to make sure the students in his grade “have a choice when it comes to school decisions.” The representatives acknowledged that not everyone may feel comfortable coming to up to them with their concerns or ideas. de Silva thought making the suggestion form anonymous “may be a very helpful way to get every students’ input.” Steering Committee co-chair Ozzy Simpson said there will be a digital form and a physical box for suggestions from the students, but it has not yet been decided whether or not suggestions will be anonymous.
Zoe Peters, a freshman representative, has an alternative to the suggestion form: “I am going to take time away from my day and just walk around and ask people personally if there are any problems. Hopefully, I will be able to bring [the problems] to the attention of the Steering Committee.”
All representatives said they hope to grow from this experience throughout the year, including what it takes to truly be a leader. Maples hopes that he builds “confidence in public speaking and a stronger relationship between the staff and the general high school community.” Along with personal growth, De Silva hopes that she is able to see her class “grow closer as one, and hopefully into a greater community.”