Student council members from Castle Dome Middle School put their leadership skills to the test during statewide advisory meetings with John Huppenthal, state superintendent of Public Instruction.
The Student Advisory Group, formed based on nominations by school advisers, meets quarterly and currently consists of Castle Dome students Wade Sumner, 13; Jessica Mendivil, 12; and Sydney Tunell, 12; as well as about 50 other sixth- through 12th-grade students from around Arizona.
Student council adviser Nicole Wilhelmy said the three Yuma students are the only ones in the statewide group representing the local area. She added that students have already attended two meetings, one on technology and another on bullying.
Huppenthal said that he was impressed by the students' participation at the meetings and their willingness to share various structures in place on their campuses.
In regards to their meeting on bullying, he said, “A high number of the students talked about the fact that they have really great climates in their schools and that bullying — in its more severe forms — is really not an issue because leaders of their school districts and leaders of their school have done things that create great climate health in the sense that they have a lot of activities that allow students to gain status and be a part of the community in a really positive way.”
Now, Huppenthal said, the plan is to put together a list of the various structures schools in Arizona and share those resources with schools statewide.
Sumner, an eighth-grade student and Castle Dome student council president, said that he wasn't sure what to expect when traveling to Phoenix for the first meeting. He said he found it very interesting and was glad to have the opportunity to bring ideas from Yuma to the state level.
“For me, the most important thing is to bring back experiences and also to take different ideas that can help improve the life of students in the education field, meaning that it will make their experience at school really good and it will help boost attendance rates,” he said.
“Overall it was a good experience, knowing you're making a difference is really awesome... It's good to get experience for public speaking by getting up in front of a good amount of people and being yourself and not being afraid to share your ideas.”
Mendivil, a sixth-grader on the sports committee, said that while she was nervous to attend the event, it was also exciting and she gained valuable leadership skills from being a part of it. She said that during the meeting she had the idea of creating a student safety committee on campus to not only keep students from getting bullied, but to also create a support system for those that are new on campus.
Tunell, a sixth-grade class representative, said that the experience was eye-opening to how bullying exists on other campuses. She said that it is great to be a part of the group to discuss and broach various topics that are relevant to students.
Wilhelmy shared that at Castle Dome there is a strong anti-bullying policy that is posted in every classroom. “Our teachers and administrators have an open-door policy.”
She said that the student council is also very proactive in hosting and planning many events on campus to make students feel included.
“It helps bring the school together like a family and it also keeps the kids here in a positive environment,” Wilhelmy said.
The Castle Dome student council was recognized in May with the highest honor for the AAJHSC (Arizona Association of Junior High Student Councils) as the Master Council for the state. Wilhelmy, who has been working with student councils for the past four years at Castle Dome, was also named Student Council Adviser of the Year through AAJHSC after being nominated by her students.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.