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Special School District of St. Louis County
Student Councils Learn
Through Service, Leadership

For many, December is a time to make holiday cookies and delicious treats for family and friends. For the student council members at SSD’s Neuwoehner High School, however, the treats they baked might not smell particularly appetizing — at least not to humans.

“We cooked dog treats,” said Paige, who is vice president of the student council at Neuwoehner. “We’re doing a donation to Open Door Animal Sanctuary. We’re also collecting dog food, blankets, toys and treats for dogs.”

Student councils are found in most schools throughout the country, including many SSD schools. Their specific roles differ from building to building, but the core principles of service and leadership are always present.

“Last year we collected stuffed animals for the Shriners,” said Tracey, who served as Neuwoehner student council president a year ago. His successor, Derrick, added that being on student council gives him the opportunity to help people (and animals) in the community. Learning the value of service firsthand leads to strong connections for students.

“They do good works for the school and the community and that makes them feel like they are important and they have a voice—which is the best self-esteem booster,” said student council sponsor and school counselor Nancy Richey. “We know that when students feel good, they do well.”

Along with the benefits of service, student leadership is perhaps the most recognizable component of student councils.

“People have started to look up to me,” Derrick said. “People will say ‘Hey, president, nice to see you.’ It inspires me and helps keep me going.”

According to Richey, council members are seen as leaders, and that added level of responsibility can bring about changes in their actions.

“I didn’t know as many student names before,” Tracey said, before explaining that he memorized the school bus route sheet in order to learn the names of all the fellow students at his school. “I also learned how to interact with students. Student council has helped me with responsibility and respect.”

“Student council members are viewed as leaders and take their position seriously,” Richey said. “If they are acting out, I ask them, ‘Is this being a good role model for others?’ and ‘How would others feel if they saw you behaving like this?’”

Paige sees the difference being a member of student council has made in her school life. “It’s made me more responsible,” she said. “And I also like working with other students, too. We help each other do things and use teamwork.”

Not every school at SSD has a student council.

“We don’t have one yet,” said Marsha Myers of SSD’s Southview School. “But I would like to start one to get the voice of students involved in some of the decisions that impact them.”

At North Technical High School this year, the school has moved away from the classic formula for having a school-wide vote for student council, and has replaced it with each Career and Technical Education program choosing a senior representative to meet and speak for their program. These 25 students allow for a more representative sample and more ideas from the whole class, according to North Tech principal Jim Hieger.

Whatever the setup, the value of the honor that goes along with being on student council is one that you can’t measure, according to Richey: “You can’t put a price tag on pride.”

student council members

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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