Last year our school had 3 students attempt suicide. Thankfully, none were successful. To confront this issue, we created a Peer Helpers Group. (Students trained to assist peers in crisis).
However, our Peer Helpers group went rogue. They rejected the staff’s vision of their group. Instead, they wanted a more holistic approach, an approach focused on prevention. The students believed they could have a greater impact by improving the school’s overall climate and atmosphere. With this in mind, they changed the name of their group to The Student Atmosphere Committee. The name needs work, but I love their mission statement: "To improve the school: academically, socially and aesthetically."
One of the first things the students did was schedule a meeting with the teachers. At the meeting, they laid out some hard facts, facts about how we were teaching, facts the staff found hard to swallow. Although nervous, the students handled this meeting with aplomb--firm, polite and clear. In time, the staff came to accept much of this criticism. We plan to continue this conversation by meeting with the committee once a month during the next school year. The academic portion of the mission statement the students have covered--at least for this year.
Their ideas to improve the school socially and aesthetically, however, need money. Socially, the first thing the students want to do is welcome new students with a bag containing local resource information pertinent to teens and small gifts: a pass to our pool, tickets to the movie theater, a school t-shirt, etc. Aesthetically, they want artwork--not cheap school posters, but real art--to brighten the dingy tan walls of our hallways. To raise money, they’ve planned a “Breakfast Store,” selling packaged breakfast foods before school starts. They are also writing a grant.
My goal is to make this group a permanent fixture in our school.
Funded by Alaska (July 2020)