How can students make their local community a better place?
Volunteer at the local senior centers. Pick up trash around town. Start recycling programs. Put softer toilet paper in all our bathrooms.
These are the priorities of the next generation of leaders at Beacon Hill Elementary School, which is launching a new student council for students to get an early start at developing leadership skills.
“Having a forum to give input is new to the school,” said Principal Jay Sparks, noting that Beacon Hill has not had a student council in the last decade, if ever.
More than a dozen fifth graders shared their plans for improving the school and its surrounding community Wednesday as part of their campaign speeches.
“Student council is more than a bunch of people. It’s a group of people who want to help the school,” said Jordyn Robarge, 10, who is running for secretary.
There are six open spots on the on the council in its inaugural year, and only fifth graders are eligible to run. But student council sponsor Laura Cain says she plans to expand the group next year.
“We are keeping it small this year, but next year we plan to expand it to include fourth and third graders,” said Cain, who teaches 5th grade.
Cain said there weren’t many leadership opportunities for the elementary students. Dr. Seuss inspired her, she said, quoting a famous line from “Horton Hears a Who,” which is about an endangered, microscopic community located on a speck of dust
“A person is a person no matter how small,” Cain said, quoting the book. “It’s important everyone has a voice. It’s important these kids get a say.”
Applications for the council went home with fifth graders two weeks ago, and 16 students put their names in the running. Since then, they’ve plastered the school with campaign posters and spread platform ideas among their peers.
Cain said the kids’ ideas — which range from hosting a holiday present drive to sponsoring friendly inter-grade competitions to raise money for local families in need (and earn popcorn parties) — all came from the students. She said she’s been “keeping my ideas to myself” so the kids can shine.
“I think it will be a voice for the kids,” Sparks said. “They will take on responsibility in this role, and we are going to give them all the responsibility they can handle.”
The 16 candidates acknowledged the importance of the roles they hope to fill, and many students say they’re excited to be role models for their younger peers.
“We are inspiring others to (help the school), even if they aren’t on student council,” said Blake Larwick, 10, who is running for treasurer. “Kids will look up to us and build on what we started.”
“We are their voices. We get to make the decisions because we are fifth graders,” said presidential candidate Mara Slabu, 10. “But it’s not just a decision for fifth graders.”
Cain said she was surprised how the students have already begun stepping into their potential leadership roles. She said one of the presidential candidates from her class helped the lone candidate for vice president prepare his speech.
“She asked him, ‘What are some things you’re really good at? Maybe put those in,’’ Cain said of the student. “It was just such a beautiful moment to see that compassion.”
Sparks will announce the winners of the election over the PA system Thursday morning. The council’s first official meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 29.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.