By Tina Jenkins Bell
Christ the King School (CK) initiated its first Student Ambassador program at the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Facilitated by Amy Altenbach, CK’s student advocate, the Student Ambassador program offers leadership and service opportunities for students, 6th to 8th grade, to represent CK in numerous ways.
The ambassadors are the “voice and face of CK to welcome families, build school culture, and service the community,” Altenbach said.
The popular program attracted 35 students in its first year. Students were trained how to be role models for other students and school families, interact with adults, make good first impressions, and proactively work on their community’s behalf.
Student ambassadors trained to participate and were immediately put to work at the start of the year. They were on the front lines as greeters to new families, led tours, called their designated families ahead of the first day of school, and participated at CK’s Popsicle Party and Packet Pickup Orientation.
When Principal Dr. Ann Riordan, teachers and staff discovered that CK had been named a Blue Ribbon school last year, they had to figure out a way to tell the students. They recruited student ambassadors to plan a celebratory event in the playlot. Without knowing the purpose of the celebration, the student ambassadors planned and executed a student event, complete with decorations and games. Students were told about CK’s Blue Ribbon status at the celebration.
Regarding responsibilities of the ambassadors, Mario Abenso, an 8th grade ambassador who led planning and executing the event, said, “We patrolled the area to make sure everyone was safe, especially the little kids. We made sure everyone was engaged.”
In addition to being touchpoints for new school families and planning student events, ambassadors also lead “mission” efforts to give to those in need and to serve the community. One of those efforts was a partnership with the Mount Greenwood Lion’s Club to collect prescription eyeglasses for redistribution to people in need. Two thousand pairs of glasses were collected and “handed out to people with the same prescriptions free of charge,” said 7th grade student ambassador Catherine Blough.
Blough, the communications coordinator for the eyeglass give-away, recruited businesses like Afro Joes, Chicago public libraries, Ald. Matt O’Shea, Beverly Bakery, and Top Notch for placing collection boxes. Christ the King Church also had a collection box.
“It felt really good that we got to do this,” Blough said.
Student ambassadors will also facilitate CK’s annual food, toy and clothing drives.
The program teaches students academic, communication and life skills. Eighth grade student and CK ambassador Charlie Wiers moved loads of paper products to one location to support the CK’s efficiency and ecology missions. When Wiers was in line for a high school scholarship, he had to communicate his merit on paper. “Often, kids will just say ‘I helped my school.’ But that doesn’t say much, so we teach them how to elaborate and fully represent their accomplishments by instead writing ‘I helped my school move paper products to one place to improve inventory awareness and to avoid waste.’”
CK’s Student Ambassador program was patterned after Advice Beyond the Classroom (ABCs) techniques for creating the right first impressions, building your brand, and making your network equal your net worth. A new series of ABC student workshops will begin this month at the Morgan Park Academy Art Center. For more information on the ABCs, visit advicebeyondtheclassroom.org.
For more information about CK, visit school.ckchicago.org.