By Tina Jenkins Bell
BAPA School Liaison
There is a new student empowerment initiative in town and its spreading, like merriment during the holidays, among area schools. The initiative is known as the Student Voice Committee (SVC).
SVCs offer opportunities for students to partner and engage with their school’s administration and other adults in their school community to affect positive change and improve school culture, climate, and performance. Students are helped to develop leadership skills, collaborative working abilities, critical thinking, and advocacy. The goal is to include students in the decision-making and other processes that involve their school and ultimately affect them.
Some principals, like Kate Valente at Barnard School, prefer SVCs over the traditional student councils.
Barnard’s 5th through 8th social science teacher, Caroline Minter runs the SVC. “[She] is truly an inspiration. We are excited about the work for this year at Barnard and our amazing students have already completed a survey and have begun working for our school,” Valente said.
“We get to actually help make things better,” said Evelyn Slattery, a student at Clissold School.
“I like the student leader group because it is fun and we learn how to be leaders,” added Ember Rayford Johnson, a Clissold 2nd grader.
At Clissold School, students created a kindness bulletin board, sidewalk art to welcome students and families, and assisted with the school’s recent walk-a-thon fundraiser. They also partnered with law enforcement to teach students with low-incidence disabilities sports, like basketball and softball, and served as greeters to welcomed other students and their families at the start of the school year.
Clissold’s next projects include building a new playground, beautifying the boys’ bathroom, and planning a school dance. Students will have a say in the way each of these projects are conducted.
Kellogg’s SVC partners directly with school leadership to make long-term improvements to their school. “Along with developing adult partnerships, the SVC works with students to develop an understanding of their own identity and how it relates to building leadership competencies, including working collaboratively in a team setting, public speaking, critical thinking, and advocacy,” said Kellogg principal Cory Overstreet.
“The focus of the 2021-2022 Kellogg SVC is to improve the current protocol of the personal sanitary needs of middle school girls. SVC in the past have spoken at CPS Board of Education meetings advocating for facilities upgrades with our Mission Addition Committee,” Overstreet continued.
SVCs, unlike student councils, do not elect a limited number of students to represent an entire student body. Instead, they are volunteer-based and involve students in actively affecting changes that affect the entire school, not just student activities. These are the key differences between SVCs and student councils, according to Valente.
Seeing its advantages, more schools plan to make the switch from student councils to the more ubiquitous student partnerships initiated through SVCs.
In addition to administration, teachers, and staff, SVCs are also popular with young leaders, like Tazia Sutton. “You can communicate with others about different opportunities,” she said.