Cohoes High School administrators held the first of a series of planning meetings with a newly identified group of 27 student ambassadors who will be charged with working together to create a more supportive, positive school climate.
The students, representing grades 9-12, were selected upon recommendations of advisors, social workers and counselors and the administration, held a productive team-building meeting that focused on the goals of the group.
The three goals are: assessing the current climate and culture; creating a shared vision for the kind of school climate they want; and carrying out the shared vision by identifying and working together on action steps for improving the school climate.
Students completed a brain activator to jump start their conversations. They discussed what aspects of school have had a positive impact on their lives and then the challenges they faced, where climate could be improved.
Whether it was academic rigor or teachers and staff who truly care about their health and well-being, the ambassadors identified a long list of positive aspects of the current climate.
“After that initial conversation, which was really impressive, given the depth and breadth of their responses, we asked them–‘Now, tell us what you envision for an ideal, perfect, awesome school. What does it look like, what are the teachers doing? What are the students doing?’ explained CHS Principal Bryan Wood.
Posed with this question, the students first shared in small groups and then discussed as a whole, their thoughts on a utopic high school.
“It was such a positive experience,” said Principal Wood. “They came up with some great thoughts and were incredibly respectful of others’ ideas.”
The ambassadors left the session with a commitment to work on a safe school climate reflection survey and a plan to reconvene before the December break. The group is sharing a virtual workspace using Google docs and collecting ideas to identify common themes. Once the Student Council members at CASDA’s leadership conference group is ready, they will present their action plan to the whole school community.
“We all play a role in creating the school environment we want,” said Principal Wood. “These students are going to make a difference as leaders among their peers. I expect a shift in the culture will happen quickly as we support and encourage the work they’re doing.”
Focus on student leadership
More resources have been devoted to growth of student leadership at CHS this year. In fact, two different groups of students attend two different leadership conferences in the area today. A group of eight members of student council accompanied by Ms. Majuri, a math teacher and student council advisor, attended CASDA’s “Best Practices for Student Leadership” at the UAlbany Health Sciences campus in Rensselaer. A second group of 10 students attended the Youth Leadership Summit at The Sage Colleges Academy for Character Education with science teacher and National Honor Society Advisor Amanda Powers.