| Payton North
WILBRAHAM – Minnechaug’s student council was awarded the 2017 National Gold Council of Excellence Award by the National Association of Student Councils (NASC) for the fifth year in a row. Prior to their national wins, the student council won at the state level for eight years straight.
Student councils who apply for the National Council of Excellence Award are subject to a rubric that is based on a series of points. The rubric includes different criteria, such as whether the school is a suburban, rural or city school. The students must complete service activities, events, training and more. The student councils that compete end up with a binder filled with pages of information and activities that they completed over the year.
Assistant Principal Heidi Drawec advises Minnechaug’s student council, which consists of 68 teenagers. Over the course of the year, the student council members are involved in spirit, service, morale and leadership activities.
“Every year the students impress me and they do something I never would have thought they could do,” Drawec said.
While school may be out for the summer, student council members are still active in the community. Over the past weekend students brought goodie bags to both Hampden and Wilbraham fire and police departments and thanked them for their service.
Drawec said her students enjoy fundraising, but she strives for the student council members to complete service activities that help bring the community together.
“We really push service and make sure they understand what community is,” she said.
The student council will often orchestrate fundraising events that welcome younger students and families. In the fall, the council has had a scarecrow making fundraiser where the teens will help children and their families build life-size scarecrows.
“They’re interacting with the little kids, they’re interacting with the older generations here, because instead of just being in an insulated bubble we need to make sure that the community sees the students as positive influences, too,” Drawec added, “We really show the community that teenagers are good at heart.”
Drawec notes that as the advisor, it’s important for her to let the students make their own decisions on what events to run or activities to complete, even if it means a potential setback.
“It’s interesting as an advisor to sit back and watch it happen. I question them, because I can sometimes see the pitfalls. Sometimes I don’t mention it, I’ll see if they can see the pitfall,” Drawec said. “It’s the hardest thing as an advisor to see them fail at something, but it’s also a life lesson where I’d rather them learn how to do that here and how to bounce back than to go out of high school and see failure and not know how to deal with it.”
The student council members go to regional, state, and national conferences each year. In fact, two of Minnechaug’s students presented workshops at this years national student council conference. Drawec believes that not only does attending conferences help students with public speaking and personal development, but also it exposes them to cultures they may not be accustomed to.
Joining the student council gives students opportunities to grow, as well as opportunities to travel. Yearly, Drawec brings the student council’s executive board on a retreat camping in Vermont for three days.
“There’s no electricity, no cell-phone service. They have to be present and in the moment with each other. A lot of event planning happens during those days, and a lot of the bonding happens, because if they can’t act as a team, they can’t accomplish much,” Drawec said.
Students involved with the council are encouraged to immerse themselves in leadership training that will stimulate personal growth with the idea that these students will bring what they learned back to Minnechaug. Two in-coming seniors are called “diamonds” as they’ve completed 180 hours of leadership training over the summer.
In a statement on the award, Ann Postlewaite of the National Association of Secondary School Principals student programs director noted the prestige that comes with winning the NASC award.
“Receiving an NASC Gold Council of Excellence Award reflects the highest dedication on the part of the school to providing a strong, well-rounded student council program. NASC applauds the work of the National Gold Councils of Excellence and challenges then to continue their leadership and service to their schools and communities,” Postlewaite said.
While she doesn’t believe there’s one aspect to Minnechaug’s Student Council that puts them above and beyond other schools, Drawec thinks her students strive to go above and beyond the expectations they’re given.
“I always tell them that as leaders you wear your superhero cape under your clothes. Of course, I always tell them to leave it better than they found it. That’s what I want them to do, to leave themselves better, and the school, the community, the world,” Drawec reminisced, “I think that’s what we all want teenagers to do, and people in general.”
In a time where both Hampden and Wilbraham are involved in discussion and dispute regarding whether or not to de-regionalize their middle schools, Drawec notes that at Minnechaug, they aren’t separate towns, they’re one.
“The second a student walks in here, they’re ‘Chaug, they’re a Falcon. It’s not about what town they’re from.”