WVHS Student Senate gives students voice, real life experience


WVHS Student Senate gives students voice, real life experience

September 26, 2023

Students having their own voice – and understanding the power that voice carries – is not only great for their development and learning, it is a great way to help maintain an inclusive and supportive educational climate. When we say that our foremost considerations are always what’s best for our students, we are including students by giving them a platform to express what they feel is important to and for them.

Recently, Governor Kathy Hochul signed Legislation (S.1732/A.6091):

“…amends the education law to require that student governments in high schools or district wide are established where they currently do not exist. The board of education or trustees of every school district serving high school students in grades nine through 12 with no districtwide or school building peer-selected student government must establish a student government system.” 

Read the official news release here.  Spanish Version.

“The legislation mandates at least one student government organization within each district or school building, and is set to take effect next school year,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach. “But, it is only applicable to districts that don’t presently have such a peer-selected student government. I’m proud to say that not only is our WVHS student senate active and engaged; we have student-selected senates in every building, beginning in our elementary schools, which all focus on school and community focused projects.”

State Senator Shelley Mayer, who introduced the legislation, said student government gives students a direct, hands-on way to experience and learn the value of representational democracy.

I am pleased every high school student in New York State will have the opportunity to participate in student government and learn that their voices are important, and that they have the right — and the obligation — to participate directly in our democracy.”

Supporters of the legislation point out that participation in student government can be a civics lesson unlike any other, because participation requires the development of critical, real-life skills like deliberation, cooperation, compromise, and the ability to listen carefully and respect the views of others.

These are traits familiar to those in our district and community, as they reflect aspects of our Portrait of a Graduate – communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and others. WVHS Student Senate advisor Jim O’Brien sees how Student Senate opportunities touch on all virtually all aspects of the Portrait of a Graduate.

“We want the students to get involved, to organize events and activities, to handle class business on a day-to-day basis, to take responsibility for actions and outcomes,” said Mr. O’Brien. “And things like running and taking notes at meetings, running our student elections. It’s about these students having every opportunity to participate in their school and their community.”

Mr. O’Brien explained that the student senate has four key events that they focus on every year, the annual Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, Blood Drive, Student Elections, and the Teacher Appreciation Picnic.

“There is a lot of civic mindedness going on with these students, and wanting to give back both to the community and to the student body.”

Senior Samantha Brady is WVHS Student Senate Secretary. Samantha got involved with student government during her freshman year as a way to interact with peers and get more involved with event planning. She served as a class senator before being selected to the role of Secretary.

“I enjoy helping with school activities like the blood drive, and we’ve done breast cancer awareness fundraisers, and other activities around the school,” said Samantha. “I like how helping with fundraising brings the school together.”

Abigail South, a junior, said it was her freshman class advisor who encouraged her to get involved.

“Most of my friends are also part of it, and it’s always a great experience getting to work with everyone,” said Abigail, who is organizing this year’s breast cancer awareness event, including collaborative efforts with the middle school campaign organizers. “I love being able to work, especially, on the breast cancer awareness fundraiser. Down at the middle school they do it so big; all the students participate! It’s really a district-wide show of support towards the breast cancer community.”

Paxton Honerkamp is President of the WVHS Student Senate. He has been involved with student government since sixth grade, and was honored last year with a NYS Senate Youth Leadership Recognition Award.

“No other club or organization gives students the same opportunities that student government does,” said Paxton. “It’s a rewarding experience for us, to help organize and set up these events. It’s very fulfilling to provide a service like a blood drive, or to set up the teacher picnic. When people come up to you and they say, ‘thank you for this, you guys did a great job,’ it’s tremendously rewarding.”

Abigail pointed out that the Student Senate also gives students a voice in the community.

“The parents, the adults of the community, see our events much more than they see inside actual classes, and I think that’s a big reason why we’ve been so successful raising funds,” said Abigail. “We can help give funds towards classes for their proms, because of the level of fundraising that we’ve had recently.”

The trio of students said that the Student Senate is embracing new ideas from its constituents all the time. Students and other student groups approach them with ideas for events, charities, themed tie-ins, and other requests. It’s that outreach part that clicks with Amanda.

“I feel a need to help people who don’t necessarily have resources,” said Amanda, who wants to work in pediatric prosthetics one day. “So, last year we helped a girl who wanted to run a drive for the Humane Society. We get so many different things on that scope, and that really hit with me.”

Mr. O’Brien sums up the WVHS Student Senate and its leadership up like this: Every time they hear about something that might work, from their classmates or community, they look at it as something to get enthusiastic about and get involved in!


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