Speaking in front of peers isn’t easy, yet one student council group presented to a group beyond their years.
The Frank Seale Middle School student council members recently presented to superintendents, school board members and teachers about training and advocating student leaders during the Texas Association of School Boards’ Winter Governance Seminar in Galveston.
The seminar, which was held on Feb. 21-23, focused on discussions about small and rural school districts, leadership, positive student outcomes, governance, and student voice sessions led or co-presented by students.
Frank Seale Middle had two groups with eight students total who attend the conference. One group focused on student voices and the other group of students inspired. The student-voices group discussed the need for strong students leaders in the community while the other set up a booth and spoke one-on-one with adult school leaders, Frank Seale student council sponsor Jennifer Barnes said.
She added that the seminar had students present about what they feel school leaders need to know and how students can benefit from these ideas at their campuses.
“It gives them a chance to be heard at a higher level to affect change or help guide listening ears to make things better or more effective or fun for students,” she said.
After the presentation, many in attendance were shocked to find out the students were middle school aged, Barnes said.
“They did incredibly well,” she said. “It was just an overwhelmingly positive response,”
In preparing for Galveston, the students learned professionalism, public speaking, time management and how to collaborate.
Any free moment they found, the students practiced their presentation whether they did it at school or by facetime with each other in the evenings, seventh grader Kaitlyn Wright said.
Working in student council pushed Wright to continue service into high school. The skills she learned will follow her for the rest of her life, she added.
Student council president Emma Best agreed with Wright and said she found an extended family through the organization.
Most schools don’t have a student council like Frank Seale Middle, and the presentation gave district leaders the chance to integrate student leaders into their schools.
Leading up to the seminar, the students practiced their presentation with Midlothian ISD trustees Matt Sanders, Andrea Walton and Heather Prather.
The board members were asked to wait in the front office until two students walked them to the library. They seated the board members at tables with a folder in front of each seat. The same was emulated in Galveston on a larger scale.
"I'm impressed with the maturity of the kids and their ability to stand up as leaders and present to a group," said Sanders, who serves as the board president. “I couldn't do that at that age."
The seventh and eighth graders practiced their presentation a few weeks before their Galveston trip to work out all the kinks. The students led those in the practice session through team-building games and tests to determine the type of leader each of them were.
Once the hour-long presentation was complete, the board members offered advice but mostly praise.
"They’re comfortable in their own skin, and you can see their confidence," Walton said.
Beyond the presentation, Walton said the students are making the community a better place with their service projects like Miracle League where the students play baseball with community members with disabilities and Bell Ringing to raise money during the holidays.
"These kids are mature beyond their years for wanting to go out and help the community," she said. “That's what changes a community."
This is in credit to Barnes who has helped to grow the Student Council over the past few years.
"I don't know what she has for breakfast," Walton said. “She is constantly providing opportunities for those kids."
Walton continued and said it is the work of the teachers that make the students want to be involved beyond the classroom.
"Our students emulate what our teachers show them," she said.
Best said having Barnes as their sponsors allowed the students to have a voice and be leaders without being overshadowed.
“I wouldn’t be the leader I am today without Mrs. Barnes,” she said.
Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty