Student Leadership Sets New Standard
Prior to last fall, the members of Valor’s Student Leadership Board were far from the cohesive team they are now. They operated in different circles with separate friends and individual interests. As they broke down their differences and realized the value in diverse opinions, they shaped the trajectory of student life for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Student Leadership Board (SLB) took the place of a more traditional student government at Valor almost three years ago. Now, the team is made up of one elected Student Body President and 11 Vice Presidents representing all areas of the school. Starting in the fall of 2020, freshmen will join sophomores, juniors, and seniors to make up a larger student council – around 10% of the student body.
This wide range of participation helps capture what SLB cares about most – student voice. The Vice President representatives each partner with an adult mentor on staff at Valor with the goal of bridging the gap between staff and students.
Leadership in Action
Ally Gibb (‘20) is the VP of Student Culture and partners with Tige Watson and the Deans department. Besides having an inside connection to influence decisions like late starts after late hockey state championship games, Ally values how her position has changed her perspective on the school leadership.
“It’s really cool because they’re really on our side. Even if we don’t get the things necessarily that we want, they try their best to come alongside, ‘Okay, we can’t do that, but let’s try this instead.’ It’s been really, really cool to be able to put forward what we want and how we want to make Valor better, because who better than the students to tell how to make our student life better?”
As students see compromise from staff, they are emboldened to strive for new things. “I think the most important thing is that we’re finally as student leaders being heard. And as we realize that the more creative we’re getting. If we can come up with something, we can do it,” Ally says.
Wish Week is one example of new SLB initiatives this year. Although COVID-19 halted Wish Week events around the country, student leaders were prepared to take on the planning and execution of the week from start to finish after gaining administrative approval this year.
Students can also take on initiatives like Wish Week in large part because they are allowed to fail. Student Leadership Coordinator Denise Paswaters sees self-reflection and disappointment as lessons equally important to event-planning and initiative.
“It’s not about the most perfect dance or the most perfect Wish Week…It’s about giving it the most that you have, thinking as much as possible from a 360-degree perspective how all of the elements work together…and then if it doesn’t go the way that you envisioned coming back together and saying, ‘What now?’ That’s excellence, in my book.”
Freedom to Learn
At the end of the day, Denise believes that students are capable of as much as they are told they can do. “They really are emerging adults. I just want everybody to know if you treat them that way, they will rise to the occasion. You don’t have to baby them. A 14-year-old can accomplish a heck of a lot more than you can imagine if you just empower them.”
As they are allowed the freedom to learn and grow, SLB students build a foundation of skills that will benefit them in the future and lay a foundation for future leaders to come.
Santi Colon (‘20), VP of Discovery, transferred to Valor as a sophomore and found a community of friends in the founding years of SLB. Now, he hopes that the upcoming leaders will pass on the legacy he helped build. “I hope that the Student Leadership Board will continue to reach out to them (freshmen) and really be mentors. That’s how traditions can be upheld and they can really buy into what we’ve been doing ever since we got here.”
If the first two years of SLB are any indicator, Santi can be sure that the SLB legacy will live on in the Valor community for years to come.