The inaugural year of the Riccardi Elementary School Student Council has had a positive impact on its members and the school community at large, say co-advisors Sue Rinaldi and Stephanie Pettit.
When the two went to classrooms at the beginning of the year, advertising the Student Council and looking for volunteers to run for office, they weren’t sure any students would turn up because it was such a new concept. When the first student turned in the essay portion of the application, Pettit says she ran to Rinaldi shouting “I got one!” The students were definitely interested, so much that, unlike some local elections in Saugerties, there wasn’t a single uncontested race, even though every candidate had to prepare a speech, write an essay and create a campaign poster.
Rinaldi says it wasn’t just the popular kids who ran or were elected, either. Some who were quite shy at the beginning of the year have blossomed as a result of their involvement, she said. They now exude confidence when they speak in front of the student body.
One of the reasons is that their fellow students really listen to them. When they come on the announcements in the morning to talk about an upcoming event, Rinaldi says they have a rapt audience of their peers because the students know something fun is going to be discussed. “When they get on the P.A. they’re better than any adult,” she said.
Their advisors really listen to them, too. In their meetings, the kids have many ideas. Sometimes they have so many ideas and suggestions for activities that Rinaldi and Pettit have to reign them in.
The latest idea was Crazy Hat Day, which helped bolster school spirit. The spirit activity this month is the Cutest Little Baby Face photo contest. The teachers will submit their baby photos and the students will try to guess whose pictures they are.
Beyond simply improving school spirit, they are also making a difference in the world around them by raising awareness of diseases like breast cancer and heart disease. Rinaldi says there were an incredible number of students who stayed after school to make pink ribbons, which they then sold for 10 cents each. They were so popular they sold out. There was a great response to the Jump Rope For Heart fundraiser, too, which took place in April and raised $11,000 district-wide.
Looking towards the future, the Student Council will organize a recycling event for Earth Day in April and will be involved with Field Day.
As for next year, Rinaldi and Pettit say they will have an even larger pool of students interested in joining, now that they have seen all the great things the Student Council is involved in. Pettit says she’s heard a number of students saying, “I wish I had run. I wish I had been involved in that.”