Students come together to connect and ‘council’ each other

Grosse Pointe North students among participants

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 20, 2018

 Simone Cleaves, a Regina High School senior, dances before the session breaks for lunch as Regina junior Rebecca Wyne, dressed as Glinda the Good Witch, looks on.

Simone Cleaves, a Regina High School senior, dances before the session breaks for lunch as Regina junior Rebecca Wyne, dressed as Glinda the Good Witch, looks on.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

WARREN — On the morning of Feb. 16, student councils from local high schools in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties who didn’t know each other gathered inside the John Lewis Student Community Center at the South Campus of Macomb Community College.

For about five hours, they participated in the Regional Connect Student Council Conference and became acquainted during presentations, icebreakers, team-building activities, and lessons in critical-thinking skills.

Student councils in general help share students’ ideas, interests, and concerns with the student body, teachers and school principals. Student councils — sometimes known as student associations — often raise funds for schoolwide activities, perform in leadership roles and plan social events and community projects.

In August 2017, student council students and advisers completed an application to the Michigan Associations of Student Councils and Honor Societies (MASC/MAHS) Michigan Student Leadership office to lead the conference. The Regina High School student council was selected to host the event. Regina is an all-girls high school located in Warren.

As the host, Regina planned and executed the day’s events. There was a total of approximately 300 students, several staff members and advisers in attendance. Jennifer Perrino, Regina alumni director who also works the attendance desk, and Corinne Kadjan, a counselor at Regina, were the event co-moderators. There are 38 student council members at Regina. Kadjan said the conference gave the students the opportunity to network and provided ideas to enhance their own student councils.

“It’s kind of like a student council professional development day,” Kadjan said. “Students learn to plan activities for the school, and about fundraisers and service programs.”

“It was a huge honor for us to get chosen,” Perrino said. “It teaches leadership training. The kids get to share ideas. Student council is mostly run by the students. We want the students to take charge of their leadership and their activities.”

To make the event even more festive, the Regina students dressed in costume as “The Wizard of Oz” characters. They also named all five areas where the activities were held after places in the movie: Kansas, Emerald City, Munchkinland, the Witch’s Castle and Poppy Field.

Regina senior Julia Steenland is the school’s student council president. She said one reason for the costumes was because De La Salle High School was performing the musical Feb. 22-24. Steenland, of Roseville, felt the student council conference was valuable and rewarding.

“Everyone is so outgoing and ready to learn and ready to make friends,” Steenland said. “I love it. It’s so nice. It’s nice to see the kids share activities they can bring back to their schools.”

One popular activity was the “swap shop” in which students from different schools showcased something unique about their student councils. Steenland said a gift card giveaway was planned for lunchtime. During another activity, the students had to use sticks, cotton balls and other materials to build a model house within 10 minutes.

“At eight minutes, the witch puts a spell and a twister comes through,” Steenland said, adding that the students had to figure out how to fix the problem to save their creations. “It worked really well.”

Regina senior Isabelle Thibault, of Grosse Pointe City, and junior Lillian Kozak, of Grosse Pointe Woods, both enjoyed the conference.

“Everyone is so energetic,” said Kozak, dressed as Uncle Henry from “The Wizard Of Oz.” “The different presentations were really good too. It’s just been a blast.”

“I love meeting people, seeing their different ideas and how we can encourage them into our own,” Thibault said.

Seven Grosse Pointe North High School student association members participated in the council conference, including sophomores Claire Yee and Mariah Loper, freshman Michael Hartt, seniors Sydney Semack, Eva Ciaramitaro and Alex Harring, and sophomore Jordan Craighead. Also present was North student activities director Peggy Bonbrisco and student association adviser Jonathan Byrne.

“It’s helpful to see what works and what doesn’t work,” said Semack, student association president.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Yee said.

“Last year was my first conference,” Craighead said. “I think it’s better this year.”

While meeting new kids can be a challenge, Loper mastered that with flying colors and felt the entire event was worthwhile.

“I’m really enjoying listening to how students present different topics within the school community,” Hartt said. “I met a lot of new people.”

The other high schools that participated included Stevenson, Utica, Chippewa Valley, Eisenhower, Fraser, Henry Ford II, L’Anse Creuse North, Royal Oak and Groves.