Coming into middle school, all I thought student council ever did was run school dances, and maybe put in a new bike rack… I had no clue what a student council could be. It was the seventh grade at Urbana Middle School, and come time for club sign ups I decided to join the student council. This decision wasn’t because I thought student council was cool, or because I loved service… I just thought Mr. Hines was a cool teacher, and I didn’t want to sit in study hall every Thursday. Come to find out… “student council” or “SGA” was a lot bigger than I thought, with it even going on at the county, state, and national level.
My first year in student council was pretty boring, but I could’ve never dreamed of how it ended. We planned the school’s formal, made some posters, and even voted for Student Member of the Board of Education (what that was, I really had no idea). At the end of the year, I hoped to run for student council president, but the administration decided to throw a wrench in my plans… Due to student’s posters being pulled down, and the election ending up being a popularity contest in past years, there would be no more student council elections. It was a complete shock, and my aspirations of ever having a cool title seemed pretty slim… That’s when I was introduced to the Frederick County Association of Student Councils (FCASC). From what I’d been told, there was about one meeting a month, I got to miss school, there was free pizza, and there was even a middle school position on the Executive Board! It seemed perfect, what more could a seventh grader ask for? Before I knew it, someone filled out my forms to run for office, and I was officially a candidate to become the 2nd Vice-President of FCASC. Too bad I never knew what date the meeting was… coming into school wearing high top sneakers, khaki cargo shorts, and an absolutely hideous purple plaid flannel shirt, I was swept onto a bus and told I needed a speech. Within minutes, someone wrote me an entire speech, and we were off the bus and walking into what I was told was the School Board building.
I remember it just like it was yesterday… I’d never been to a meeting before, and I sat there completely bewildered by everything I saw. Hearing about the incredible work schools were doing, and programs at the state level, as well as simply the professionalism of all the students in the room. The speeches and Q&A for 2nd Vice-President came first, and I walked up to the dais, I remember becoming flush, simply out of embarrassment. Here were all these incredible kids, well dressed, making a difference, and up walks some random kid they’ve never met, dressed in cargo shorts and a flannel. Having never spoken to an audience before, I stumbled through my whole speech, and as the questions came I could barely get out any answers. The funny thing is, I wasn’t running against anyone else, I was the only candidate for 2nd Vice-President. I walked back to my seat, all the way counting down the seconds till I was told that I lost. The rest of the meeting came and went, speeches were given, questions were asked, legislation was proposed, votes were cast, and as the meeting drew to a close, the election results were announced.
Sitting there in my seat, I felt defeated; I had no experience, was unable to speak in public, had no clue what FCASC really did, and came to a business meeting wearing cargo shorts for goodness sakes. As the results were read off and I heard my name called, I was in utter disbelief, convinced it must’ve been a mistake. I headed home that day bewildered, but as we were headed back to school I committed myself to learning everything I possibly could about student council, to prove to myself that my election wasn’t a mistake.
From that moment on, I kept the peddle to the floor. I can not begin to count the number of questions I’ve asked or the number of constitutions I’ve read, but I do know that ever since that day, I never stopped striving to be the best I could be. Rising from 2nd VP, to VP, and even to President of FCASC, I always kept my head up and eyes forward, learning from the past and striving to set FCASC on the right path going ahead. I rewrote constitutions, established new roles, and helped craft a new vision for what FCASC was to be. I served on the state board in every position I could imagine, rising from the role of Divisional Liaison to the Chief of Staff. My journey had many ups and downs, drama, conflict, and countless defeats, but no matter what happened, I never stopped fighting. I was able to mentor and train numerous students and help reshape the inner workings of the organization. Throughout this time I was able to work with every facet of the council, and was able to cement myself as someone who was always there for support, no matter the time of day. While I never became a state officer or Student Member of the Board, whether it was cause I lost an election, or pulled my candidacy, at the end of it all, I’m able to look back and know I made an impact in the lives of students not only in Frederick but across the state of Maryland.
Over the years, student council taught me countless lessons. First and foremost it showed me the importance of placing others before myself and finding a love for service. Communication was incredibly important, learning how to speak to people, move a crowd, craft an argument, create a presentation, and how to engage in meaningful discussion. I was challenged to work with other people, coming to a resolution together, how to provide support and praise as well as how to articulate constructive criticisms. It challenged me to prioritize my time, as well as how to recognize and identify my own priorities. I learned to find my passion, and how to craft a vision of the future, for myself, the groups I work with, and the world.
As a result of my work, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given a number of marvelous opportunities. I’ve spoken to thousands of students, led dozens of workshops, presented to rooms with over 1,000 people in them, and met people from every corner of the globe. I’ve traveled across the US from coast to coast, served as the MC for the National LEAD DC Conference twice, and made countless friends along the way. These experiences have allowed my impact to expand to other organizations: Mini-THON, HOBY, and many others. Student Council has brought me to senators offices, committee hearings, bill signings, countless board meetings, and more places than I can even begin to name.
Throughout my time in student council, countless hands have been shaken, stories heard, smiles shared, memories have been made, and lessons have been learned, but most importantly, a true love for service has been created. My experience has not only led me to recognize the work I want to do but the kind of person I hope to be. Almost none of the work I ever did gave me thanks, and very rarely did I get a round of applause, but I never lost sight of why I stuck with it. My work in student council began on a whim, by simply being in the right place at the right time, but was driven and continued by a faith that each and every person I served deserved to see the potential they have and to recognize that their voice not only matters but makes a real difference.