Effort to Have Voices Heard Pays Off For Bridge Builders CHANGE SCS Board of Education Approves Policy That Establishes District-Wide Student Congress
Students from the Bridge Builders® CHANGE program were able to enjoy the fruit of their labor Tuesday evening when the Shelby County Board of Education voted to approve a policy that will allow SCS students to establish a district-wide Student Congress as a mechanism for increasing students’ voices in the district. The policy, which applies to 8th grade middle school students and 11th and 12th grade high school students, is expected to enhance the educational experience of students and allow the Board to gain greater insight into educational needs from the student’s point of view.
Bridge Builders CHANGE students began working with other youth oriented organizations on the idea of a student congress in 2011. Their work eventually led the Shelby County Transition Planning Commission (TPC) to include it in their list of recommendations to the unified Shelby County Board of Education.
“The Student Congress policy is the product of more than two years of research, outreach and planning, said Paris Bryd, a 17-year-old senior at Germantown High School. “We surveyed more than 1,000 of our peers and we consulted with experts in educational engagement. Simply put, we had to do our homework to bring it to this point.”
In addition to their research and work with other youth organizations, the students also collaborated with members of the Shelby County Schools Office of Policy and Legislation to make sure their work fit within the district’s policy protocols.
“The students did an amazing job,” said Natalie McKinney, director of the Office of Policy and Legislation. “Our staff was very impressed with the level of research they conducted prior to meeting with us. They did an extensive amount of work and laid a great foundation for us to move the initiative forward,” said McKinney. “This is a wonderful example of civic responsibility, which is exactly what this policy is designed to support and encourage within our students.”
The makeup of the Student Congress will include two students from each high school and up to two representatives from each middle school. The students will meet with the entire Shelby County School Board one to two times per semester and the Superintendent at least once per semester. Members of the Student Congress will also meet up two times per month and attend regular meetings with district staff.
Additionally, the Student Congress will select congresspersons from its membership to serve as Student Ambassadors to the Board. The Ambassadors will regularly present their official proposals and requests during the public comment section of the regular Board meetings.
In an effort to make sure all students can be engaged and represented, students who are nominated to serve on the Student Congress will not be required to meet certain GPA, attendance and/or disciplinary restrictions. However, all nominees will have to be approved by the school principal prior to running for office. Students who are selected to participate in the Student Congress will serve for two full school years.