Digging deeper into the root causes of bullying, providing heightened platforms for promoting diversity, and offering enhanced mental health support are among some of the recommendations a cross-section of Naperville School District 203 students offered up in the inaugural year of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council.
A total of 25 students of varying grades and schools took part in the group. As the 2022-23 school year heads to its final stretch, the council has presented district decision-makers — including the board of education and administrators — with a list of recommendations.
Social-emotional learning an overarching theme
The council’s core recommendations fall within four categories: student voice, student learning, student supports and student relationships and engagement.
Overall, students participating in the council expressed a desire to dig deeper, and find meaningful solutions, to combat bullying. They also encouraged efforts to bridge cultural, racial and other barriers that might currently exist.
Diego Jimenez, who attends Naperville Central High School, is among the more than two-dozen students who participated in the council and its assorted brainstorming activities and discussions.
“Getting to see the unique insight of my peers has been a beyond humbling experience since the pandemic, and I am so grateful for this opportunity,” Jimenez said during a presentation of the council’s recommendation at a May 15 board of education meeting.
Katherine Wang, a Naperville North High School student, offered similar sentiments.
“It was such a special experience being able to collaborate with peers across District 203 and explore what it means to be a community, because that’s ultimately what District 203 is all about,” Wang said. “I really appreciate our district wanting to know more about us and what it means to be a student, and our experiences.”
Administrators applaud recommendations
Chala Holland, assistant superintendent for administrative services/high schools, was among the district staffers who helped coordinate the advisory council. The students’ recommendations, she said, were thoughtful.
“I’m very proud of the recommendations that the students made,” Holland said. “Students want an opportunity to share their stories in safe and supportive ways. Students would like the diversity of their lives and experiences to be shared.”
Superintendent Dan Bridges said the student participants gave of their time and insight into a process that is expected to be a regular part of District 203 in the years ahead.
“You have done something that our district and our board of education has talked about being so incredibly important, and that is the opportunity to amplify student voice,” Bridges said to the participants.
Council was years in the making
As the group’s name suggests, Bridges, as superintendent, has been one of the drivers of the initiative. The idea of having a dedicated advisory group for the purposes of collecting students’ thoughts, he said, has been years in the making.
“This quickly became one of my favorite things that I’ve had an opportunity to be involved with in my 11 years here as superintendent,” Bridges said. “I’m so pleased we had our inaugural group meet with us this year.”
Several school board members indicated the council’s work will be a valuable tool as short- and long-range policy decisions are weighed.
“Your voices do matter to us, and as a school board, we’ve talked about that a number of times and how important it is that we hear student voice,” board member Donna Wandke said.
Photo courtesy: District 203
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