Naperville School District 203 student advisory group gives a midyear progress report    

Exterior of District 203 administration building
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Increased mental health support, bridging gaps between students and teachers, and enhancing extracurricular activities are among some of the ways a group of student leaders across Naperville School District 203 is working to create a sense of inclusiveness at all buildings and grade levels.

District 203’s Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council is in its second year. Last year, current Superintendent Dan Bridges started the initiative in an effort he said was designed to amplify students’ voices.

‘Impactful and meaningful’ for participating District 203 students

With the second half of the current school year underway, Bridges asked several of this year’s student advisory council members to provide a midyear progress report on the brainstorming that has taken place at a board of education meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Bridges and other District 203 administrators and staffers working with students on the advisory council said the new initiative is bringing fruitful results to each school building.

“It’s been nothing short of an impactful and meaningful experience for all who have participated,” Bridges said. “I continue to learn so much from this dynamic group of students every time we meet.”

Advisory council’s recommendations in action

By design, the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council is comprised of one representative at each grade level at each of District 203’s five junior high schools, as well as the two high schools and the Connections program.

Collectively, the group created a series of recommendations under four pillars: student voice, student learning, student supports and student relationships and engagement. Within each of the pillars, several specific goals and recommendations are being implemented.

Danielle Lusby, District 203’s outreach and student belonging director, is one of the staff liaisons with the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. The activities taking place within the group carry a number of objectives, she said.

“Not only do we want them to amplify their voice, but we also want to build the capacity for these students to go out and represent who we are as a district as they go out into the community,” Lusby said.

While there is a connective tissue between the goals and objectives, there also are some school-specific activities in play in a nod to the diversity across Naperville.

“Each building looks a little different when it comes to these recommendations,” Lusby said.

What the students have to say

Several of the two-dozen advisory council members spoke at the recent board of education meeting and gave their take on the progress that has taken place — and where improvements might still be necessary. They also expressed their general impression of being part of the group.

“Having staff work on social and emotional relationships with students can improve the respect and trust for both parties and encourage a more productive and engaged environment,” Naperville Central High School student Kimani Smith said.

Smith and the other speakers spoke very highly of their involvement with the council and said it has enhanced their sense of belonging at school.

“The SSAC isn’t just an advisory council, but a family,” Madison Junior High School student Rachel Hogue said. “The SSAC has come up with many astonishing ideas that will be and already have been incorporated into our master plan.”

Bridges said a more detailed year-end report will be delivered at a board of education meeting in late May. At that time, recommendations for next year’s advisory council will be presented.

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