By Nick Yates, ISB Communications
It’s been a busy period for student councils at the International School of Beijing (ISB). Student Council (STUCO) exists to promote a positive school experience. It’s for students by students. Organizing events throughout the year and acting as liaison between classes and ISB administration, the councils are a great opportunity for students to practice life skills like leadership and collaboration.
Spirit Weeks, a community-building initiative common in North American schools, are where STUCO really shows what it’s made of. Middle School STUCO has planned a host of activities for this week’s Middle School Spirit Week. Students are encouraged to dress up in clothes with different themes on each day and earn individual and grade spirit points. Points win prizes! Middle School STUCO will also be selling tickets for a Spirit Week social taking place after school on Friday.
The Elementary School equivalent of STUCO is the Service Council. They have had a say in activities for this week’s Elementary School Spirit Week, when littler students will get to dress up and have fun too.
Future High School Spirit Weeks, following the one held last month, will be notable for striking new class merchandise organized by High School STUCO. The hoodies and sweatpants, color coded for each grade, were the result of a student design competition.
Here, in the words of students themselves, are 10 ways in which Student Council serves both its members and the wider student body.
Community and camaraderie
STUCO is all about strengthening community among students, making classes feel together and proud to all be ISB Dragons. High School STUCO member Jenna L says she was struck by the “good vibes” at a year-opening STUCO assembly: “It was really engaging, students genuinely enjoyed it, and it was a great way to start the year.”
All the hard work behind the scenes also brings STUCO members together. Jerry Z said the friendship and camaraderie forged while organizing the 2020-2021 Prom with other STUCO members is enduring.
Part of ISB’s Mission statement is thinkers and leaders finding their place in the world and serving others, and STUCO really puts that into action. “I joined STUCO because I wanted to experience being a ‘leader’ of the student body and helping students implement what they want to see in their community,” said Jenna. “Being a part of STUCO allows me to be really connected with not only students, but also teachers, Sodexo staff, the PTA and the school Board of Trustees; it offers chances to communicate with people and learn the behind-the-scenes and planning that goes into events.”
Students have fun dressing up in themed clothing for Spirit Weeks
For 15 years, Middle School STUCO led the Smile Week charity campaign to provide corrective surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates from an orphanage near ISB. To date, the fundraising has enabled over 60 successful operations! For the past two years, Smile Week has supported other local charities under the same umbrella organization. To read a student’s account of all the work that went into the 2020 Smile Week, click here.
Having a voice, making an impact
When STUCO members speak, faculty listen. Hence, this is an opportunity to gather peers’ thoughts and any common concerns about life at school and how things are done on campus and effect meaningful change. The Middle and High School STUCOs have monthly meetings with their respective principals. When the school is looking for student feedback on important matters from dress code to revising ISB’s Mission and Vision statements, STUCO is asked to represent the wider student body.
Middle School students worked with their principal last year on a revised bullying policy, adding language about discrimination against specific groups. The Elementary School Service Council makes recommendations on improvements around campus – for example, to how stuff is organized and put away in the equipment sheds in the playground. “We make sure they can see a real impact from what they do,” according to Service Council supervisor Paul Wong.
With guidance from teacher supervisors, the Middle and High School STUCOs get to design what big events like Smile Week, Homecoming, and the High School Hip-Hop Festival look like every year.
Erica M said, “I joined STUCO to be a voice of the student body… I love that I can help organize events for the High School community, and convey the thoughts of students to administrators, and bring a change as well.”
“I wanted to join STUCO because I enjoy learning about how the school operates and making that process run smoother,” said Kenny H.
Putting on a big event is quite a feat. It takes understanding what your audience wants, advance planning, teamwork, overcoming obstacles, and far more. Experience organizing events will serve students well, whatever path they take after graduation. Emily N said her favorite memory of STUCO last year was organizing the Underclassmen Formal; it took months of hard work but was worth it in seeing her classmates enjoy what she had helped arrange for them.
It’ll be alright on the night
Related to the above, any adult who’s ever been tasked with a big project knows the daunting feeling that often arrives in the preparation when what you’re trying to achieve seems impossible. And most will know the corresponding feelings of exhilaration and satisfaction when everything you’ve been working on comes together at the last minute for a spectacular success. The idiom “It’ll be alright on the night” was coined for this scenario – and it sounds like it often applies for STUCO.
“Organizing the Underclassmen Formal, everyone was scared that something might go wrong,” said Becky G.
“We all had uncertainties going into it,” added STUCO’s Alice X.
But somehow, it all worked out. “In the end, the event turned out great, everyone had fun, and it became a really valuable experience for us all,” according to Becky.
That’s the spirit! A lively atmosphere during a past Spirit Week
ISB is strongly focused on social-emotional learning – the idea that students should be healthy in body and mind alongside striving for academic achievement. Initiatives like STUCO and Smile Week are a big part of this; they’re fun, create opportunities for learners to socialize, and bring the whole community together. When we surveyed STUCO members on their motivations for doing what they do, the words “fun” and “well-being” came up a lot.
University admissions officers look for a range of achievements and experiences throughout applicants’ school careers. Academic performance is of course hugely important, but so too is evidence of what you’ve done outside the classroom. Admissions officers want well-rounded students who have been enthusiastic and have made a difference to their school communities. Active involvement (faculty stressed that it’s not enough just to be a member!) in student councils is perfect for demonstrating this.
School-branded clothing is a perennial must-have fashion on campus. A lot of it is generated from STUCO.
For the new High School class merchandise, STUCO hosted a class design competition that allowed High School students to express their creativity and design hoodies and sweatpants representing school spirit. The winning design was adapted to fit all four grade colors. More than 100 High School students and mentor teachers have so far purchased the merchandise, designed to be worn with pride during Spirit Weeks to represent their grade.
The idea of class merchandise originated from the class color system that STUCO implemented towards the end of last school year, when students from each grade were given a survey and asked to choose their class color. Freshmen are now grey; Sophomore are purple; Juniors are pink; Seniors are black.
How do you want to remember school?
Having fun with your friends, making a difference, and learning along the way? STUCO is the stuff that school memories are made of. Jerry Z knows this. “I joined STUCO to give the student body a more memorable experience throughout their time in High School,” explained the Senior.
“I think this really boils down to three central aspects: daily life in school, hosting events, and strengthening support networks. I joined STUCO to improve these three aspects of the student experience and create an environment that I believe will maximize student well-being.”