By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – About three years ago when Charles Jaworek Elementary School Adjustment Counselor Christine Hilditch was brainstorming ways she could positively impact and empower the greatest number of students at once, she came up with the idea to start a leadership program. Her building had approximately 850 students at that time, and the leadership program seemed like a great way to personally connect with the greatest number of students.
Aptly dubbed “The Fourth Grade Student Leadership Council,” the entity was launched in 2015. After a one-year council hiatus, Hilditch and her fellow adjustment counselor, Amy Fitzgibbon, saw the need to bring the popular program back, and this school year’s first meeting was held in October.
According to Hilditch, the leadership program gives every fourth-grade student the opportunity to have a voice in their school community. Eighteen students (three from each fourth-grade classroom) are picked randomly each month to be on the council. By the end of the end of the year, every fourth-grade student will have had a chance to serve as a leader at school.
The council meets weekly during lunch period, when members share their experiences and ideas as a leader. Students keep a journal of notes from the meetings or their weekly experiences. The journals are passed on to the next council group throughout the year.
As for the program structure, each council member is assigned a “job” during the month they serve. They may be assigned as a kindergarten or first-grade classroom helper once a week. Or, they may be assigned as a hallway bus monitor to make sure children get safely to their buses at the end of the day.
“The staff in the building have been creative in establishing jobs for the council,” Hilditch said, adding that the jobs are devised to make students feel like an important agent of change within their school community.
Council member Chelsea Sheahan takes her role to heart.
“The teachers say that when you are a student leader you have to take it seriously,” Sheahan said. “When you see someone running in the hall, you feel responsible and tell them to stop.”
Sheahan likes that she’s being included in a meeting.
“If someone has an idea on the council then it could really help the school a lot,” she added.
Her fellow council member, Javian Heartas, identified other aspects he enjoys about the program.
“It’s fun wearing a badge,” he said. “I am hoping people give me more respect as a student leader.”
Hilditch wants each student to learn what strong leadership is all about and for all of them to feel empowered and valued for their opinions, feelings and ideas. She finds her work with the council to be very rewarding.
“I like that I can interact and get to know students in such a positive way through the year,” she said. “It’s been so much fun.”