Sitting in the Westcliff Elementary auditorium during an after-school meeting, students discussed what it means to be a Student Council officer.
Helping others and learning to be a leader were the most popular responses from the second through fifth graders, led by sponsor Suzanne Renfrow.
“This is a service-oriented leadership organization,” said Renfrow, who also serves as Westcliff’s guidance counselor.
The Student Council put motion to their mission of service on April 8, filling gift bags for patients at Cook Children’s Hospital. Thirteen students filled 92 bags with toys that they chose themselves from catalogs Renfrow provided.
“[The students] chose things they thought would be appropriate for someone bedridden with health challenges,” Renfrow said.
The Student Council president, fifth grader Dan Heo, organized an assembly line. The students then meticulously filled their bags, finishing them off with colorful tissue paper. They were inspected by a “quality control manager,” and then set aside to be carefully counted.
The Student Council voted to hold a “dress-out day,” to fund their project for Cook’s, in which Westcliff students paid to wear clothes other than their uniform to school. The project raised $311.
According to Westcliff principal Sara Gillaspie, one of the strengths of the school’s Student Council program is the amount of leadership freedom that is granted to the elected officers.
“Sponsors allow [the students] to do projects that they have a heart for,” Gillaspie said. “They use the kids’ ideas and run with them.”
Gillaspie said the program requires what she considers to be an important balance between voice and service.
“We don’t just give them a voice,” she said, “Its coupled with the understanding and compassion for others that makes it a very impactful voice.”