WHS students take leadership to legislative level
Six Westfield High School students are leading by example to unite their school. WHS’s Executive Committee, a first-year committee, has already reinstated pep rallies back into their school.
Thirteen students were nominated by teachers last year to start a leadership committee that would represent the student body, and a have a legislative voice in the Westfield community.
WHS banned pep rallies two years ago after animosity between seniors and freshmen forced administrators to eliminate the traditional school-spirit event altogether.
During the committee’s first months, WHS junior Nathan Manworren said committee members discussed the goals they wanted to set and how they wanted to achieve them.
“We decided we want to unify the school. We’re a premiere school with athletics and grades, and we want the school to have that same premiere atmosphere,” Manworren said. “When we talked about how we were going to create unity,the first thing that popped in our minds was a pep rally. It unites athletics, academics and all the classes.”
WHS junior Jacob Tebbe said reinstating pep rallies was their first goal, but they had to change students’ perspectives toward eachother.
“We lead by example to take pride in our school, and once we were able to relay that message, it permeated throughout the school,” Tebbe said. “We had the opportunity to show what pep rallies can do for a school and restored the trust from our administrators.”
Mark Ewing, WHS social studies teacher, said the students’ ambition and success in unifying classes led to an opportunity that would help the committee achieve the goal of bringing school spirit back into the school’s gymnasiums.
“At the beginning of the year, all the class seniors met. We were able to get 15 minutes prior to the senior meeting as a trial-run type of pep rally,” Ewing said. “The rally showed the kids that these are the kinds of things we can do if we set positive examples, if you – as upperclassmen –serve as leaders to underclassmen, these are the cool things you can accomplish.”
Manworren said the trial run was the foundation for achieving the final step of restoring the administrators’ trust in the students to reinstate pep rallies.
“We got the message across and students know what’sexpected of them. We showed Dr. McGuire (WHS principal) students are choosing to stay for bonus period when they could just go home,” Tebbe said. “The students saw how fun the senior rally was, and they learned if they act maturely, we can have them back and not ruin it for everyone else.”
WHS just celebrated its third pep rally for the school year at Friday’s winter homecoming, where families and kids tailgated at the multi-purpose instructional facility with live music, food and face painting.
“These kids have done a great job in conveying the message of, if you want to make this a memorable senior year, you have to show them,” Ewing said. “They really took student initiative.”
Cook said he’d like the students to sponsor a piece of legislation, get a council member to sponsor it, get involved in writing it, do the research needed to be done and poll the community to see what residents want.
“A possibility for this group could be a texting-while-driving ordinance, a piece of legislation that is of benefit to the city,” Cook said. “They want to learn how local government works and arrive at a relative proposal that would be the subject, and debate on what kind of texting-while-driving ordinance the community needs.”
Westfield City Spokesperson Carrie Cason said the students’ hands-on involvement is a progressive way to get citizens of all ages engaged in local government.
“The students would be their own committee, just like City Council members writing legislation. They’re the ones that will be presenting to the public and the Council,” Cason said. “It’s a process we want to do as soon as possible, and we plan to have it up and running during this school year.”
Ewing said the school had a fantastic fall season in regard to attendance, number of referrals to the principal’s office and general school atmosphere.
Now, the students want to apply that initiative to local government, and Mayor Andy Cook introduced his support to implement their ideas during last week’s city council meeting.
“These students are interested in how they can be part of local government. They want to know how it works, and for some, it could lead to a career,” Cook said.
Tebbesaid the committee has already contributed to government events such as Westfield in Bloom. Now they want to see how they can make a difference in legislation.
“There’s not a lot of youth voice in legislation. We want to see that whole part of how local government works; a chance to stick our nose in the door and make a difference,” Tebbe said.
Ewing said the students came up with the idea to add a stoplight at Indiana 31 and Hoover Street, and has made it their first priority. He said their awareness for student and community safetywill make them a valuable asset in the governmental process.
“These kids recognize the danger. They know we have a lot of inexperienced drivers leaving school and traveling on a road that has semi-trucks barreling through it,” Ewing said. “It’s really cool they immediately took an interest in the safety of basically the entire school.”
By Lindsay Eckert
Lindsay is the managing editor of Current in Westfield.