Scappoose, St. Helens high schools' leadership steps up
The 2019-20 school year was a year like no other.
With the interruption of classes forced on students by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing shutdown of schools and the onset of virtual learning, students needed leadership more than ever.
At St. Helens and Scappoose high schools, they got it big-time — and they got it from the students themselves.
The Scappoose and St. Helens leadership programs were each honored June 16 as Gold Councils for outstanding achievement by the Oregon Association of Student Councils. Scappoose was also named a Gold Council in each of the past four years before 2019-20.
"This is our fifth year in a row as a Gold Council school so our seniors earned this award all four of their years in leadership," said Courtney Scott, Activities Director at Scappoose High School. "This year is particularly rewarding to receive the honor (since) our year got cut short."
"I am beyond happy that we received such a high honor based upon our high standards," said St. Helens Associated Student Body President Isaac VanHook. "We had ups and downs, but it was the dedication that finally paid off."
"We had no idea 'til we began filling out the application in February that we stood a chance of reaching gold this year," said Noelle Freshner, Activities and Leadership Director at SHHS. "I am so proud of our students for their hard work and dedication to their school's climate and culture, not only when we were in the building, but since school closed. They really do deserve this award."
St. Helens and Scappoose high schools are among 25 middle and high schools recognized this year as high-achieving leadership programs by the OASC. According to the OASC website, the Student Council/Leadership Recognition Program has a three-fold purpose: 1) To be a goal-setting and planning tool for advisers and student leaders as they plan their year. 2) To be used as an evaluative tool throughout the year (helping councils see what they've accomplished and stay focused on their goals); and 3) A method to allow OASC to effectively recognize member schools within the state.
Councils began by setting goals in the fall, then worked throughout the year to achieve them. In order to receive the award, the OASC wrote, councils must be involved in community service, activities that promote school spirit and pride, sportsmanship, unity, recognition and involvement in leadership training.
"Student leaders have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact on the culture and climate of their school, and the academic success of their student body by the activities they sponsor," said Sara Nilles, Executive Director for the OASC, which serves middle and high school student councils around the state and is a department within the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators.
Over the course of the year — and especially once in-person learning was shut down — St. Helens' leadership really focused on communication and staying connected.
"I am proud of our advocacy and determination to be heard by our administration," VanHook said, giving thanks to Freshner for her role. "I am also very proud of our improved communication with our student body. … We hosted spirit weeks virtually and really made an effort to reach out. (And) our amazing staff … has continuously reached out during this pandemic."
"The application required attending and facilitating a lot of events and activities during the year, from our typical assemblies and dances, to conferences and community outreach," Freshner said.
At Scappoose, Scott credited her young leaders with working through the challenges of online elections, virtual assemblies, its annual Veterans' Breakfast, the Holiday Party for children in foster care, its Doernbecher Days fundraisers and the school's virtual graduation.
"Overall, I am so proud of our leaders for earning this honor and continuing to showcase the high caliber of SHS leadership," Scott said. "I also think a huge achievement this year was continuing to stay motivated for our school after March 13. We had Zoom meetings weekly and our leaders continued working hard for the school.
"They are just great kids who are honestly always looking for ways to improve the school and community."
For a full list of recipients visit oasc.org/?page_id=433
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.