If there’s one thing every member of the Dorsey Attendance Center’s student council can agree upon, it’s that it’s been a good year.
In the waning days of the school year, the group of 10 middle school and junior high students has, by and large, put a cap on its projects for the year, but not before earning statewide recognition at the Mississippi Association of Student Councils’ annual conference.
The group’s biggest project of the year, a food pantry created with the goal of putting food in the homes of local students in need, was named the MASC’s Outstanding Project of the Year for middle and junior high schools; Lia Darracott, the group’s chaplain, was named Council Member of the Year for that same division; and the group’s sponsor, Emily Comer, was awarded Outstanding Advisor of the Year for middle and junior high schools.
The brainchild of the group’s current president, Akase’ Franklin, the small food pantry has already done some good. Student council members began pitching the idea to local churches and organizations in January, and quickly amassed a supermarket aisle’s worth of boxed and canned food donations.
Members of the student council have already distributed food once since founding the pantry. They plan for the project to be ongoing, with food being distributed several times each year.
Although the pantry earned the organization a plaque, it was also only one of a long list of accomplishments for the group: They’ve tutored their peers, hosted a teacher appreciation breakfast, held a canned food drive, started a clothing drive, held a fundraising yard sale and passed out suckers during the anti-drug Red Ribbon Week (”Don’t be a dummy,” a note with each sucker read).
The MSASC doles out its prizes based on the accomplishments a student council makes during a year. Councils nominate themselves, basically, applying for the honors by pitching their accomplishments for the year. The MSASC uses these applications to determine their winners for the year.
“You sort of have to toot your own horn, I guess,” Comer explained.
It helps when the group has a lot to toot about. To Comer, who has been sponsoring Dorsey’s student council organization for a half-decade or so, the key to a successful council is a sort of fractured unity, a willingness for the students to work toward a common goal, but without fear of speaking out against ideas they feel might not fully work.
“They will listen to each other and will help each other, but they will also speak up if there’s something they believe needs to be done,” Comer said. The group welcomes ideas from any of its members, votes on the ones they like best and discuss the ways to best implement them.
As sponsor, Comer’s role is to push students in the right direction, or encourage good ideas, but also let them make the final decisions on matters. It’s their council; let them work through some of the big ideas.
“I think you have to give some guidance, but you also have to let students be students,” Comer said. “They see the school on a different level than I do … I have to let them be the hands and feet [of the student council].”
“Mrs. Comer is kind of like our filter,” Lia Darracott explained. “We don’t think about some things. She kind of gives us these ideas, and then we breathe life into them.”
Comer grinned, said she brings logistics to the table, which is bound to be a buzzkill for an enthusiastic group of students.
They seem to like her anyway as Hope Studdard put it, “She’s just awesome … sometimes.”
Comer seems to think the same of them, perhaps without the sarcastic qualifier. As for the council members themselves, they hope they come off as ambassadors of their school, the kind of students their peers aspire to be.
“We try to be inspirational leaders,” said Kendra Blackmon. “Like, guide the younger kids.”
Added Abby Darracott, “Someone everyone can look up to and aspire to be.” Her nine fellow council members seemed to nod in unison.
Make that two things.