What exactly goes on within the student government?

Weston Liang

Staff Writer

     Most, if not all high schools have some sort of student government. American High is no exception. Here at American High, we have ASB, Class Council, and Leadership. Together they all form American’s student government that achieves their own goals, as well as the goals of the school. But what exactly is the goal of student government and why do students run for them in the first place? Many students in American High are more or less unaware of what actually goes on within student government. Some may think that it’s all just a popularity contest, while others may think that they all want to seize control of something. These blurry lines can cause considerable confusion between those who and are not in student government.

     To run for a position, a student needs to find a reason first. No one just runs for a government position without a proper reason. Benjamin Tarver (11), Student Council Senator for the class of 2021, has one.

     “I decided to run for senator because I wanted to assume a greater leadership role in our class, as I believe I can practically apply my leadership abilities to help my class thrive during our last year of high school. After all of these years of getting to know my classmates… I wanted to do something to help give back for all the help I’ve received these past few years,” answered Tarver.

     Giving back to the community is a reason for many Student Council members. Tarver ran for exactly that reason. The job of Student Council Senator, according to Tarver, is to oversee Student Council and help organize events such as Spirit Week, class socials, and other events. Due to these jobs, a Senator needs a strong work ethic, good communication skills, critical thinking skills, and flexibility, among other traits. However, all of this leadership for the role of Senator may sound like it all belongs to the Class President to some people. Our Class President should clear up a bit of the confusion.

     “The Senators still have more or less the same jobs as the president, but they do not have as much responsibility or are not as expected to do as much as the President or VP. However I do not want to discredit the Senators, since all it is just a label and the four of us all work together,” said Class President Nicole Lai (11).

     It seems clear that the titles of the Student Council positions are much less hierarchy-based than some may think. Instead of the “one overules one below” system, the members of Student Council all more or less work together, although each position may have more responsibility for specific events and actions. This system does add in the efficiency of making the work environment much less competitive and much more cooperative. It seems to compel the students to work together rather than work against each other.

     But as a whole, student government is usually either misunderstood of its purpose, or just straight up unknown of it at all. Unless someone actually goes out of their way to investigate, they will most likely be unaware of what truly goes on. This sense of unknowing starts to culminate with a lot of prejudice assumptions.

     “I’ve heard people say that elections are just a ‘popularity contest.’ However, this really is not the case as the council is genuinely passionate about ensuring our class members can have a fulfilling school year,” explained 2021 Senator Veda Periwal (11).

     Calling the student government a popularity contest is one of the assumptions that some students might make. To someone who has no knowledge of the positions, it may seem like it is a popularity contest. Non-council members who do not know the inner workings may assume that nothing really happens and that one’s title of President, Vice President, Senator, etc. is nothing more than to just make your college resume look better. It turns out that one must have a lot more than just wanting to get a better resume.

     “Make sure you actually want to do it! You may regret it if the only reason you want to do it is because you think it’ll look good on college apps. Student council is a big time commitment and it requires a lot of passion and dedication… It’s an incredible opportunity to serve the school and you also learn a lot about yourself in the process,” advised ASB Secretary Bella Jiang.

     Having a mindset of “I’m joining because I want to get involved” versus a mindset of “I’m joining because I want to look cool” can make the difference of whether you enjoy the position or absolutely hate it, assuming you are actually elected at all. You will want to run for a position with plans in mind. What do you plan to bring to the table? It does not matter if you are running for Class Council, ASB, or Leadership. You will need to be prepared for the work commitment. A part of that commitment involves being able to hold onto the virtues and ideals that student government holds.

     “We embody the virtues and ideals we seek to promote. This means that we actively promote class spirit and participate in our events in order to encourage our peers to do the same. We also do our best to look out for our fellow classmates and ensure that their voices are heard when we are planning and organizing events. We can’t function as a student council if there’s a disconnect between us and our class,” answered Senator Tarver.

     Considering this, it is clear that to be an executive, you will need a considerable amount of school spirit. This includes a high amount of participation. Why help host all of these events when you are not even going to attend them? Not to mention that a lack of school spirit can end up leading to the suggestions of potentially lackluster events. All because someone lacked school spirit and/or student relatability. 

     Relatability is especially important in this case. The name of “Student Government” says it all. There is always the unpleasant stereotype of the “school staff that tries to look cool.” A school government run by students is probably the best way to avoid pushing that unpleasant stereotype.

     “I’ve heard from various people that Spirit Week is the one week that people actually like coming to school and that’s because of the effort of student government students and other involved students who want to give their class something to be proud of,” answered 2020 Class Senator Shreya Patil (11).

     Spirit Week is probably American High’s most anticipated event for many students. Thus, in order to keep that anticipation up, the Student Council must make sure to keep up the effort to make every year’s Spirit Week enjoyable to all. There is the risk that one bad Spirit Week can dampen the school’s spirit considerably. 

“I love being able to see how our hard work and time translates to incredible events and decor. It is very fulfilling to see how we can improve someone’s day, even if it’s just a smile!” stated ASB Treasurer Divya Kunisetty (12) on the importance of the student government. A notable example is the massively popular Spirit Week.

 All of this goes back to putting in the commitment as a Student Council member. Especially someone like Senator Tarver, who stated that he wishes to give back to the community. How has he accomplished this?

     “I have worked alongside class executives to organize events such as the Sophomore year Halloween Social, our Class Banquet, our past two Spirit Weeks, Springfest, and other related council events. As a member of Leadership class, I have played a role in planning and executing coin drives, Love Eagles Week, Winter Week, and other Leadership class events,” responded Senator Tarver on the influences that the student government has on the school. 

“We are currently working with each other over Facebook Messenger and Zoom. Whenever we need to hold active discussions where everyone is involved and contributing their ideas, we hold meetings over Zoom, but when we are just doing general organizational work and stuff that does not require active back-and-forth discussion, we use Messenger,” explained Tarver on communication forms during these trying times. This shows how persistent the student government is, no matter the situation at hand.

All of this is to help make the school a better environment for the students. Due to the generally work-heavy environment that high schools have, many of the events held by the student governments can seem to help. Senator Tarver believes that these events can act as a destresser, saying how it’s “really easy to get swamped with school work and extra-curricular activities at American and forget to have fun and interact meaningfully with your friends once in a while.” 

     All of the work that a Student Council Senator has to do seems to be quite the large load and probably really taxing. Due to Senator Tarver being the 2021 Senator, he has yet to do a considerable amount with the position he is elected. However, he still does quite a sum of work with the Student Council and Leadership. 

     “Benjamin is one of the most dedicated and passionate people I know. In leadership, he is always finding ways to actively help no matter the circumstances. I also admire his sense of responsibility as he works hard to accomplish what he thinks he needs to,” answered 2021 Class President Jeffrey Wei (11). What about the opinion of an ASB member? Is the opinion of the other party any different?

     “Ben is one of the most rational students I have worked with in Leadership. There’s a joke in our class that Ben and I like to have these extremely long conversations about political philosophy, which is true, but these conversations have allowed me to understand the way Ben thinks and operates… Ben is more open, conversational, and versatile in the way he handles a variety of viewpoints,” stated ASB Vice President Rishabh Shastry (12).

     It would be an understatement to say that Senator Tarver is just competent. He is admired by many and always does what needs to be done. It can even be stated that Benjamin Tarver is the shining example of what it means to be a student of spirit.

“It is my duty to represent the interests and the will of the people, and I think that I set a model of being spirited and promoting unity among our fellows,” stated Senator Tarver on the model that he sets for being a leader. 

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