“Don’t underestimate your influence as student leaders to bring change
in your schools.”
-Dr. Roberto Padilla, Superintendent of Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NY)
In Spring 2016, Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassadors, from throughout the country were selected to participate in a Youth Engagement Network, where they connected with Superintendents and AASA staff. They learned effective ways to influence decision-makers in school districts on making healthy changes happen in their schools, by communicating their own personal stories.
“My goal, our goal is to support and enhance the health and wellbeing of students and families by improving the school environment, policies, and educational opportunities, explains Student Ambassador Zhela, a 9th grader from Arizona.
“If kids are taught these healthy ways and activities at a young age, then they are more likely to grow with this knowledge and keep up with the healthy ways,” adds Student Ambassador Sydney, an 8th grader from New Hampshire.
As part of this pilot, AASA connected the Student Ambassadors to superintendents for an hour long call. During this call, the superintendents discussed their favorite part of their position—meeting with students, and their least favorite part of their position—the meetings.
The three superintendent participants were Dr. Scott Kizner, Superintendent of Harrisonburg City School District (VA), Dr. Roberto Padilla, Superintendent of Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NY), and Rodney Watson, Superintendent of Spring ISD (TX).
What do superintendents care most about when it comes to students?
The superintendents responded:
Superintendent Rodney Watson: “That we meet all kids’ social, emotional, and academic needs.”
Superintendent Scott Kizner: “That we keep kids safe.”
Superintendent Roberto Padilla: “That all students have access to a robust education, preparing them for like. We take that seriously.”
Furthermore, the superintendents offered advice to the students on how to approach and present an idea to them. Key pieces of advice included:
- Be sure to be objective and not emotional; do not be intimidated.
- Make sure that your information is research-based.
- Idea should be coherent between the presentation and the plan. The need and the idea must match and fill a gap.
- If using Power Point, do not read word for word. Give descriptions so people will understand.
- Do not underestimate your influence as a student leader – use your courage to create solutions
One 8th grade Student Ambassador from Wisconsin, Andrew, shared how his conversation on school wellness went with his superintendent. “[The superintendent] said he actually got a degree as a physical education teacher, so wellness was very important to him,” said Andrew. “[The superintendent] also said he liked the way where our school was going with the events we were doing to improve physical activity. Of course I agreed. He shared a life story of his, how he always loved to be active when he was young.”
To help other students feel comfortable reaching out to school administrators like Superintendents, the Student Ambassadors developed a guide to empower students to make presentations to their school. This guide offers advice on how to overcome obstacles when students tell their story such as picking out main points or avoid freezing up. Read the best practices guide.
Learn more about the Youth Engagement Network through their final report.