President Daniel Melendez Jourdan, Vice President Gabriella Pinto and Treasurer Jayden Sharper were inducted Feb. 25 into the first Centerville Elementary School (CES) Student Government Association (SGA). Also inducted but not able to attend the ceremony was Elise Faulkner, CES SGA secretary.
Urbana High School SGA Board members and their advisor, Matthew Ferrante, inducted the inaugural CES SGA, comprised entirely of fifth graders. CES Principal Tracy Hilliard, Mr. Ferrante and UHS Principal David Kehne spoke at the afternoon
ceremony attended by the fifth-grade class, parents and teachers.
Principal Hilliard thanked “our wonderful fifth graders. It has been a long process … and you did a fabulous job of helping each other and we are so proud of each and every one of you.”
Nine students who campaigned but were not voted into office are now CES ambassadors. These students “play a very important role in our student government here at Centerville” by greeting school visitors and assisting at events, she said.
Mr. Ferrante commended the students on starting the SGA at Centerville and told them that now, like the UHS SGA, they are “the voice of the students.”
Principal Kehne noted that Centerville “is a phenomenal school (that) earned a National Blue Ribbon” and said, “This is my first time visiting an elementary school that started an SGA.”
CES SGA voting was held two days after the General Election in November, Mrs. Hillard said. The cafeteria was set up for voting. Students went in five at a time, used their own computers and voted via a Google Docs form. They then went to SGA co-advisor Susan Welch to get their “I Voted” sticker.
“We tried to do it just like a real election where they were voting in private,” Mrs. Welch said.
“We said, ‘Vote not just for your friend but for who would do a great job,’ and I think they picked some great leaders,” Mrs. Hilliard said.
The school began planning for its SGA at the end of last year, following Mrs. Hilliard’s National Distinguished Principal Award from the Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals (MAESP). MAESP promotes SGAs, which are uncommon at the elementary level, “so we figured this year would be our way to get in, figure it out,” Mrs. Hilliard said.
Students were given clear parameters for campaigning. They first filled out an application, telling how they help their community and how they would help Centerville Elementary if elected, complete with a parent signature and two teacher references.
Candidates each made seven posters and could not spend more than $15 total on materials. These were all posted in the same area of the school. Campaigning on social media was not permitted. “Fifty-one students came out,” Mrs. Hilliard said. “We narrowed this down to 13 who entered the race.” Campaigning culminated in a speech delivered right before voting.
“They worked hard. They took it very seriously,” Mrs. Hilliard said.
And they wanted to help their school.
“I wanted to leave a legacy at the school,” said President Melendez Jourdan. “I wanted to make Centerville a great school. I wanted to help the teachers and the principal out.”
“I just wanted to help the school,” said Vice President Pinto. “I mean, it’s already great so I just wanted to make it better for the students … and make sure they have a voice in the school, too.”
“I wanted kids to have someone to look up to besides staff,” said Treasurer Sharper. “Ever since I was in kindergarten I’ve always looked up to staff … but there’s some things staff do that kids don’t and kids understand what kids are like.”