Year in review: Student government teaches how to make change

The Colonial Student Government has been around for many years. But did you ever wonder how it got started and why? Who was the first student government president of Colonial School?

Colonial School has a very fun, successful and organized student government. Colonial’s government organizes assemblies and special events for the school. The student government started about ten years ago.

Mr. John Griffiths, former fifth grade teacher at Siwanoy School, had started a student government at Siwanoy. Mr. Gerard Finelli, the former principal at Colonial School, thought it would be a good idea for Colonial to have its own student government. Mr. Griffiths came to teach Colonial teachers and students all the rules and regulations involved in a student government.

A group of four teachers volunteered to help out with the government: Mrs. Karen Cirillo (a  teacher who is now at Prospect Hill), Mrs. Tonya Wilson (when she was a fourth grade teacher), Mrs. Kim Norman and Mrs. Claire Cavalli. The first Colonial School president was Robert Pellow, who is now in college.

Mrs. Cirillo left and Mrs. Wilson stopped doing it too. A few years later, Mrs. Cavalli decided not to continue because she said Mrs. Norman was so good at it.

Now Mr. Alexander Ventura, a fifth grade teacher, helps Mrs. Norman with the Colonial Student Government, and they work as a team with students to accomplish goals and many other things.

“The most challenging thing in the student government is probably taking all the money the students have collected for Pennies for Patients and bringing it to the bank,” Mr. Ventura said. “It takes about four hours.”

For the past few years, the goal of the government has been to give back to the community. One example of this is Pennies for Patients. When Colonial does this, we are helping our community to become a better place than it already is and to help people that struggle. The other Pelham schools also do Pennies for Patients.

Other student government goals are activating students’ voices and working on what students want to change in their school.

“It feels great, it’s an honor and a good job to be president of the school,” said President Henry Driesen (5V). “Coming up with new ideas makes the school a better place than it already is.”

Julia Rosenberg is a fourth grader in 4C and a class representative along with Rishi Basu. Her job is to go to all the meetings and decide on projects for the school.

“I like the idea of having my classmates suggest ideas and then sharing them with the rest of the government and agree or disagree,” Julia said. “It feels special to be in a small group that not many people can participate in, and it also feels like I’m in the executive branch.”

Julia’s favorite project was introducing Kindergartners to the school. She also said everyone in the government is nice, and they are able to agree on many things as well as disagree.

Mrs. Norman enjoys her job as student government advisor and takes it as a big responsibility. “Children need to learn to be part of a government, how to affect change and to be a voice,” she said. “It’s fun, and it keeps you busy.”

Mrs. Norman is also grateful that there are students who are willing to be part of the elections. The competitors for elected jobs must understand that they will be the officials of the school. She said she has no favorites or preferences among the people who run. The results are never disappointing, and she has never disagreed with the elections.

Vice President Maggie Solimine (5G) said “my favorite part is being able to make changes that our school really needs. My job as vice president is both easy and hard. My responsibilities are  a little different from the others too.”

The challenge in student government is getting students to make decisions and to work together. It is a very slow process, according to Mrs. Norman. In the student government she has to teach kids to be role models.

Mrs. Norman said Spirit Days were fun to do. Spirit Days are special events the student government organizes that give students a break from learning and let them have some fun with their friends. The students vote on the theme, and the results are revealed. Some spirit days include Pajama Day, Crazy Hair Day, Game Day and Beach Day. Another student government project is walking to school on Earth Day.

“I felt special when the whole class voted for me,” said Second Vice President Claudia Dodge (5-Gold). “I can finally be in the executive branch, and it feels like I’ve accomplished something important.”

As the year comes to an end, so does student government for the fifth grader leaders. But the fourth grade students are ready to take over and do these important projects. And, I hope, the fifth grade students will continue working in the student government in Pelham Middle School.

Hmmm… I wonder who will be the next Colonial Student Government president? We’ll just have to wait until the fall for the elections to find out. Stay tuned.

(This story was originally published in the printed year-in-review edition of the Colonial Times.)