Dutch Lane implements student council
The United States was founded on the principle of democracy, and now Dutch Lane Elementary School in Hicksville is thriving with democracy as well. This past September, as Dutch Lane Principal Janine Rossi began her first year leading the school, students joined the very first student council at the elementary school.
Initiated and led by Rossi, the student council comprises four children from third grade, two children from fourth grade and four children from fifth grade, with two students representing each of the school’s third, fourth and fifth-grade classes. The student representatives were chosen and jumped into action by the first week of November to coincide with Election Day.
The idea to start a student council with the youngsters stemmed from Rossi’s past experience with student council when she was assistant principal in a Baldwin school.
“I said, ‘What do you mean we don’t have a student council [at Dutch Lane]?’ So that was something I immediately wanted to start,” explained Rossi, who hosted Nassau County Executive Laura Curran early in the school year to speak to the student body about her job, government and the importance of giving back to the community. “I used [the visit from Curran] as the kick-off for starting the student council.”
Rossi then gauged students’ interest in having their own student government and interested students presented in front of their classmates the reasons why they would make a good representative, including their important personal qualities and how they want to give back to the school. However, Rossi took great care in explaining to the participating classes that choosing a leader is not about picking the person who is most popular or your best friend, but rather it is about choosing someone who listens to others’ opinions, makes good choices and is not afraid to lead and represent their classmates’ voices.
After Rossi had her 10 student representatives, the fun began. The student council strives to meet every other week during a lunch period or recess, and they discuss current projects, if they need to enlist fellow students to help out with goings-on and, of course, they brainstorm ideas. All the while, Rossi reminds her so-called “little liaisons” that they are now role models for their peers and must take on their new responsibility and behave as such.
Over the course of this year, the student council has run coat, food and toy drives, led a vote for a themed spirit day and collected water bottles to recycle, among other activities.
“At this age, I think it’s important to let [students] know that there are other people out there that could use help, that we’re part of a community and it’s not just about what happens within the walls here at our school,” stated Rossi. “You have to plant the seed at this young age. I really think the most important thing to teach the students here is that they’re kind human beings that want to make the world a better place and that they realize that it takes all of us to improve our community. That’s really what I want them to get out of it.”