AYER/SHIRLEY -- School student councils are known for helping students to develop the knowledge, skills and resources they need to become active, engaged leaders.

At the Ayer-Shirley Regional Middle School, there are 28 members of the student council who are making a difference both within their school and throughout the greater community.

Seventh-grade members of the council Hannah Justice, Laura Cullinan, Allie Cebollero and Jill Farrar said their council organizes food drives, dances and pep rallies and also helps with assemblies and other special events.

In order to be selected for student council, said Justice, students must write at least one paragraph on why they wish to be on the council, what makes a good leader and why they believe they would be good leaders.

Council co-advisers Terri Rollins and Annie Stahl then select the members, with help from principal Rich McGrath.

Although there are high academic and social expectations for student council members, the opportunity to be on student council is open to all students.

"Success looks different for everyone," explained Rollins. "Being a leader is more than grades alone. It is how you conduct yourself and how hard you work for success for those around you. When students fall behind in academics or behavior, we work with them to make better choices and seek the help that they need.

"Once students are selected to be on student council, those who would like to be grade-level representatives tell the council why they would be a good representative. Then the council votes for who each grade level representative will be," she explained.

The ASRMS Student Council plans and works at events that raise money that goes back to the middle school and also helps others.

For example, the council recently held two food drives to support Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry. The October food drive was run in conjunction with the middle school's Halloween Dance, which collected 155 pounds of food and enough money to purchase 10 full turkey dinners, Stahl said.

In November, the council came up with a "Help Us Help Others" food drive for Thanksgiving. The idea the students came up with was to hold a grade-level competition to see which grade gave the most food donations from Nov. 4-21.

"The eighth grade raised an impressive 1,106 canned goods out of the 1,760 total raised," said Stahl. The 1,510 pounds of food raised in all had an estimated value of $2,500.

Between both food drives, in one month's time, the middle school was able to donate $3,000 worth, or 1,900 pounds, of food to Loaves & Fishes.

Spreading School Spirit

When asked why she wanted to join student council, Cebollero replied, "I was on the student council in fourth and fifth grade and liked it."

Justice said that she, too, had served on the council in elementary school, and particularly enjoys working on the dances.

The girls also enjoyed serving breakfast to local veterans the morning of the school's Veterans Day program. Other school council members greeted the veterans as they entered the building and many helped with the recent Saturday Seniors Health Fair held at the school.

The seventh-grade girls were excited during the half-week before Thanksgiving, dubbed Spirit Week by the council. On Monday, students wore sports-related clothes for Sports Fan Day. Tuesday was Fashionably Challenged/Random Day, with students wearing everything from tutus to ties on their glasses, and Wednesday was Panther/Class Day.

To celebrate the latter, students wore the school colors for their grade levels: black for sixth-grade, maroon for seventh, and white for eighth. Principal McGrath said that the sixth- and seventh-graders would keep their school colors throughout their middle school tenure.

Each day of Spirit Week, homeroom teachers counted the number of students that dressed up. The grade level with the most participation at the end of the half-week, in addition to points won at the Wednesday pep rally, was declared the Spirit Week Champion. This time the winner was Grade 8.

The pep rally included games such as balloon soccer, a balancing volleyball relay, and balancing golf balls on spoons. 

"They promote school spirit and the drive to help others," Rollins said of the school's student leaders. "(They also) attend conferences to learn about other ways the student council can be productive in their school and community environment. For instance, nearly all student council members will be attending the 'Stand Up to Bullying' conference in December."

Rollins, who works for the middle school Behavioral Learning Center, said she believes that it is important to impress upon the students to "always try to be part of the change you would like to see in your school.

"Building leadership, diversity, academic achievement, school/community involvement and school spirit are the five goals of the student council, with the purpose of developing future leaders," she said.