Shift in class elections for freshmen


Alexarae Charpentier

Freshmen students interested in being a part of their class leadership look over a Class of 2022 fundraising sheet. This is the second year of a freshman leadership group intended to groom and prepare students to serve in and with class officers.

Alexarae Charpentier, Contributing writer

Class elections are the back bone of student life in high school-but what does it mean for potential class officer candidates when that well-known form changes? Students are used to the annual assembly where they pack into the auditorium and listen to classmates read off self-laudatory – and sometimes absurd speeches – while the sounds of laughter and the shuffle of ballot papers echoes throughout the room. However, with the entry of a new principal to Lewis S. Mills High School in 2016, modifications to the classic formula were on the horizon. After looking at other revised forms of student government in schools around the country, Principal Chris Rau, took action, implementing a freshman leadership council and adjustments to election timing into the class of 2020.

“I began to look at the history of class officers and elections,” Rau said. “They usually elected freshmen officers [in the fall], so when I looked at it [I saw] a group of students that had never been in high school and I was concerned about class elections.”

Alexarae Charpentier
French teacher and class of 2022 advisor Theresa Gaffny reviews an order form for the Class of 2022 apparel sales fundraiser. Fund raising is a big part of what class officers do to raise money to reduce the cost of future events, like a senior trip and prom.

Amid the administration’s concerns, and a bit of controversy surrounding students placed in a position of power in a brand new environment and the relatively lax rules of the previous classes’ election form, the leadership council has generally been met with favorable feedback from both advisors and students in the past two years. The council serves as large trial run for advisors, starting at the beginning of the school year and ending with elections in the spring. As described by class of 2022 advisor, Theresa Gaffny, “rather than just going into elections, [the advisors] have an opportunity to gage who’s making the commitment or who’s just standing on the sidelines. When it’s time for elections, we can really see if this person would be great to fill a position.”

It plays a similar role for students.

“It definitely helps you understand what the job’s about,” says class of 2021 vice president, James Watson, “[however] it’s not the best preparation after leaving the council; your advisors don’t help as much and you need to make sure you assert yourself to get fundraising done.”

Despite downsides, the overall preparedness of student leaders when it comes to handling their fundraising and leadership responsibilities has strengthened after this experience, several faculty and students concurred. With the council opening its doors to all students interested in class leadership, it allows for better communication and more student involvement.

Class of 2021 advisor Mr. Zachary Vitali stated “[even if] students don’t [initially] have positions, they can still have their voices heard and have a role in the class without bearing the responsibility of an assigned position.”

Multiple advisors emphasized that the large base of students was a valuable asset to have in all aspects of student government. Class of 2020 advisor and guidance counselor Joseph Trahan, said “there were so many good people helping out and some would disappear after freshman leadership council [ended]. Keeping a larger team gives the class more involvement and organization.”

Finally, it allows the elections to be taken more seriously than they had been previously. As described by class of 2019 president Nicholas Benvenuto, “sometimes people don’t take [the elections] as seriously as they should, whether it be from the candidate who runs for office or the voters who cast a ballot. They should think more about their intentions behind voting and running.”

To ensure the candidates and votes were dedicated to fulfilling  the responsibilities of elected office, Rau “required future officers to participate [in the council] freshman year,” making the council a prerequisite to becoming an officer for student government. Though the change began as something abrupt and controversial, it has been met warmly by the majority of the school community, allowing for smooth adjustment for future officers and advisors freshman year, offering an expanded role of student government as a whole and ensuring candidates are dedicated to what may amount to a four-year commitment.