Yankton High School’s new student body president seeks better communication between administrators and students, and encourages all students to get involved in their school and school council.
Junior Weston Schwartz, 17, is the new student body president at Yankton High School. His term began this month and will run through December.
These days Schwartz is very involved in theater. Schwartz recently appeared in a production of Neil Simon’s “Fools” and is currently involved in a one-act play to be presented later this month.
Schwartz took some time out last week to talk to the Press & Dakotan about his goals as student body president.
Tell us about the speech you made to get elected?
My main point I was trying to get across was that I wanted to strengthen the ties of communication between (administration) and the student body, because in these 2 1/2 years that I have been here, there have been a handful of situations where I thought to myself, “You know, I really wish I had a way to talk to somebody about this.”
I feel like, some of these decisions that the (administration) makes or the school board makes, really, they don’t know how it’s affecting us. They see it on paper and they say, “OK, we are going to do this.” They don’t talk to the students first.
How will you try to improve communication between administrators and students?
We have a suggestion box outside the library that was put in place by a former student body president. That was really good on his part, but the downside to it is, once the suggestion is in the box there is no telling when it gets read or what he’s going to do to solve it. My goal is to, at least every other week, read through the box and get back to them. If a student put down a number or their name, let them know, ‘Hey, I read it. Thanks for taking the time to make a suggestion. I am going to do whatever I can to accommodate that.” Or let them know, “I thought about this, there is no way to do it.” But at least get back to them.
What will you do with the suggestions?
“I have a scheduled talk with Dr. (Jennifer) Jonke once a month, where I tell her what’s going on. So if there’s a big suggestion, like, “Hey, let’s get a vending machine in the Commons.” I’ll talk to Jonke about it, “Is this a possibility, if so, who else should I talk to, to further this, to get it done?”
In what types of decisions would the students want input?
I think a big one was the 2018 Gong Show. For as long as I can remember, my high school career and my sister’s high school career, on homecoming the Gong Show is at the end of the day. It’s a shorter day, and the goal of (the Gong Show) was to get the students riled up, like a pep rally, but more fun. So right when the Gong Show is over, we get to go home, go to the parade and get ready for homecoming.
This year, we had (the Gong Show) right at the beginning of the day, right in the morning and then went to class. We were all riled up and we had to sit in desks for two more hours. Not only did the students not like that, but I talked to some of the teachers and they were against it because it affected their planning a lot more. Before, it was like, “Alright, I just have to plan until 12 o’clock, we are going to have lunch and go to the Gong Show.” Because of this new schedule they had to guess, “OK, it might get over at 10 or it might get over at 11, so, I am going to try to fit all of my seven periods in this times lot, but if it goes over we are out just out of luck.”
That is something I would like to talk to Jonke about. If I am not able to change it, I would at least like to know the reason behind it so I can tell the student body and the faculty, “This is the reason why.”
Do you have any other message for your fellow students?
It is not nerdy or weird to get involved. I found it to be, as a personal experience, not only are you more accountable, but you branch out and find more people and discover who you are. That’s pretty cliche, but for someone like me, when I started high school, I was a nothing. Then last year, I started student council; now this year, I am in theater, student council, I’m the president, so it just kind of branches off. I feel more whole, rather than just doing school, coming home and maybe going to work.
Take advantage of high school. Not just in extracurricular activities, but in the things that you take on at school, like student council. If you really want to make a difference, student council is a great place to go. If you are too nervous to go, talk to one of the officers. The other officers aren’t too well known, but they can always come up to me in the hall and say, “Hey, Wes, I have a question,” and I’ll say, “Hey, I have an answer.”