For those who don’t fit in, the high school years can be a difficult time with little chance of a Hollywood ending.
To make life better for teens, local student leaders are working together to create a supportive school community.
“ If students felt more at home at school they would feel more confident in themselves and want to go to school,” said 16- year- old Alex Rangel, a member of the Associated Student Body at Thousand Oaks High School. “We need to talk to other students and lift up their spirits because we realize how it feels to feel left out.”
Student support was the call to action at the “It’s Up 2 U” leadership conference for ASB members from Oxnard Union High School District and Thousand Oaks High School.
More than 100 students gathered at Adolfo Camarillo High School on Sept. 16 to discuss how best to find common ground between the various cliques that make up a high school’s social sets.
Guest speaker Richard Parkhouse, the western director of educator services for Jostens, a Minnesota-based company that distributes school memorabilia, spoke about reaching out to fellow students.
He emphasized that youths in student government have the power to change lives because they’re often the most outgoing and well- known students on campus.
“We’re trying to get (student leaders) to understand how important they are,” Parkhouse said. “It’s not about them, it’s about others. They can affect dropout and graduation rates. We’re giving them a purpose to be a leader.”
Parkhouse said nearly half of all high school students feel bullied and don’t feel part of their school community.
McKeghan Tackett, ACHS student president, said his high school’s large enrollment of 2,508 students can cause distance between classmates.
“ We’re going to have the school leaders step up to action,” said 17-year-old McKeghan.
“It’s just about going up to someone who is by themselves and talking to them and inviting them to do something after school.”
Parkhouse told the students that those campus bonds would grow with school involvement.
Students worked in small groups to discuss the best ways of promoting campus involvement.
Sessions focused on rallies, state standards tests, spirit publicity, lunch activities, technology, dances, social issues and recognition for staff, students and athletes.
“We’re trying to get the kids to collaborate and be individual leaders,” said Julie Riedmiller, the event organizer and student body adviser at ACHS.
“We want our kids to learn from other kids.”
Esmeralda Maldonodo, 17, is the ASB secretary at Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Charter High School in Camarillo.
There’s a lot of opportunity at the school because it’s only one year old, she said, yet there is also nothing established, and few students are involved on the 221-student campus.
She said the small groups at the leadership conference were very helpful because they helped her find out what activities were successful at other schools.
Parkhouse said the first leadership conference was a success and hopes it can be an annual event. He’s eager to see how students will be creative on their own campuses to spark student involvement and a feeling of community.
“The cool thing about this generation is they are cause-driven,” Parkhouse said.
“We have to create these situations to help them be confident so they can do incredible things. You have to give them an opportunity to be amazing.”