ASB leads students in uncertain times

“So much of leadership’s job is based on in-person interaction and the shift to virtual learning has made things quite more challenging.”

by Darby O'Neill, Art Director

One can practically feel it- the bustling halls and hurried exploits of homecoming week, the leadership kids busy at work organizing skits, posters, and decorations. The nervous feeling that comes before giving an important speech at a big assembly. The pressure to set an example as students welcome the incoming freshmen. All the planning and preparation ASB would be working on…completely changed. 

While every single one of us has been drastically affected by the pandemic, we might not often stop and think about those students working behind the scenes. So much of leadership’s job is based on in-person interaction and the shift to virtual learning has made things quite more challenging. 

After Governor Jay Inslee’s recent proclamation that all Seattle Schools will be partially returning to in-person classes in mid-April, the Leadership team has had to face a whole new set of challenges.

They had just started outlining a ton of plans including a virtual video game night, trivia, a club fair, a talent show, a crafting night, and even a pet show. However, they now are rethinking these activities due to the state-wide news. 

“We had these whole other virtual events- lots of really fun ideas that I was really excited about,” said Brit Harris, the group’s advisor. “And then right when we were ready to work, we got the call that we’re coming back, so that kind of changed our trajectory.” 

While scheduling may have thrown off these plans, it may not have canceled them. Harris added that they may still organize these events for the students who don’t choose to come back in person, as the gradual return will not include everyone. 

Currently, the group of ASB representatives has shifted gears to get ready for the big return. Sophomore Cameron Bell said they’ve been planning another personalized project to “make the school feel more like a school again, to make it feel more welcoming and represent each class in a different way.” 

Harris says a lot is dependent on the schedule changes. 

“We’re really just waiting to hear what’s going to happen with the schedule for when we return,” said Harris, getting into the logistics of half-days, full-days, and noting that they should know more about the plan very soon.

A drastic change that the group has also faced has been the responsibility of the morning announcements. “We all work together to produce different videos every week,” said Bell. “At the start of the year, it was fun and then we all started to sort of burn out from making them, and now I feel like they’re less fun. I feel like we get our points across, but it’s definitely hard to keep the momentum going.” 

Bell also added that not many of the representatives were very technologically advanced, adding its own complications. The group seemed to mutually vouch for this draining feeling. 

“Another thing adding to that feeling is we know that the freshmen are benefiting from these, but we hear from the sophomores, juniors, seniors, our classmates, our friends, that they don’t watch them. And so it is hard to put effort into something that you know is only benefitting a few people,” added Jersey Patterson, the current Student Body President. “It’s not a reason to stop, but it can get a little demoralizing hearing from the [students] we actually have contact with are not the ones watching… The freshmen are so disconnected, this is the only way we really communicate with them.”

At first, the videos were made by groups divided by grade level. The group praised Paul Oh,  junior, for his expertise in video editing, and said he carried them for a while. This resulted in a slight division of the junior groups into the rest, “sharing their expertise with others,” said Harris, adding that this caused the creation of new committees for making the videos.  

Harris went on to advocate for the importance of these videos, especially in SAS classes with freshmen. 

“The teachers really appreciated having some common event that happened every day that they knew they could count on,” she said. “They created a little bit of unity for our school- something that we can all connect to. I think being consistent is really important. Even if we don’t have a lot of announcements, as long as people know they can count on it, then it’s there.”

The leadership students had a large learning curve regarding the editing of these videos. Among these new editing goals came the introduction of closed captioning. 

The Shoreline School District recently got a new Speech-Language Pathologist, who promptly suggested closed captions be added to the videos for those who are hearing-impaired. The team got to work learning how to use these closed captioning programs and divvying up the work to add the captions. Previously, Oh had been adding closed captions by hand. Harris said that the captions helped even those without direct hearing troubles. “We will probably continue to run videos like this, it’s a better way to get information across,” she concluded.  

Another existing problem augmented by COVID has to do with freshman students who chose to get involved with leadership. With the removal of the leadership class due to online school, the group has had to find new ways and times to meet. “It’s always hard being an officer when you’re not in the class,” said Harris, who had changed the requirement for officers no longer needing the class. 

“The [students] that are in the leadership class did have a lot of trouble getting in the program, I wished there had been more opportunities to get them involved earlier on in the year,” said junior Ada Franey. “I miss that, having a bit more connection and learning about the new incoming class.”

Harris added another interesting point. “I think it’s really hard this year because we didn’t have homecoming. Getting through that has always been the ‘true initiation’ into the leadership program,” she explained. “They [the freshmen] haven’t had an event to work together for their class and for the school, but they have some great leaders. I think they’re gonna be just fine”

Despite the myriad of hardships the team has had to face, they’re still keeping their heads held high. Patterson added, “We’re not immune to criticism, but we hope people can understand the conditions.” 

Harris continued that she is still in contact with other WESCO schools and gets an advantage that puts their situation in perspective.

 “It’s not an ideal situation for any school, but the fact that people haven’t given up and walked away is huge, and I’m extremely thankful. This crew has taken on every challenge with grace, dignity, positive attitudes, and never given up. They’re constantly open to suggestions and wanting to try new ideas,” Harris concludes. “They’ve persevered in this difficult time that no one was ever prepared for.”