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‘It’s nice to know I’m going to leave the high school and all of GISD better than when I got here’



Superintendent's Student Advisory Council gives kids a strong voice


Having a place at the table means a lot to students, especially when it comes to decisions that have a huge influence on their day-to-day lives.


That’s why members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council (SSAC) value being able to weigh in on topics such as dress code and school lunches.


GHS Junior Imani Tednga, a self-proclaimed skeptic by nature, said the experience of being really listened to has been powerful for her and the other students who serve on the council.


“It feels amazing,” she said. “You have a purpose and people who are willing to fulfill that and are willing to make a change with you and work with you.”


The council, which was formed two years ago, meets frequently with GISD Superintendent Dr. Demetrus Liggins to talk through topics and represent their fellow students. It is made up of 20 GHS students with five representing their respective grade levels. At the beginning of every year, they pick a key subject to focus on. Last year’s topic was dress code. After doing their research, the students shared their opinions with Dr. Liggins, who included their findings, along with survey results, in a recommendation to the School Board. The Board approved a more relaxed dress code, which represented real change for all 5,600 GISD students.


“Now we get to wear blue jeans to school,” GHS senior Jackson Woodruff said. “That’s a big deal. That’s really making an impact on my school.  It’s nice to know I’m going to leave the high school and all of GISD better than when I got here.”


This year, the students picked cafeteria food as their focal point. They’ve tasted meals and studied menus offered by various food service vendors. They’ve also talked to students of all ages about their menu preferences.


“It’s very important. Food is a big part of your life,” Senior Marylan Ochoa said with a laugh. “I have four younger sisters, and they know I’m on the council. I don’t even have to ask them. They just tell me.”


Junior Deonna Jackson said serving on the council has allowed her to expand her horizons.


“They picked us as leaders. It makes you feel honored,” she said. “You build relationships with people you didn’t know.”


Dr. Liggins said it’s a joy to work with the students.


"I’m a teacher at heart. I started out as a teacher, and this is like my classroom,” he said. “It gets me to interact with kids, build relationships with them and have a little fun.”


In reflecting on their work, the students said they are hoping that the changes they make will have a lasting legacy. For example, Jackson Woodruff said he feels like great cafeteria offerings will lead to more school spirit, which will lead to championships.  


“If you eat like a champion, you’ll play like a champion,” he said with a broad smile, adding, “Hey, did you get that? That was good. Be sure that makes it in the story!”




Look for a story about the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council in this weekend's Greenville Herald Banner.