Freshman Leven Greene joined the St. Martin’s Episcopal School community at the beginning of the school year in August. Three months later, she is still unaware of the vital role Student Council (STUCO) plays in student life at St. Martin’s.
“I have no idea (what they do),” Greene said. “I think they might organize things like fundraisers or pep rallies.”
She is not the only student confused about the purpose of the upper school Student Council. Recently, Freshman Gavin Sperandeo received an odd request from Student Council. “They asked me to shave my head, and that’s all that I know,” Sperandeo said. Although Sperandeo was told he should shave his head to help raise money for a charity, he had no idea what purpose sacrificing his locks would serve. He also had no idea what charity Student Council was supporting. Even Senior Caitlin Bagnetto, who has a better grasp on Student Council’s objectives, still feels she is largely unaware of the council’s purpose. “I don’t really know (what they do),” Bagnetto said. “I think they organize events that enable the students to partake in school spirit activities.” Little do these students know, Student Council embodies the St. Martin’s motto of faith, scholarship, and service. It emphasizes student leadership, spearheading the student-led initiative, which is valuable for progress in the community and for communication between students and faculty at St. Martin’s. “Student Council is comprised of students from all four grade levels in the upper school who seek out the opportunities to make school life better for the community as a whole by running assembly, overseeing Homecoming, helping out with STUCO week in the spring, and trying to make high school as much fun as possible with different dress days and other different activities” said Upper School Student Council Advisor Peter Adair. Adair graduated from St. Martin’s in 1998. When he attended the school, student leadership was not a priority. Today’s upper school depends much more on student involvement, according to Adair. “I typically let (Student Council President) Maansi Solanky, our Student Council president, and other members of STUCO make the important decisions,” Adair said. “I try to be as hands-off as possible.” Solanky embraces her leadership responsibilities readily. She believes that it is important to have a body of students to represent their peers and that the student-led aspect of the upper school increases the need for these representatives. “St. Martin’s upper school has always prided itself in being a student-led high school,” Solanky said. “I think one of the most important ways St. Martin’s is able to uphold that is through the Student Council. The Student Council is in charge of so many things that the upper school does.” Faith, scholarship, and service guide Student Council, according to both Adair and Solanky. Representatives uphold these three pillars of St. Martin’s on daily basis, which is no easy task. Members’ responsibilities are ongoing and impact not only St. Martin’s but the surrounding area as well. “One thing Student Council really does put an emphasis on is service,” Solanky said. “We participate in a lot of service-related things, like Slam ‘N’ Jam, which is a Student Council-based organization throughout the Greater New Orleans Area, and the Jackson Day Race.” Faith gives the service that Student Council representatives carry out meaning, according to Adair. Devotion to service is of the utmost importance. “When we have the Homecoming Dance in a few weeks, they will take time out of their day to decorate the dining hall before anybody even gets there,” Adair said. “It’s a matter of faith in believing that what you’re doing makes a difference.”
Student Council representatives are not exempt from the rigor of St. Martin’s curriculum, however. They often have more responsibilities than the average student, which makes their role in upper school life even more admirable. “Scholarship-wise, the time they spend in these meetings and other activities takes away from their academic studies,” Adair said. “They clearly have a desire to serve, and they want to make sure they are able to.” Student Council representatives attend weekly meetings, raise money for charities, organize Homecoming in the fall, and spend countless hours over a period of months creating decorations for STUCO Week in April. “There’s constantly something Student Council is doing to try to get everyone involved and make student life at St. Martin’s more than just (about) academics,” Solanky said. Student Council is vital to St. Martin’s because it gives students input into the everyday life of the upper school, according to Adair. “Without it, (there) would be a top-down decision-making process, rather than having the students put their input in at the beginning and drive their decisions all the way through until the end,” Adair said. Ultimately, Student Council strives to engage students through its events, like Homecoming or STUCO Week, dress-up days, and fundraising. All year long, Student Council representatives work hard to boost school spirit and enhance the quality of life in the upper school. “Student Council is definitely a huge part of student life at St. Martin’s because Student Council is always planning events or doing spirit days,” Solanky said. “We’re constantly doing something to try to engage the student body and (to) try to connect faculty with students. It’s certainly important because (we) are that one body of representatives that can do all kinds of different things. We are working for the entire upper school.”