Student Council and the Level of Political Engagement

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As a grade nine in high school, I would describe myself as an invisible girl with a big mouth. A description that demonstrates a young, passionate and shy student who wanted to create an impact but couldn’t envision how. With personal restrictions defined, the sovereignty of productivity began with student council applications and the dream that the student council would provide the flexibility to organize events, with access to various supports. The application required mounds of information on past leadership experience, my best qualities, and personal recommendations. In this regard, a student council portrays a similarity to any House of Commons, or political assembly; a group that demands an organization with similar ideals and objectives. In creating both parties and councils, there is an elected leader, in our case, two student-elected leaders who would co-manage our student council. Flowing from this dual leadership model is a series of student council ministries and likewise appointed executives. 

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With my summer volunteering experiences, and a glowing reference from a teacher who had chosen me as an equity and inclusion school representative, they welcomed me as part of the student council. The student council experience was a melange of high-paced work, and ceaseless appeals for recognition and praise. Serving as a coordinator of our Social Justice, they paired me with another girl with big brains and big ideas, a real Vivienne Kensington-meets Paris Geller-esque type who would do anything to make what she wants happen. This proved difficult, as it led to an unspoken rivalry for domination. While motivation and drive run high within select individuals, there is also a diverse variation of interest. It should be noted that all student councils are different, and it is the people who make a specific collective group great.

There is an inhabiting minority that used the student council as a battlefield to gain personal references, build networking opportunities, and insert extracurricular placeholders. That minority is happy to stroll along as background extra weight while others picked up daunting tasks. For others, I have no doubt, student council was where they choose to be because they would and could make a difference; and they often succeeded in doing so. Despite the chaos and mess that often left my brain exhausted, and my heart disappointed, I returned the next year as a social events coordinator. As a returning councillor, privileges were increased and in return, the fight for recognition was raised by the high stakes of graduation. We all wanted to be remembered for the good we did for the school, the effort that was accumulated in charity fundraisers and school socials.

With an abrupt end to student council activities and my own graduation just ahead, my time spent engaging in other aspects of life, student council was an unrealized gift. As an outsider to a complex social ecosystem of moving parts and ambition, student council imposed an intense drive to be better, and to win an undeclared competition to shape a legacy. However, this mostly resulted in exhaustion. I felt a looming underlying lie about student council; it was not a representation of the students, but a representation of how school staff wanted our school to appear. When votes occurred, or opposing opinions raised, certain viewpoints and concerns were derailed and buried. Student council is not a representative body, or a democracy where votes mattered, and that realization led to crumbling disengagement and alienation (Policy Options Canada, 2018). My shyness was a hindrance in my first year, and when I came back the next year with new confidence and a voice that spoke back, it surprised my peers who was expecting a follower. The experience of being a shadow to my co-coordinator in social justice edged me to take charge. To many student council members, there was only one leader of Social Justice Committee, and a secretary. People are often too quick to associate quiet as meekness, or compliance with submission. As a youth, I have always been interested in politics, and law, specifically how countries act and collaborate together to aid each other. With this experience in my repertoire, it has fortified my opinion that if one has a voice, then one must use it. 

The democratic right to vote is a statement of confidence or lack thereof for the policies of a developmenting political platform. Within an open space where political engagement is encouraged through party groups, human rights groups, strikes and organized events that are available to demonstrate beliefs and values (Cross and Young, 2008). This experience has also increased my confidence in attempting to apply for position that require an individual to sell themselves to an audience, such as job interviews and professional meetings. This is a connection to political parties and how they must use their platform and voice to sell themselves to different voter demographics based on policy promises and media stunts. In recent years, Canada has also been victim to the issue of low voter turnout, an issue my school’s student council experienced and attempted to solve (Amanda Bittner,nd ). This voter turnout and participation was explained as the twenty theory. in this theory, it was established that while sixty percent of students had a fifty-fifty chance of attending events, only twenty percent had an enthusiastic outlook on attending school events, while the remaining twenty percent had an extremely negative event, and was not interested in garnering school spirit. Disengagement with student council was explained by the Government of Canada in reference to the student council as “...Having a number of stakeholders as a symptom of perceived under-representation or exclusion from is unanimously held that student councils possess the opportunity to connect with citizenship education” (Government of Canada, 2010). Moreover, these interactions are not stagnant, and admittedly are circumstantial and infrequent, as connections and appeals to represent certain populations mainly occur during the beginning of the year, and during election campaigns.

The rationale of exposing and engaging students in civic engagement through the education curriculum, such as student councils, allows for developing engagement in an organization. Much like human rights groups, and other activist groups, the student council provides an introduction to planning, advertising and representing a specific cross-section of a community. As an active part of a board of trustees, you find the opportunity to work with education sector members such as teachers, school board officials, and Provincial sources allowing for proactive conversations. Partnering with these different gatherings of people exposes the prevalent ideals for policymaking that occur at the school level, and allows for the expansion of ideas beyond a self-imposed social circle. Maintaining this dialogue accompanies its own arrangement of difficulties. As believed by Levitsky, “Compelling correspondence with the understudy body and inside the gathering regularly denotes the line among catastrophe and achievement” (Levitsky, 2018). Regardless, in order to increase significant participation within politics and school, knowledge of how individuals think and what moves them to activity is crucial to garnering support. By engaging you to discover the incentive and motivating forces and stumble over the challenge of in moral basic leadership. All things considered, I think in the end it merits the time and the infrequent spikes of stress. There is no doubt that being a part of the student council improved and developed my skills such as understanding and openness. By engaging in civic interaction, I was exposed to many different personalities that allowed for tolerance and the ability to empathize with multiple different views. In addition, in reflecting on my experience, the chance to redo my high school student council experience would result in a less serious, and less timid approach to new ideas. 

In garnering a position as a student council member at my high school, it served as an introductory participation guide into small scale civic duty. While simple in natur, student body represents the interests of the students and plans events according to what will engage the most amount of student participation. In reflection of student council, it guided my own process of becoming an engage and active member of my community. As a first year, it was a shock to discover the lack of representation of the school and its entirety, the outlook within this group on the lack of focus on representation, and the constant pressure to engage the participation of the student population. As we approach the Federal election, it is crucial to understand the validity that youth bring to the polls, and the collective right to represent ourselves as engaged, and intellectual members of society. With my exploration of the contrasting factors of both engagement and representation within student council, I recognize the encapsulating truth that these two factors hold grimly on the turnout of registered Canadian voters.

Works Cited

  1. Bittner, A. (n.d.). Elections and Voter Turnout: 5 (pp. 128–150). doi:
  2. Cross, W., & Young, L. (2008). Factors Influencing the Decision of the Young Politically Engaged To Join a Political Party. Party Politics, 14(3), 345–369. doi: 10.1177/1354068807088126
  3. Levitsky, S., & Ziblatt, D. (2019). How Democracies Die. New York: Broadway Books. doi:
  4. Student Council Participation and Broader Civic Engagement: A Preliminary Study. (2010, June 9). Retrieved from

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