This year, the SGA focuses on increasing student awareness
When passing through the 160s hallway, one door stands out from the others. At first glance, it looks like the door to every other room at Blair –- polished wood with a small rectangular window. But the door to room 161 has something extra: stick-on letters in the window that read: "HEY! IT'S SGA!" The interior of the SGA office is just as inviting as the sign on the door –- Room 161 boasts a comfortable couch, a whiteboard with ideas and plans and a life-size paper maché Blazer, among other strange knacks.
But for many students at Blair, the SGA is neither inviting nor familiar. Despite the SGA's impressive repertoire of accomplishments – listed on large posters throughout Blair hallways – the SGA is may be, for the most part, an unknown entity to most Blazers.
An informal poll of 100 Blair students on Sept. 8 revealed that only 37 percent of students could name one or more SGA events throughout the school year, and only four percent of Blazers could name more than three. Members of the SGA have recognized this lack of awareness in students, and this year, the SGA – led by senior Eric Hysen as the President and sponsor Rondai Ravilious – has a new goal of increased student involvement. Through outreach programs and more school events, Blair's SGA hopes to promote and increase student awareness of the SGA's accomplishments.
A new agenda
SGA members acknowledge the gap between their team and the rest of the school population. "The big goal [this year] is shifting towards getting more student feedback," Hysen says. "The other big things are openness and accessibility."
This year, according to Hysen, the SGA will be adopting a grassroots approach to getting more student involvement. After implementing this plan to decide the homecoming theme, the SGA polled over 150 students via the SGA website and random sampling done by SGA cabinet members. "Once we show that we are out there and doing things, student response will follow," says Hysen, reflecting on the new SGA policies of involvement and input.
With the hope of increasing student participation, the SGA is planning new events, including a talent show, winter and spring dances, a Battle of the Bands and a Blair Idol show. The SGA also held a back-to-school barbeque on Sept. 8 before the first football game, to kick off the new school year.
Many Blazers attended the Sept. 8 barbeque, which drew a crowd as a "pre-game party" before the first football game of the season. To incorporate more student participation, the SGA asked several Blair bands and soloists to perform.
Senior Adam Goldman attended the barbeque and feels encouraged by the endeavors of the SGA. "It's a good thing that the SGA is going to have more events this year," he says. "There were a lot of people there and it was a good way to get ready for the football game."
For the SGA, the back-to-school barbeque was just the first step in integrating more student participation. Still, there is a long road to complete student involvement. Avi Silber, a performer at the barbeque, noted that the entertainers at the barbeque were mostly students with links to the SGA. "It wasn't the student body showing what they've got," he says. "The only people that performed were people who knew [about the event] or friends of the SGA members."
An effort to increase student awareness is not a policy unique to this year's administrations. SGA administrations in the past three years have put a lot of effort into student outreach, says Ravilious. The SGA cabinets under Sebastian Johnson (2004-2005), Barun Aryal (2005-2006) and now Eric Hysen (2006-2007) have been and are continuing to focus on getting certain groups more involved in the school. A big goal was met by the Aryal administration last year, when the SGA got an ESOL representative in office. Since last year, the new initiative to get ESOL students more involved in the SGA has been a very successful.
The "minority" report
ESOL department head Joseph Bellino is thrilled with the "tremendous gap bridging" that the SGA has done in the past year to improve communication between ESOL students and the SGA. This year, SGA's deputy director of club services, Abhishek Sinha, is an ESOL student. There are also two additional ESOL cabinet members in the SGA, Project Coordinator Long Nguyen and Class Representative Cindy Ayala, who was voted in by ESOL students last spring. "[The ESOL] election really made the students feel that their voice was important," Bellino remarks. "It has made [ESOL] students feel that they have a role in the school."
Ayala also agrees that the idea of having ESOL SGA representatives has given ESOL students a chance to play a bigger role in the school. "I think it's going great," she says. "More ESOL students are getting to know what's this, what's that. Now they at least know what SGA is."
The new SGA-ESOL partnership has also helped students who are new to ESOL get accustomed to Blair, instead of just the ESOL program. "The SGA ESOL representatives are helping the new [ESOL students] get used to school," says Flor Perez, a Blazer in her third year of ESOL. Before the back-to-school barbeque, SGA members put up posters throughout the school advertising the event. Instead of putting up a poster written in English outside the ESOL department, the SGA put up a large poster in written in Spanish to reach out to Spanish-speaking ESOL students.
In the past, ESOL students have shied away from involvement in Blair activities and events. Ayula, a Blair student in her fifth year of ESOL, understands this sentiment. "Most of the students who don't want to get involved, they say 'I don't fit in' or 'they won't understand me,'" she says. "They feel that it's hard for them not speaking English." Still, she wants more participation from fellow ESOL Blazers. "I want more ESOL students involved in school activities."
SGA members believe that once the SGA starts ensuring that Blazers are "in the loop," gives students a chance to express concerns and ideas and sponsors more activities for increased student participation, Blair students will automatically become more involved with their student government. "We're here to help people," Hysen says. "[Students] can always walk into the office. They can talk to us about any problems in the school, or any suggestions."
Priyanka Gokhale. More »