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Clark School Student Council continues tradition

Date: 5/24/2011

May 25, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — It was a pause for paws at the School Committee meeting earlier this month, as the Student Council of the James Clark School stopped by to give their annual report and present a $1,000 donation to human and four-footed representatives from Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society.

"This is something we look forward to every year," Mayor and School Committee Chair Richard Cohen said. "The students do a wonderful job in raising funds for a cause."

James Clark School Principal Sandra Howard introduced the 16-member Student Council to the School Committee, then stepped back and allowed the students, all members of the school's third and fourth grades, take turns talking about their fund-raising projects and how they chose this year's charity.

Noting the School Committee's ongoing difficulties with the school budget, the students acknowledged they, too, had had money troubles this year. Their annual candy sale, which students said traditionally raises from $4,000 to $5,000, only netted $2,000 this school year. With those funds students said they were able to provide one cultural event for the school — a show by an African dance troupe — help out their school's media center and make a donation to Dakin.

Students said they chose Dakin as this year's donation recipient after the non-profit brought some of its animals to visit the school.

"We all cared about the animals," Student Council member Alexandria Humphries, a fourth grader, explained.

Howard later told Reminder Publications that this was the third time in 16 years that Clark's Student Council had chosen an animal shelter as its charity for the year.

Other popular choices over the years have been the American Red Cross and local homeless shelters.

"The charity always comes first," Howard said of how the Student Council handles its funds. "It needs to be a part of the community."

The Student Council at James Clark a kindergarten though fourth grade elementary school was Howard's brain child when she took over as principal at the school 17 years ago.

"I started it because I thought it would be a worthwhile thing, and it stuck," she explained. "We're the only elementary school that does it."

She added that she finds her third and fourth grade students on the council have "a lot of great ideas" about how to help their school and community.

The council is comprised of two representatives from each third and fourth grade classrooms, and two alternates. Students have to be elected to serve on the council.

"They begin the year by giving a speech [to their fellow students] and are elected by their classmates," Howard said.

Third grader Joseph Russo said of the election process, "I thought I was never going to get picked [for Student Council], but I did."

His fellow class representative, third grader Emily Fallon, said she thought being elected to the Student Council was "a good way to help out the school and raise money for the school."

The council runs an annual candy fund-raiser, and sells popcorn and juice during the school year to supplement its budget.

Howard said past student councils have used part of their annual budgets to purchase and upgrade a climbing "rock wall" for the school's gymnasium, and to add two pieces of equipment to the school playground. This year, because of school budget cutbacks, the council chose to use some of its funds to supplement the school's media center budget.

In addition to fund-raising and deciding how their money will be spent, Howard said council members give visitors tours of the school and help to coordinate school events. She added she hopes the student council experience gives members a little taste of what it's like to serve in public office.

"It's fun, and I love it," third grader Arianna Albano said.

Howard, who will retire at the beginning of the school year next fall, said she hopes her successor will continue the school's Student Council tradition.

"I'd be sad to see it end," she added.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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