Enter STLF: Training Minneapolis Student Council Executive Board
A Programs Report
Author: Garrett Kubischta
Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF) is proud to call the vibrant and bustling Twin Cities home, so we were thrilled to collaborate with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) on a brand-new program for their one-of-a-kind CityWide Student Government—or CityWide for short.
In the spirit of increasing student voice in education, MPS’s CityWide Student Government aims to offer a means for student leaders at the many area high schools an opportunity to collaborate and discuss issues they see in their community. To achieve this, each school selects members of their student council to a CityWide Executive Board, which meets regularly to share ideas amongst themselves and with the rotating school board officials who crave student input. Part of the student-created plan to make CityWide sustainable includes an annual retreat—a way to form closer relationships between students at the various high schools, and invite students outside the Executive Board to generate ideas.
Thanks to funding from the J. D. Graves Foundation, the programs team at STLF worked with the CityWide Executive Board to create programming for this years’ leadership retreat. Members of our staff met with students to learn about their goals and objectives for the retreat.
After we had an initial sense of what the Executive Board was looking for, we created a custom schedule to meet the specific needs and outcomes that they chose: teambuilding and relationship-building, setting a vision for CityWide, goal-setting, and strategies to accomplish those goals.
With clear objectives, the STLF team created a first draft of programming and presented a tentative schedule to the students for their approval, adjusted considering their feedback. The Executive Board were the decision-makers, and we were working for them.
The retreat was a hit! The icebreakers and introductory games set the tone for the retreat and got students talking to each other before we facilitated conversations about why CityWide exists and its importance in increasing student representation. The Executive Board didn’t relax during the retreat. They assisted in facilitating activities—and took the lead on some—giving them an opportunity to practice their leadership with peers in a safe environment. The night ended with more relationship-building in the form of an extended session of Song Wars, a much-needed waffle bar/pick-me-up, a bout of dodgeball, and a movie before bed.
Students started bright and early the next morning with sessions on building school communities, staffing, security, and teen homelessness. Then, after lunch, the discussion moved to creating a process for student council member selection, structure of CityWide, and branding.
We wrapped up with some extreme teambuilding. Because we were fortunate enough to be in the incredible facilities at Base Camp, we ended with rock climbing, archery, and a high ropes course. This pushed students out of their comfort zones, while also allowed them to blow off some steam and have fun with each other.
Students walked away from the retreat with a lot of new ideas skills, and friends from different schools. Which is exactly what we set out to do with the Executive Board. Additionally, I walked away from the program reminded of why STLF’s work is so important. The students at this retreat will soon be graduated from high school and leading as adults. It’s our job to prepare them for that. But if these students are representative of all their peers, I have complete confidence in them.