The Linden High School Student Ambassadors, a small but key group of student leaders, meet regularly with Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi to discuss concerns and ideas from the student body.
By Gary Miller
They are the voice of the students, and the ears of the administration.
The Linden High School Student Ambassadors are a small group that acts as a conduit to allow students to voice their ideas and concerns, and allows the administration to stay in tune with the needs of the student body.
The group holds working meetings to brainstorm and develop their ideas for improvements in the school. Some of the ideas are their own, but many come from other students who talk to the ambassadors about what they want.
“We ask other students, because they are more comfortable with us, what they would like to change or if there are things we can improve in the school,” said Katrina Charles, a junior member of the Student Ambassadors.
The group meets once a month with Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi, Principal Yelena Horre, and Director of Human Resources Michele Dorney to go over an agenda developed by the students.
“Sometimes I am amazed at the ideas the Student Ambassadors bring to me,” said Dr. Robertozzi. “They suggest responsible, informed initiatives that are well-reasoned and really have the best interests of the school at heart. Being with the Ambassadors allows me to feel closer to our students and lets them know that they have a place at the table in shaping the policies that affect them.”
The Student Ambassadors’ mission statement sums up the group:
“The Student Ambassadors’ mission is to be the voice for every student. Our goal is to inform the Superintendent and Administration of our aspirations, continue to create new initiatives, and foster a positive environment for the student body of Linden High School.”
Teacher Nicole Campo and school social worker Ryan Devaney, who are in their first year as advisers to the group, say the members have a great opportunity to do good for the school and for themselves.
“It gives them an opportunity to speak with their peers and gather those ideas, and at the same time it allows them to sit with the administration and have their ideas heard firsthand,” Devaney said. “It allows them to understand how to work with different groups of people, whether it be students, peers, teachers, administrators.”
The group, which has been around for three years and has 17 members this year, has an impressive list of accomplishments: a year-end school picnic, a breakfast for honor roll students, a quiz bowl, and a new student code of conduct are a few.
Also, the ideas for last year’s rally for gun safety were developed and implemented by the Student Ambassadors and discussed with the administration beforehand.
“Everyone was able to express themselves and the administration was open to that,” said ambassador Janee Bailey, a junior. “So that made it OK, and students loved that.”
Other ideas in various levels of development include “IB for a Day,” which allows underclassmen to shadow International Baccalaureate students for a day to learn about the rigorous academic program; “Tiger for a Day,” which would allow middle-schoolers to shadow a high school student; a Wall of Honor that would honor graduates who go on to serve in the military; and the use of debit cards in the school cafeteria.
The group’s big push right now is for a sock drive, which it is organizing with other student organizations at the school. They are collecting packs of new socks to donate to area shelters for those in need. Donations are being accepted at the school through Feb. 11.
“It’s a small group, but our goal is to benefit our entire school,” Campo said.
Students say they feel empowered by having the ear of the superintendent on issues that are important to them.
“Dr. Robertozzi has received us great,” Bailey said. “He has taken and listened to everything we’ve said. We know that some things can’t happen overnight, or some things just can’t happen. But everything we have brought to him he understands and discusses with us and Mrs. Horre.”
Besides all the good the Student Ambassadors can do in improving the school culture, they also get a lot out of being in such a key role as go-between for students and administrators.
“For me, there’s more to school than just coming here for classes then going home,” Bailey said. “It’s an important role for me to play, where I can relay student messages to higher-ups to maybe open their minds.”
Devaney and Campo say they’ve seen a substantial amount of growth in the students.
“Just seeing the way that they work together,” Devaney said, “and their ideas …”
“… and the way that they listen to each other and feed off each other,” Campo said. “It’s amazing to see that.”
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The Student Ambassadors are working hard to spread the word so that more students know about them, centered on the rallying cry, “Who we are, what we do, revolves around you!”
“I want the students to know that we’re here and how to recognize us,” said Sarah Mostafa, a junior. “If they want to change anything about the school they can come to us to talk about it.”
Students have been given orange golf shirts with the school district logo that identify them as Student Ambassadors, as well as thick orange “Student Ambassador” lanyards for their ID cards, to help them stand out to other students.
They are working with the LHS TV/Digital Media class to develop a segment for the TNT News student broadcast to help spread the word about their role.
“A lot of people don’t know about us,” Charles said. “So we want to get the word out. When they see big things like the picnic or the honor roll breakfast, they don’t know where it comes from. So we want to let them know that it’s us doing it, so that they will come to us if they want to change something.”
Bailey added, “We’ve been given this title to relay the message, so come talk to us.
“We want to help.”