Eastlake High School hosted the first-ever virtual 2020 Texas Association of Student Councils annual conference in the event’s 84-year history.
The conference, conducted May 8 via a livestream on YouTube, included speeches by various keynote speakers and new officers for the 2020-2021 school year were elected.
About 5,000 students and their advisors took part in the event, while 1,700 guests viewed the virtual conference.
Eastlake High School, the first school in the Socorro Independent School District to host the TASC conference, was selected in 2018 to host the conference, long before the impact of COVID-19 hit school communities across Texas and the nation.
Despite the unusual circumstances, the school’s student activities director and student council coordinator Kelley Akins and the Eastlake student council members succeeded in planning and coordinating the inaugural virtual conference in less than a two-week period.
The Eastlake students worked fast and efficiently embracing this year’s conference theme of “Level Up Your Leadership.”
“If there was ever a year to level up our leadership it was definitely this year as these students all dealt with a new level of adversity,” Akins said.
The group who planned and carried out the successful virtual conference consisted of seven students from the Eastlake student council, who dubbed themselves The Savvy Seven.
Among them was student body president Gilbert ‘Gibby’ Widner, a senior, who was also this year’s conference coordinator student representative.
“We put everything we had into this conference, even though we couldn’t host the conference in person,” Widner said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team, for better friends, and Ms. Akins has been an amazing advisor.”
Chairperson and conference coordinator team member Kya Lopez, a senior, was initially disheartened with the change in plans that she and her teammates had worked so hard on for over a year. However, she was more than happy with the results.
“Though the conference was different this year due to the whole coronavirus pandemic, it still felt like we were connected with everyone that we would’ve connected with if it had been done in person,” Lopez said. “The theme ‘Level Up Your Leadership’ was an instant idea that really stuck and saw us through.”
Students continue to have access via Zoom, YouTube and Vimeo to the table talks from the conference, which are presentations on projects from schools across Texas. They also have access to the breakout sessions with national speakers and programs endorsed by TASC, which originally would’ve been conducted at the conference over a series of three days.
“I cannot speak more highly of my students,” Akins said. “We weren’t going to give up, we just had to make adjustments to move forward virtually.”
The Texas Association of Student Councils includes just under 1,400 urban, rural, private and charter middle schools and high schools from across the state of Texas who host numerous trainings throughout the year for both students and advisors on learning and leadership.
“This was a dream of mine when I started at Eastlake,” Akins said. “The students and I knew it would be a lot of work and take up a lot of our time, but we were so honored for the opportunity to show off Eastlake, Socorro ISD and El Paso to the rest of Texas.”