More than 900 high school students from EPISD and other area school districts gathered at Americas High School for the District 9 Student Council Fall Conference.
“Every year we as a student council district put on a conference. It gives the students an opportunity to socialize and network, but primarily it provides leadership training,” Coronado student activities manger Kelly Groves said. “It also gives them time as a council to take what they learn today and plan for the year.”
The day included fun activities, learning sessions and a special message from the keynote speaker Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, a teacher who was on-duty during the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy in 2012.
Student council officers led their fellow students in a series of icebreakers to get the day started and set an upbeat tone for the event.
Andress sophomore Isabelle Recendez, who is participating in the conference for the first time, enjoyed all the team-building activities and the camaraderie that filled the gymnasium.
“I really like how everyone comes together for one purpose,” Recendez said. “It’s really fun. I joined student council to help my school and be involved on campus, so this is a great event to learn ideas to incorporate to what we are doing.”
Roig-DeBellis, the founder of the non-profit organization Classes for Classes, punctuated the conference with a powerful message of hope. She shared her own personal journey on learning on how to overcome tragedy.
“My main message is about the power of choice,” Roig-DeBellis said. “That even in dark, difficult times we can always choose to focus on the abundant good. We will all go through hard times, and when that does happen that bad thing does not have to define us. The students can use their purpose to change the world.”
Jefferson Silva student Jessica Martinez, who serves as council vice president, was touched by Roig-DeBellis’ remarks.
“Her message is empowering. I have no words,” Martinez said. “I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be in that kind of situation. I think the message is definitely making an impact on all us students. It gives us an even higher appreciation for our teachers and the importance of always having hope.”
The speech definitely had an impact on senior Patrick Daw, Franklin’s council treasurer, who looks forward to every conference for enrichment and personal growth.
“We learn how to take the initiative to better ourselves and give back to our community,” Daw said. “I would tell other students interested in student council to go for it. It helps you grow your leadership skills, and it really opens up a lot of opportunities for you that may not have been possible.”