Student elections: Online students form government for virtual school

December, 2016 Posted in Community, School

By Mary Owen

Newly elected student body officers are proud to serve on the first-ever virtual school government at Oregon Connections Academy.

“Being part of a student government give students an opportunity for them to be a voice, or representative, of their constituency, in this case their grade level,” said Tristan Irvin, ORCA’s student government advisor.

Irvin recently put what she teaches into action by running for but not elected to a seat on the Tigard City Council. She also teaches seventh grade at the Mill City-based virtual public charter school for students in grades K-12.

“Having a Student Government provides several things,” Irvin said. “It gives students a chance to grow in their leadership and communication skills. It provides a platform for students to reach out to other students to create community and that ‘small-school’ feel. And it gives students an opportunity to be stakeholders in their education – and to create dialogue with the teachers and administration about how ORCA students are feeling about their educational experience.”

Students who ran for student government were required to maintain a 3.0 GPA, adhere to the ORCA Student Code of Conduct, attend all student government LiveLesson® sessions, and participate in three field trips in their area. Candidates gave speeches, answered questions and then students voted using a special online poll. The executive board includes student body president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and two activities directors. Two senators were elected for each grade level, fifth through 12th, for a total of 22.

“I’m excited for students to have a voice about what they want to see happen at their school so they take more ownership,” said Nikki Coleman, student government advisor and high school electives teacher.

Freshman Mikayla Wood, 14, from Scio, a newly elected ninth-grade senator, called student government “a way to connect with people, but more importantly a way for me to help our school become better.

“I get the honor of representing my entire class, as well as the responsibility of taking their feedback and making sure they are heard,” said Wood.

Rosa Oliver, 15, a sophomore from Keizer, believes the new student government will help shore up communication.

“It can be difficult to voice a brilliant idea when it’s all virtual,” Oliver said. “The student body government is to be that voice and speak the ideas of the students to the administrators. This will create a stronger unity and spirit, and help improve the student body as a whole.”

Oliver’s brother Joshua, 10, wants to help his fellow fifth-graders cultivate school spirit by making a spirit week to inspire students to do their best.

“I plan to help with a prom committee and other fun field trips such as, possibly, a beach day or flag contest,” said Joshua, who will work on social activities along with his sister and other newly elected officers.

Oliver’s brother, Edward, 18, a senior class senator, said school spirit basically gives students a voice that brings them together.

“Being a part of ORCA’s new student body government means being a pioneer,” he said. “We are forging new paths and providing examples for future senators.”

As ORCA continues to grow, Irvin said creating a student government is a natural addition to the statewide virtual school.

“Student governments are a key piece of typical brick-and-mortar schools,” she said. “We believe that this will help bring a community feel to a virtual school where we don’t see each other in the hallways on a daily basis.”

So far, feedback has been positive.

“The purpose of this organization is to be a liaison between the students and the administration, to promote school spirit, to encourage involvement of each student, and to promote leadership and community service,” she said.

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