The Parents Council of Washington hosted its annual Student Leader Breakfast on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at the Georgetown Preparatory School. Fifty-two students, including both juniors and seniors, from twenty-seven PCW member schools attended the event. Mr. Jeff Jones, the Head of Georgetown Prep, welcomed the students and challenged them to seek out opportunities to give back to their communities.
The Student Leader Breakfast program began with welcoming remarks by Shelley Gunner, Vice President of the PCW. She introduced her fellow Board member, Mary Cohen, who was the moderator of the discussion with the students.
The opening topic for discussion in the large group setting was Time Management and the College Application Process and the challenge of striking a balance between academic courses, athletics and extracurricular activities. Students expressed difficulty in prioritizing their work load along with other responsibilities and noted the pressure they felt to succeed in a variety of activities in order to build a successful and compelling resume for college applications. It is helpful to have understanding teachers and coaches who are willing to accommodate students when they face these conflicting priorities. The College Admissions Process contributes greatly to the level of stress experienced by these Upper School students. They described the pressure that culminates during their senior year with standardized testing and college applications along with their academic classwork. The SAT and ACT testing is extremely challenging and stressful and many of the students noted that they sought outside help with SAT/ACT prep courses.
Mrs. Cohen introduced the third topic of discussion by asking all of the students if they felt that Bullying was a problem at their school. The students noted that the bullying that generally occurs in high school focuses more on social issues such as excluding someone rather than on the textbook definition of physically bullying another student. Often the bullying occurs through social media, such as Facebook, which can create a forum where some students can bully others in a nonconfrontational and passive way. It is sometimes easier to make derogatory statements online where it is harder for parents and school administrators to control.
Mrs. Cohen then posed the question, “How far can a School Reach into a Student’s Life Outside of Campus and Outside of the School Day?” The students offered many viewpoints on this controversial topic and the issue of First Amendment Rights for students. What are the limits of acceptable behavior on the part of a student outside of school? When is a student representing his/her school? When is it warranted to discipline a student for unacceptable behavior outside of the school setting? Some students expressed their beliefs that a student represents the school at all times and if a student’s actions are not representative of the expected behavior then it is appropriate for the school to discipline that student.
The next topic at the Student Leader Breakfast was Honesty and Academic Integrity. The moderator asked, “What is the extent of Cheating at your school?” Many of the students responded that cheating is an issue at their school. Some of the students indicated that their school has an Honor Code or Honor Council. One student stated that schools should emphasize that one should compete with oneself and not with other classmates. Students cheat because they feel that they cannot compete effectively with others.
Mary Cohen discussed other topics such as Does your school prepare you for life after High School, Alcohol and Drugs, and Being Plugged versus Unplugged. Following a break in the session, the Student Leader Breakfast continued in small group settings with students acting as the group moderators. Students were allowed to select from a range of topics including Stress, Male vs. Female Relationships, Effective Student Measures to Change School Policy, Diversity/Homophobia, Relationships with Students from Other Schools, Community Service Requirements, and School Rivalries/Cliques.