The upper school student council (colloquially known as STUCO) is a group of elected upper school students who work together to support the relationship between the student body and the Nueva administration, to offer advice and assistance in implementing student initiatives, and identify and enact changes with the student body’s best interests in mind.
This year’s elected co-leads of STUCO are Willow T.C.Y. ‘21 and Andrew C. ‘22 sat down to discuss their backgrounds, their hopes for their roles, and how remote learning changes their priorities. While Willow and Andrew ran separate campaigns and were elected individually, they work together to support the student body in a broad variety of initiatives.
Q: Why did you want to run to become student council co-lead? What most attracted you to the role?
Willow: I have been on student council for three years now. I ran during freshman year and lost, and then I ran again in sophomore year and won as grade-level rep. Student council, to me, represents a facet of Nueva that I think isn’t as obvious to a lot of students. There is a lot going on underneath the surface, and I think that’s something really valuable to get involved in. There’s a lot that happens that really shapes the way student life happens. And so, I really want to have a hand in that and I want to make sure that I’m making a difference in the community, and making sure that I’m listening and being able to take the student voice and put it in the undercurrent system that happens.
Andrew: Like Willow, I’ve been doing student council for a long time; this is my sixth year with Nueva student council. Last year, I was looking for some change. I spent the last four years as a grade rep, and I was looking for a different experience, to interact with new people and learn new skills. I think that the co-lead position was the obvious position to run for, and I’m obviously happy with the way it turned out. I agree with Willow that student council does a lot of work that I don’t think is appreciated by the student body. Beyond that, it teaches you really valuable life skills. We’re not just planning dances and doing bake sales; you learn how to interact with people higher up who have other priorities, and learn how to manage your time and pick your battles. One of the most important skills for me is learning how to become an articulate speaker and negotiator, which I’m still working on but student council has been great practice.
Q: Can you share any previous Nueva leadership experiences you have? What are you involved in?
Andrew: One of my favorite activities at Nueva is our environmental society, which is a student-run club. We’re of the projects we’re working on is divestments, moving Nueva’s endowment portfolio out of fossil fuel companies. I’m really interested in those kinds of topics, so that’s cool for me. But also the fact that at this school you can find a couple other kids who are interested in this and really willing to set out a chunk of their time to discuss something that really for many years was just a pie in the sky, and then the fact that the administration and the board have been open-minded. I think the flexibility and freedom Nueva allows has really made the environmental society a great experience for me.
Willow: My learning style in classes in general have been trying to take a leadership position in class and particularly in class discussions. Other than in journalism (editor’s note: Willow is editor-in-chief of the Nueva Current), I have also been on varsity volleyball, or even if I haven’t always been the team captain, I think I’ve been a leader on the court. I’ve been floor captain a lot. I have also tried to take more leadership positions outside of school, particularly with congressional campaigns. There are a lot of different interesting skills that can be had in a leadership position in different subject areas. Being a leader on student council is very different from being a leader on the volleyball court, which is very different from leading a team of volunteers when you’re trying to sway people to vote for a candidate. Student council, in particular, provides interesting experiences in trying to deal with different people.
What do you view the role of student council co-leads to be?
Andrew: One clarification I want to make, which wasn’t apparent to me when I joined upper school student council, is that in most high schools the student council is very focused on what we call spirit and social events. At Nueva, our student council is unique because we have a wide variety of positions that really try to understand and improve the various aspects of life at Nueva. Our equity and inclusion representative does a lot of social justice work. Our newly added arts rep does a fantastic job of highlighting and celebrating student art. I think as co-leads our job is to help bring that together and also to provide leadership and support for everybody to get their work done. I know Willow and I have our own initiatives we are pursuing right now, but I largely see our position as one of support and leadership within student council.
Willow: I think a lot of what we do is communicating with the administration. In the communication between students and administration, there are sometimes disconnects—t’s not always entirely what students or administration wants. I think student council is a great way for us to communicate. A big part of student council in my mind and how I want it to operate this year is largely about what can we do to improve the lines of communication and make sure both voices are heard.
At Nueva, our student council is unique because we have a wide variety of positions that really try to understand and improve the various aspects of life at Nueva.
What are things you hope to accomplish this year?
Willow: I think Andrew and I are aligned with where we want student council to go. We’ve been talking a lot about how those goals crossover and how they might connect. One thing that has come out of these discussions is of course communication. But what are the challenges we see for students right now in the virtual realm? It’s been difficult for the community in general and for students specifically, and we want to make sure we’re working with all of the reps to provide good spaces for students to socially interact and connect with each other through academics or extracurriculars. It’s difficult during this time, but we want to make sure we’re achieving that and giving students space for that.
Andrew: I definitely agree with Willow. One thing we’re also focused on, which I think is less evident to students, is trying to streamline the bureaucracy of student council. We’ve spent a lot of time, even before the school year started, ironing out the structure—who’s working with whom, where students can go with specific issues—and we’re trying to convey this to students so they can understand what we’re doing or “why is this one taking so long?” It’s actually because we have to check with this person and that person. I want to echo what Willow said: Another big priority right now is really just making sure kids feel connected and trying to provide events that bring everyone together as a community, even while we’re apart.
How has your view of your role shifted because we are in a remote setting for at least the first quarter?
Andrew: I think coming into the year and the elections before, a lot of our platforms centered around student council transparency or other initiatives we had in mind. But, I think our role has evolved to be caretakers of this community and understanding one of the most fundamental needs people have right now is just to see their friends and talk to other people. We have both pivoted to try to focus on that more and work with grade reps to accomplish those goals.
What are your post-college plans and dreams? Do you have an idea of what you’d like to pursue or a career path you’re going to pursue?
Willow: I plan to go into politics. For college, I plan to major in political science or political economy, something along those lines. After college, I have a couple different plans, plan A through plan E, but the idea is that I go into politics. Most likely, I would try to go into campaigns first. I think that’s infinitely more exciting than working under a sitting politician. Student council is a good experience for dealing with that.
Andrew: I’m really keeping my options open right now. If there’s one thing that Nueva has taught me, it’s that it’s really valuable to be interdisciplinary, and I think my experience in STEM and the humanities has taught me that people who can really bridge that gap can go a lot farther and deeper in these issues. I don’t know what I am going to pursue, and I hope to have a broad experience in college and go from there.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?
Willow: We are really excited to work with the new administration: Liza (Raynal) and Lee (Fertig). We are excited to see how student council might grow and change as we figure out who we’re talking to in the administration, as we figure out what’s different. Of course, we loved Diane and we loved Stephen, but we also love Liza and we love Lee. We’re excited to see how those relationships might change or the different ways they might stay the same.
Andrew: I really want to thank everybody on the student council. Hillary (Freeman, dean of student life) has mentioned to us several times when we’ve met with her that usually student council does not get to work until the school year starts. But everybody on student council this year has been working really hard over the summer, and it’s been very inspiring for me and great to know I’m part of such a passionate team. Willow and I would like to extend our thanks to everyone.