WRSC gets gold again

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Woodland Regional Student Council members, from left, Mary Vlamis, Olivia Rua, Zach Crowell and Noelle Guerrera talk with student council advisor Chris Tomlin May 1 at the school in Beacon Falls. The student council has been selected as a 2015 National Gold Council of Excellence. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland Regional Student Council members, from left, Mary Vlamis, Olivia Rua, Zach Crowell and Noelle Guerrera talk with student council advisor Chris Tomlin May 1 at the school in Beacon Falls. The student council has been selected as a 2015 National Gold Council of Excellence. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland Regional Student Council is making achieving the gold standard a routine occurrence.

The council has been selected as a 2015 National Gold Council of Excellence by the National Association of Student Councils (NASC).

The award recognizes student councils that maintain strong year-round programs and work to improve their schools and communities through their leadership activities, according to the NASC website. The student councils at Woodland and Woodstock Academy were the only ones in the state to achieve the recognition this year.

“It’s a vindication of all the effort that we’ve put in,” said Zach Crowell, a junior and chair of the council’s Service Committee, about the honor.

The student council first received the honor last year after a year-long application process that required the council to examine how it operated and interacted with the school and community. The council learned what it did well and not so well through the self-examination and restructured how it operated to turn its weaknesses into strengths.

“It was like, yeah we did it. We are now an organization that meets national standards on a daily basis,” Mary Vlamis, a junior and student body president, said.

Chris Tomlin, a history teacher at Woodland and student council advisor, said maintaining the standard of excellence gives the council a sense of purpose. In the past, he said, the council didn’t really look too far ahead. The council went from event to event without truly grasping why it was organizing the events, other than they were fun, he said.

“Now when we look at all these things, it’s how many people are we going to help by this, how may people are we going to affect,” Tomlin said.

Vlamis said receiving the recognition last year raised the profile of the student council.

“We’re on everyone’s radar now. It’s nice,” Vlamis said.

Earning the honor last year made applying for it this year simpler, but not necessarily any easier as the council must uphold that standard.

“We do have to stay on our toes, and we can’t let events slide away because they’re important. The other nice thing about them now is we have a greater understanding of why we’re doing these things,” Tomlin said.

The student council, which has 45 members, organizes numerous events for Woodland and the community. A trick or treat street for children at Halloween, a clean-up of Matthies Park on Earth Day, homecoming, spirit week and Cards for Kids, an event where student make get well cards for children in hospitals, are just a small sample of the events put on by council.

Noelle Guerrera, a sophomore and recording secretary of the council, said being named a National Gold Council of Excellence shows the dedication of the council.

“It shows our dedication and how great of a council and club that we are,” Guerrera said. “A lot of people don’t really know who we are or what we do, but within we know we do a lot for the school.”

The efforts of the student council stretch well beyond the walls of Woodland.

This school year, the council held a Yuda Band fundraiser. Yuda Bands are leather wrist bands handmade in Guatemala. All of the proceeds from the sale of the bands help to send students to school in Guatemala. The council raised $1,400 selling Yuda Bands, enough to send two students to school.

The council also got the chance to see the fruits of their labor by Skyping with the two students it supported and learning about the culture in Guatemala. An experience the students described as eye-opening.

“It was mind-blowing,” Vlamis said.

Members of the student council will also attend the NASC’s National Leadership Conference this summer in New Mexico. Tomlin, with help from students, will present a forum on techniques for running a more effective student government at the conference.

The student council is raising money to help offset the cost of the trip. Donations are being accepted online at www.gofundme.com/ncrtm8.

Now that the student council has been named a National Gold Council of Excellence two years running, the council has no intentions of letting that standard slip.

“It’s good to keep going for it,” said Olivia Rua, a sophomore and communications secretary for the council, about the recognition. “I feel like it shows that all our hard work really pays off in the end.”