Freedom and fellowship
Perhaps Student Senate’s greatest gift to students, beyond its facilitation of so many school events and programs, and its voice to administrators, is that it helps reveal talents and hone skills that students never knew they had in the first place.
For each of the past several years, the presidents and vice presidents have shared that they learned how important collaboration is, why it helps to include many voices and let people be heard, and how to remain organized.
“It helps to have good people around you,” Cugel says. “The cabinet I selected has been really on top of things. Having a good group around you speeds things up and you can work well together and that’s a humungous key to leadership—because it’s not just one person leading, it’s a whole entire team of people leading.”
“I have no problem stepping in with whomever and saying, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’” says Blake. “Being able to lead in a way that’s not threatening is important, too, because I really don’t want to come off that way at all. I just like to connect with everybody and I’m a lot more calm when I talk about things, so just being effective as a leader, I’d say that’s the best thing that has happened to me so far this year.”
Senate has also allowed students to make their mark on their famed Alma Mater. During the 2018-2019 school year, the senior leadership of the Senate posed the question for the Class of 2019: What do you want our class’s legacy to be?
Last school year also saw a strong push for students to educate themselves on the issue of gun violence and to pray for victims. This year, Cugel and his team are working to assist administrators in creating programming and avenues of support around mental health issues.
This freedom is, in part, what Razek valued most about the advising his team received from Kelley and Popelka.
“Bill and Joe gave us the opportunity to run the organization,” Razek says. “While they were advisors, they let the students coordinate what happened and they ran with student ideas and they helped develop the students, whether it was organizationally, planning, developing those sorts of skills, helping make decisions.”
Most importantly, the students discover new passions and find great joy in the work they get to do. The annual Patel Family Christmas Toy Drive is one celebrated example.
“That’s probably one of my favorite memories because you get to see the good that being at Ignatius can do for others and for yourself,” says Razek, who now works in student life at Boston College. “To bring that into the community is something special. I still distinctly remember that day, 11 years later, and the feelings that came with it and all the work that went into that.”
A child from a local school hugs Santa, who delivers nearly 1,000 toys to schools on Christmas in Our Community Day every year. Student Senate's elves assist with the effort.
The drive, which collects hundreds of toys from Saint Ignatius students and distributes them to children at local schools, is Kelley’s favorite Student Senate event. What’s so special about it?
“It’s that time of the year,” Kelley says. “We’re doing something very other-directed. It’s a lot of fun, actually. Of course going to the schools, that’s a really good experience for the kids.”
When Student Senate alumni return to campus, it’s not unusual for them to stop by their advisors’ classrooms to check in. When they get together on their own, they talk about the positive experiences they shared together. During Razek’s senior year, he actually organized a reunion for past Student Senate Presidents, an event that continues to this day and now also includes former cabinet members.
“What started out as an idea to connect the past to the current turned into this opportunity and this now-tradition to bring individuals back and to see where they’re at and even to share ideas,” Razek says.
In some ways, the Senate builds on the work done by the class—or classes—that came before them.
“They see the people ahead of them, how they functioned, and they have a model to follow,” Kelley says. “Each has a different personality, and some have different priorities or different experiences that they bring to it.”
Really, what emerges from all of this time and work and conversation is fellowship—shared among the Student Senate and spread throughout the entire Saint Ignatius community. It’s a genuine embodiment of the “Men for Others” motto that unites a team of students who otherwise may never have been assembled together.
The 2019-2020 Saint Ignatius Student Senate
Business as usual
By the time this story goes live online, the members of the Student Senate will again have their hands full with other important projects that serve a variety of people.
There they’ll be—sorting and wrapping nearly a thousand toys in Christmas wrapping paper.
There they’ll be—coaching up the Class of 2020 to (perhaps) another victory in the Senior-Faculty basketball game.
There they’ll be—hosting a Mass and Christmas breakfast for Saint Ignatius faculty, staff and their families.
There they’ll be—building up the community of Saint Ignatius High School in ways both big and small, in the spotlight and in the trenches.
There they are and there they’ll be—a student organization unlike any other.