Sophomores Seek to Improve School Spirit and Enhance Student Engagement

After a year-long study of school spirit and student engagement, five Cuyahoga Heights High School (CHHS) sophomores presented their findings before a group consisting of local superintendents and high school principals that compose the First Ring Superintendents Collaborative. 

The five students – Arushi Shinde, Erin Deka, Emilee Sanicky, Tamir Julious, and Nick Dabrowski– joined with students from other First Ring districts to present their findings as first-time participants in the First Ring Student Leadership Institute (FRSLI). The FRSLI is an outgrowth of the collaborative, which is an association of school districts within and surrounding the City of Cleveland. The collaborative was established in 2000 to help districts address common challenges related to poverty, mobility, diversity, and the achievement gap. 

The FRSLI was designed to teach high school sophomores the skills to become leaders of change in their schools and communities. This multi-year leadership program inspires and empowers high school students to recognize and understand the issues impacting their lives, give voice to their ideas, and invites them to find solutions.  Each of the districts that compose the First Ring were invited to select students from their districts to participate in the FRSLI.  Each student team then presented their research at a year-end presentation before the member districts. 

The CHHS participants first identified school spirit and school engagement as an area they wished to study.  They conducted a school-wide survey to gather data on the nature, scope, and impact of their issue, then analyzed their findings to identify possible solutions. According to the student leaders, the data showed that students want more of a voice in the school and the activities that take place. Recommendations were to implement more school spirit days and to make sporting events more appealing to the crowd. Suggestions to address this issue were to  have “clapouts”, ESPN tables, newsletter videos, cow bells, and other activities to better engage students during sporting events. Other suggestions were to host staff activities during pep rallies and establishing a “bulletin board” to increase awareness about school activities and sporting events. 

“It was awesome to watch these student leaders grow throughout this year’s First Ring Student Leadership Institute,” said Kelsey Mason, CHHS math teacher, who served as the adult liaison to the CHHS team. “I have had the opportunity to witness problem solving take place among students from the various First Ring schools. The respectful discourse our students have with one another and the willingness to provide solutions has made me proud to be an educator at CHHS and excited for the future of these leaders. When students have a voice for change, some truly remarkable things can happen!” 

Pictured left to right: Arushi Shinde, Erin Deka, Emilee Sanicky, Tamir Julious, and Nick Dabrowski.