Griswold Student Council earns statewide leadership award

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Mar. 25, 2013
Griswold High School Student Council members show off the silver award they won at the Connecticut Association of Schools Spring Leadership Conference, held at Wesleyan University in Middletown. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

A community service project that collected student pocket change to benefit a youngster battling brain cancer received a special citation from the Connecticut Association of Schools. Griswold High School’s Student Council was cited with a Silver Award for its “penny war” fundraiser for Koen Banker, 4, a preschool student at Griswold Elementary School who died Feb. 22. The in-school project raised $581 for Koen’s family.

The students received their award at the CAS annual spring Student Leadership Conference on March 15-16 at Wesleyan University in Middletown. The two-day event drew students from across the state and focused on the theme, “I Am a Leader, So Now What Do I Do?”

Student Council members attended the March 25 Griswold Board of Education meeting and gave a presentation on their trip to the conference and the penny war project. “The organization exemplifies the best at Griswold High,” said GHS career counselor Terry Cholewa, who along with GHS science teacher Lori Hatajik serves as co-advisor to the group.

The Student Council, which had been inactive at the high school for some years, was reactivated six years ago with a core of 30 students and now boasts a membership of 120 students in freshman through senior years. Cholewa said that the group has seven executive board members, including its officers, but offers open enrollment to any interested GHS student, “with the expectation that they are engaged, making good choices and [are] responsible members of the Griswold High School community. We have a very wide variety of students on our Student Council and it works great.”

Among the GHSSC’s other efforts throughout the year are the annual “Spirit of Giving” food drive, which collects donations during the homecoming game for St. Mary Church food pantry in Jewett City. The Student Council also cooperates with the Griswold Youth Center to conduct a “giving tree” starting in November, collecting hats, scarves and mittens for disadvantaged members of the community. The group just completed its “March Madness” dance, with part of the proceeds going to a local charity yet to be determined. Last year, the dance’s profits went to fund a Relay for Life team spearheaded by a GHS alumnus, Cholwea said.

Cholwea said that GHSSC members have hosted the fall Eastern Connecticut Conference student leadership conference three years in a row. They have also served as facilitators and presenters at the elementary school edition of the student leadership conference, held at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich. The group spearheads an annual “Mix It Up at Lunch” Day, which encourages students to connect with fellow students outside their social group or comfort zone. That annual event has since spread from the high school to all three of the town’s schools, she said.

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