NatStuCo Update: Giving Students a Voice

In recent months, we’ve seen student voice amplified when it comes to issues that matter to them: school safety, transgender bathroom access, and student immigration status. Students have shown that when they are organized and motivated, their voices can propel change.  

National Student Council has long championed this type of student empowerment and provides the support necessary to get your student leaders and council members to speak their minds. But what if your school could get the entire student body involved in sharing their voices to effect positive change within the school or community? Moreover, what if you could empower your student council to play a leading role in that rather substantial undertaking?

That’s the premise behind National Student Council’s RSVP program, which stands for Raising Student Voice & Participation. It is founded on the desire to recognize the student council as the school’s primary vehicle for student voice and meaningful involvement. 

While RSVP has been available to NatStuCo-affiliated schools for some time, the program has been refreshed recently, and its implementation guide has been streamlined with more updated and user-friendly content. For middle level councils, NatStuCo offers RSVP in the Middle, and that implementation guide will roll out later this year.

As you begin planning your 2018–19 academic year, consider bringing RSVP to your middle level or high school.

Who Leads RSVP?

While student council may lead in introducing RSVP to the school, there are two other groups serving important roles: student facilitators and the student leadership team. Training is available through National Student Council to prepare individuals for these roles, or a school can undertake this training on its own.

But perhaps the most important group that is key to RSVP’s success is the students themselves—all members of the student body are engaged in the RSVP process.

How It Works

Using a structured approach, RSVP’s framework revolves around three schoolwide summits involving the entire student body, which is engaged in “the conversation” about issues and challenges facing the school and/or community. 

Summit 1 focuses on Voice: Students are asked to share their thoughts on school and community issues and concerns. The program is structured so that icebreakers help to draw in typically uninvolved students, and student facilitators are trained to keep conversation lively and handle disruptive or dominating participants. A student leadership team devises a list of the top three issues that emerge from each of the summit groups. Some issues that have been tackled using RSVP include campus parking matters, school spirit concerns, and restroom cleanliness. Other schools have undertaken local or national issues that have impacted their student body, such as teen drinking or drug abuse.

Summit 2 centers on Recommendations: Students suggest solutions to address the top three issues. Based on these recommendations, the student leadership team drafts a civic action plan based around student-led projects to present to the principal.

At Summit 3, for the Response: Students are asked for feedback on the civic action plan and to identify how they will support various aspects of the plan’s implementation. The student leadership team finalizes the plan, then engages student volunteers.

Isn’t it time to raise student voice and suggest your school explore this proven method for building student engagement? Visit www.NatStuCo.org/rsvp to take the first step.