Lake Forest Middle School recently became the only middle school this year to have its student government association receive the highest award given by the Tennessee Association of Student Councils. …
Lake Forest Middle School recently became the only middle school to have its student government association receive the highest award given by the Tennessee Association of Student Councils.
Students recently attended the TASC’s annual convention and returned with several awards — including the prestigious Platinum Award.
“These are wonderful students,” said Assistant Principal Carissa Sapp, one of the SGA’s six sponsors. “They have worked hard to serve their fellow students.”
The Platinum Award honors a student government for having a great deal of involvement at its school and with the TASC.
The numerous requirements included the students having to attend a summer leadership camp, participate in TASC conventions, lead a service project that “has had significant impact” on a school and earn the Four-Star Council Award.
The Four-Star Council Award is given “to recognize outstanding councils across the state for their fine efforts and to motivate other councils to increase the level of involvement at their respective schools.”
Its requirements include hosting community service projects at school.
Recent projects have included everything from holding a canned food drive for North Cleveland Church of God’s Second Harvest ministry to gathering gifts for needy students at Christmas.
This past year, the SGA also planned and held an anti-bullying event for girls called “Finding Kind,” based on the documentary of the same name which highlights how girls can sometimes treat each other poorly. At the same time, a “Man Fair” event was hosted for boys. The festivities included male faculty talking to boys about becoming men of good character.
Lake Forest’s SGA has also continued to collect donations for The Caring Closet. The closet, located on the school’s campus, provides free clothing and personal hygiene items to students in need. If a teacher notices a student may be lacking something, he or she can refer the student for a visit to the closet.
The school is also home to the Comprehensive Development Classroom (special education) for Bradley County middle school students. As such, the SGA has also planned a variety of events to support the CDC students. Those include annual Christmas parties and Easter egg hunts.
Those are but a few examples, Sapp said. To receive the Four-Star Council Award, the SGA had to complete 10 service projects spanning several categories during a given year. However, Sapp explained the students have gotten to the point where they are doing “many more.”
Earning the Four-Star Council Award has also become an annual tradition for the SGA students. This is the 10th year in a row Lake Forest has received it.
While they have won awards for carrying out service projects, the students stressed that is not their motivation.
“What we do — it’s not for us,” said Hannah Deal, an eighth-grader serving as the student body vice president. “We’re doing it to help others.”
She added serving others is simply “something leaders need to do.” To be a good leader, Deal said, “you have to be kind to everybody.”
Student body president and fellow eighth-grader Gabrielle Bennett said she agreed with that assessment.
“We’re trying to improve the school as a whole,” Bennett said. “You do that by helping others. ... Really, everybody has the potential to be a leader if they take that view.”
This year, the SGA at Lake Forest also received the first-place scrapbook award. This recognizes the group which best documents its works in either a printed or online format.
Two students — Gabrielle Bennett and Dakota Davis — also received state recognition after being presented both state and local-level awards.
Bennett won the first place in the statewide TASC leadership essay contest. She was also received the Above and Beyond Award, which required a nomination from her fellow Lake Forest students.
Davis received the state Rising Star Award for his dedicated participation, and he also received the Member of the Year award based on nominations from his Lake Forest classmates.
During their recent trip to the TASC convention, they heard from a variety of speakers talking about leadership-related topics.
Deal said her favorite speaker was Williamson County Director of Schools Dr. Mike Looney. She said he spoke about overcoming abuse and homelessness when he was younger and told the students they should not underestimate the potential of peers going through tough situations.
Sapp said one central theme of the convention was for student leaders to “look for the invisible students,” students who appear to have no friends and may be going through tough times.
“That — the looking for ‘invisible students’ thing — hit home with me,” Davis said. “It kind of confirms what we were already trying to do. We’ve been trying to help them and, I guess, make them feel visible again.”
Sapp, who has co-sponsored the SGA at Lake Forest for 18 of her 19 years working there, said working with students who want to help others has been a highlight of her career.
She said she likes the fact students can be recognized for their service efforts, because they may not always recognize the significance of what they are doing while at school. Having them recognize that significance may help them continue to serve even after they leave the school, she added.
“I hope we’re just laying the foundation here,” Sapp said.
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