COLUMBIA — Leslie Guerin, student council adviser at West Junior High School, has been working with the group for seven years. Before that, she was a high school student council participant.
In 2005, she took a student to a council convention in Philadelphia. That student is now working toward being a UN ambassador.
In her own words, once student council gets into you, it doesn’t leave.
When Guerin talks about the lessons her students learn, she mentions how these skills give them confidence, growth and maturity that carries over into the classroom and even into eventual job interviews.
To Guerin, student council is about the sense of leadership and confidence the organization instills in its members. As adviser to the 97-member council, she serves as a mentor to students and encourages them to reach out both in their school and their community.
Recently, Guerin was recognized for her work with the West Junior High Student Council. In early March, she was named the Region 6 Middle Level Student Council Advisor of the Year. In June, she will join five other advisers in Oklahoma to see if she wins the national award.
At West, the student council finds multiple ways to get involved in the school and community. The group puts on two all-school parties each year, hosts a talent show and holds other fundraisers. Students attend district, state and national student council conventions.
The group also raises money for the Polar Bear Plunge, and the two school sponsors participate. The money goes to Special Olympics. The talent show makes donations to both Special Olympics and the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
"They are constantly working on something to support the school and our community," said Sandra Logan, the principal at West Junior High.
Within the student council, Guerin sees herself as a mentor and liaison between her students and the administration. During meetings, the students lead and come to her with ideas, and Guerin helps them figure out the best way to make those ideas happen.
For her, student council is about what her students take away from the experience.
"It's what it gives students outside the classroom — teaching kids leadership skills and bringing them outside of their comfort zone," Guerin said.
Part of this, she said, is giving students confidence in their own abilities and encouraging them to reach out to other students from all walks of life.
"It inspires them to be better than they thought they could be," Guerin said.
She said one important way the group helps students is by teaching them to find their own talents and bring them to the table.
"Student council basically teaches students to share instead of compare," she said.
Logan said Guerin's student-centered focus and the responsibility she instills in the student council sets her apart as an adviser.
"The kids just are very responsive to her, and they feel like their participation is worthwhile and makes a difference," she said.
Guerin said the accomplishment was an honor, but it isn't the reason she's involved in student council. For her, it's about helping students find their passion and learn to lead.
"You don't go into student council for the accolades, even though it's nice," she said. "You go into student council to help students."