Exco Elections 2020: Student Life Candidates
With ExCo elections on the horizon, Junto asked the candidates for each position to tell us about how they would respond to a pressing HKIS issue, as well as describe their biggest policy initiative for next year. Below are the responses from the Senator of Student Life candidates, Katelyn Liu (11), Juan Lucas Umali (10), and Alina Fowler (11).
Every year, the Senate holds a variety of events for the student body, but often struggles to get students to participate. How would you increase community engagement in these events?
I don't think there's any realistic incentive that the Senate can give students to boost participation at spirit events; if there was, bleachers would be filled during every sports game and spirit point tallies would be a lot closer. In my opinion, the biggest problem is the way we're approaching this obstacle. Sure, offering spirit points and an active presence on social media helps to some extent, but where do those points go towards? And what reason do students have to care whether or not they win spirit day? From my observations, I've realised that my intense school spirit stems from my immense love for the school community. To put it into context and less into boomer-ish lingo, it's kinda like that quote from Thor Ragnarok, "Asgard is not a place, it's a people". When we look back on our four years in high school, I doubt the first things we'll think about are the landmarks on campus or the building itself, but rather, the people that inhabited it. It's the sense of awe and inspiration we're struck with when we see students our age push themselves past their limit that creates a domino effect and builds relationships and community. When I see my peers on campus after school for sports training, debate practice, music/drama rehearsals, etc., I'm reminded of how much potential our student body has and how easily overlooked it is. Throughout the school year, we get so caught up in our work that we often forget to celebrate it. It's imperative that we take the time to acknowledge that, as well as supporting each other's achievements so that we can lay the groundwork for a cohesive community that roots each other on without prompt. As Senator of Student Life, I want to dedicate my campaign to the students that inspire me and that will leave their legacy at HKIS. I fully believe that by nurturing a genuine love for the student body and the community the way I have, through hosting showcases and integrating student-achievement celebrations throughout the school calendar (just to name a few examples for what I plan to do), we can start to work towards a natural progression in the mindset of the student body. It's extremely ambitious for me to hope that we can accomplish this systemic shift in just one year, but I whole-heartedly commit myself to this process, and I sincerely believe that we'll get there as we start taking steps to remold the foundation of our community.
Juan Lucas Umali
HKIS students are generally pretty busy people, so it’s no surprise that a lot of them are too involved with their own academics, activities, and sports to try to find time for our school’s events. I mean, being part of the Wind Ensemble, the swim team, and a variety of in-school and out-of-school activities, I can understand. But with my experience in juggling all of these commitments amidst a busy schedule, I’ll be able to optimize and schedule the school year’s calendar to work for all students—I’ll make it easier for everyone to try out new events without sacrificing their commitment to pre-existing ones. Being busy isn’t always the problem, though. Sometimes, school events just don’t have enough hype! But if I get elected, I will utilize my position in the Senate to work closely with PR, Athletics and Travel, and Service to kill two birds with one stone—a lack of interest and limited involvement. Together, we’ll use the Senate’s YouTube channel as a platform to promote and recap the biggest and most recent spirit, club, service, and sporting events on a periodic basis. In other words, just leave it to us to get you aware, excited, and active at our lively school!
Ideally, Senate-sponsored events should be occasions that every student can look forward to. But all too often, this does not pan-out. Why might this be the case? Well, for one, students need a reason to attend. Whether it’s to laugh at their friends' attempt at playing volleyball or watching the LipSync at the end of a well-fought Spirit Week; events that we run should give students positive returns for their time. Secondly, our events need to create unique experiences for students. In other words, something that makes the occasion exclusive to HKIS, as opposed to anywhere else. If we look at some of the more popular events that the Senate has run, like “Love Island” or “Friday Night Lights”, there are many factors that they share. For one, they create a unique atmosphere for students; an atmosphere where they can watch their peers compete for a “dream prom date”, or support their friends on a champion sports team. Also, they give students rewards for their time and effort, such as free prom tickets (Love Island), or free hot dogs, or the experience of winning a home match (Friday Night Lights). If elected as your Senator of Student Life, I will seek to hold events that are well worth your time. Events that give you unique experiences, opportunities to participate, or grand prizes to win. But most importantly, I want to hear about the events that you want to see around campus. If there’s a specific game that you want to be played or an event that will make your year, I want to be your partner in making it happen.
Tell us about your biggest potential policy initiative.
I think my biggest policy initiative would be introducing "Student Spotlights" to a part of our everyday school life. This can come in many forms including student speakers at gatherings, regular art showcases, and updates around campus about what students are up to. It's really important to me that people's achievements are being recognised because it helps to build more school pride and a stronger sense of validation, cohesion, and acceptance. Additionally, I want to work with counselors and teachers to find ways to incorporate mental and emotional wellbeing events into our lives and provide an additional student voice that allows the student body to find balance in their work and in their health. To me, this looks like organising events that prioritise student health, whether through Wellness Days like the one we just had on Wednesday or using flex-times to celebrate the school as a whole on the island. I have no shortage of ideas for how we can find ways to salute our fellow students, the first step in creating a long-lasting sense of raw, unprecedented school spirit and belonging.
Juan Lucas Umali
I think everyone can agree with me when I say that Interim is the highlight of every school year. (Sorry, class of ‘23!) No matter if you went hiking in Nepal or surfing in the Philippines, the thing that made every trip so special would always be the friendships made between grade levels. We go into Interim as strangers and leave together as a family, and that’s a feeling that I want happening all-year round—not just in one week. That’s why , if I get elected as your Senator of Student Life, I will not only strengthen grade-level bonds through homeroom versus homeroom competitions, but I will also promote camaraderie between grade levels by organising a variety of new and exciting competitions between H, K, I, and S communities. But of course, the Senate isn’t a dictatorship; after all, it is my mission to serve each and every one of you. That’s why you can be sure that if I am elected, I will go all-out to push for policies and initiatives that you all would like to see. Student input is the foundation for a good school year and I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say! So, on April 21st, I’ll trust you’ll know who to pick, because a vote for me is a vote for you. :)
During freshman year, I struggled to find clubs that best suited my interests and passions. Instead, I resorted to following my friends around club marketplace, signing up for clubs in return for free food and later realizing that I didn’t want to take part in any of the events throughout the year. Through speaking with many underclassmen over the past two years, I was surprised to find that this was all too common amongst freshmen and new students alike. At the beginning of the year, we rely too heavily on club marketplace to determine which clubs we want to take part in. I’m not implying that club marketplace is a bad experience - it allows students to explore the different organizations running on campus. However, the quick turnaround times and infinite numbers of clubs to investigate don’t necessarily provide the best environment for students to find the best fit clubs for them. To make students’ lives easier during the club sign-up process, I’ve created an HKIS Club Directory. Using the directory’s resources, which include the mission statement, annual events, and photos for each club, students can explore all of the extracurricular activities that the school has to offer. This way, going into club marketplace, many students may already know which clubs they want to sign up for, but still have the benefit of exploring different clubs through speaking with the leaders at club marketplace. Using some of the questions that I have received early-on in my campaign, I’ve created a frequently asked questions page that is also featured on the directory. Lastly, I’ve formulated a mid-year club sign-up email directed toward club leaders for students that are interested in joining clubs throughout the year. Thereby, my intent with the HKIS Club Directory is to allow students to find clubs that best suit them earlier on in their high school career.