SHIRLEY -- When representatives of the Ayer-Shirley Regional Middle School Student Council ran into technical difficulty with their audiovisual presentation for the School Committee last week, they did not miss a beat.
As a dozen-plus members stood before the committee, each took a turn sharing something about the school council's mission and how it is being accomplished. No photos or fancy graphics were necessary to convey the message.
Mackenzie Marshall began by telling the School Committee that the five goals of the student council are leadership, diversity, academic achievement, school and community involvement and school spirit.
"Leadership is developing and promoting leadership abilities," explained Jillian Farrar. We have 12 student council representatives and 16 student council members. Our motto, 'Help us help others,' puts our student council members in the lead to pave the way to show how important it is to help everyone, as well as to be the change you want to see in your community."
Farrar said the council had participated in a local senior citizens health fair and the Stand Up to Bullying 2013 conference in Worcester, and that the council hopes to attend the Middle Level Massachusetts Association of Student Councils conference in March.
Hannah Justice explained that creating diversity means "building awareness, respect and value for all people."
"We believe in academic achievement -- striving for and creating motivation for academic excellence," added DeJah Fleurancois.
Allison Cebollero shared that the council believes in building a partnership between the school and community with service. An example she cited was greeting and serving breakfast to local veterans for the school's Veteran's Day celebration.
"For our Halloween dance, we asked students to donate canned goods for Loaves & Fishes," said Samantha Abram. "For the month of November, student council held a homeroom canned-good contest. Each grade level winner won a pizza party. In total we collected 1,509 pounds of food at a value of $2,500, which is the largest school drive Loaves & Fishes had all year."
Matt Baker and Brian Levensailor explained how the council helps to maintain school spirit through school spirit weeks and pep rallies.
Abigail Clemence added that the council voted to reimburse teacher Randy Richard for the photo frames he purchased to promote student achievement through photographs displayed along the hallway from the cafeteria to the gym.
Advisor Annie Stahl said there had been a lot of interest in student council from sixth-grade students this year, especially considering that the students were coming from two different schools. She praised them for coming together, and the older students for being very welcoming.
"I am proud of them, and they always step up to the occasion," she said, adding that she credited Levensailor for bringing the panther mascot back to the middle school.
"Mrs. Rollins and I brought it back seven or eight years ago, but it stayed over there (at the high school), and Brian said, 'We really need it at the middle school,'" Stahl explained.
Levensailor helped the student council put together a proposal to bring it back, "and there it is," she said, pointing to sixth-grader Liam Gleason, unrecognizable inside the black, toothy panther costume.
When School Committee member Michele Granger asked the sixth-graders if they planned to stay on the student council next year, she received many nods in the affirmative.
Fellow School Committee member Dan Gleason noted that Principal Rich McGrath's speech at the beginning of the year about trying something different had "paid off."
"We look forward to seeing your pictures in the hallway," said School Committee Chair Pat Kelly. "I hope you stick with it. Every school needs leaders."