By Josie Ross, Assistant to the Office of Student Life
At Foxcroft I wear many hats: Lead Dorm Parent, Climbing Coach, weekend duty team manager; however, one of my most rewarding hats is advisor to the Student Activities Committee. This Committee is made up of eight students (two representatives from each grade) who are chosen as freshmen and then remain on the committee until they graduate. With support from the Office of Student Life, these students are charged with curating the weekend experience for students at Foxcroft.
A few years ago, during one of our weekly Activities Committee meetings, much to my dismay, I discovered that I am, in fact, “old” and no longer on top of the latest teen trends. Shocking, I know, but it wasn’t something that I had actively considered. The effect, though, was that this realization, once made clear, opened the door for a candid conversation about what we could do to freshen up the weekends. In fact, this conversation became a pivot-point for Activities. No longer would we utilize a kind of copy-and-paste planning method. Instead, we would reboot to a truly student-driven approach to our weekend planning.
The members of Activities decided they needed more student voices in the planning of their three biggest events: the Winter Mixer, Semi-Formal and Junior/Senior Prom. So, they decided to open up their membership and three additional committees were formed, chaired by members of the Activities Committee. These committees are open to any student who wants to join and who would like to contribute to student life at Foxcroft.
However, it quickly became clear to me that student-driven does not mean student-executed. In fact, in the beginning, a student-driven approach meant a lot more work for me. I spent time nurturing hard skills like creating meeting agendas, vetting email communications, and reviewing whether or not school-wide announcements were informative enough, energetic enough or even appropriate. I spent, and still spend, even more time on soft skills. We discuss how to effectively delegate, what a student should do when her friend on the committee isn’t following through on those delegated tasks, and how to do self check-ins to make sure that one leader isn’t picking up all of the extra work.
At times, this extra effort doesn’t seem worth my while. But then I see a pair of juniors, during dance breaks at our winter mixer, patrolling the hallway to make sure the decorations they spent weeks planning are still intact. I see the frustration and a new perspective gained when a student committee head is the person who gets let down when their committee member doesn’t follow through. I see the relief and satisfaction after an event is over and a student’s classmates are still raving about it on social media a week later. I see my initial time investment flourish in the growth these leaders experience when they are fully invested in the ups and downs of an event and its planning. And, even as my committee heads internalize these lessons and are ready to “drive the car,” I remain in the passenger seat as the instructor and advisor, with words of encouragement and my foot hovering over the brake. Just in case.