Courtesy of San Benito High School Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum:
Dear San Benito High School Parents, Students and Community:
The approximately 140 San Benito High School students involved with the Associated Student Body (ASB) and Class Office each year “work to develop a spirit of cooperation, to cherish and foster the ideals of San Benito High School, and to impress upon the minds of the students the principles of democracy through the practice of self-government,” according to SBHS Activities Director Catalina Lemos.Our active student leadership organization promotes unity, pride, and school spirit while developing student leaders who will build upon those skills to serve their community as they become adults.
“Our school is fortunate to have one of the most comprehensive ASB programs in the state,” said SBHS Principal Adrian Ramirez. “While our school closure has limited what our ASB program can do, they continue to look for creative ways to maintain and drive student culture.”
Representing All Students
One of the most important roles ASB plays is to represent the entire student body.“Our administrative team continues to work closely with our ASB student leaders to ensure they have a voice on matters such as our current remote instructional model,” the principal said. “They continue to do an excellent job of collecting student feedback, communicating with administration and being solution oriented. As the principal, I can’t express how grateful I am to be working alongside student leadership that is consistently looking for ways to improve the SBHS student experience.”
A Healthy Climate
Mrs. Lemos notes that students who attend a school with a healthy climate and culture tend to do better academically, socially and emotionally. “At SBHS, the whole student is valued and we believe that a Baler is someone who is well-rounded,” she noted. “They are academically and socially developed and know how to work as a team. We need student leaders to help set the tone for their classmates and that have a vested interest in the student activities at our school. At SBHS, our student leaders truly are in charge of creating and carrying out the events. Of course there is adult guidance and support, but there is a real sense of accomplishment by the students in charge of a successful event.”
Students are empowered by planning and organizing events that are meaningful to them and their classmates. Throughout its many decades on campus, ASB has made the campus a fun and exciting place to learn, according to Mrs. Lemos.
“ASB works alongside many different organizations on and off campus to create fun and relevant events,” she said. “They work closely with our administration and our athletic department as well, which helps align our goals and make our team more effective as a whole.”
Students Representing Students
Student Congress was started by Dr. Katherine (Mook) Foster after the student walk-out during the 1986-1987 school year to open a line of communication between students and the administration. Nearly 35 years later, student representatives are still selected from each 1st period class to share their peers’ concerns and acknowledgements with the administration and receive pertinent information regarding upcoming events and ways to get involved in a positive way at SBHS. These prioritized concerns are then presented to the administration in a cabinet meeting so they will be addressed with the appropriate administrator or supervisor and the progress/solution is presented to the representatives at the following meeting. The concerns are also shared with the Board of Trustees by the student representative to the board.
ASB President Alec Garcia said being involved with his school “is very important to me. Not only did I get to learn such amazing skills, but you get a feeling of accomplishment and self worth. In elementary school, I was not the most well-known kid, and I didn’t really know much of myself either. In fifth grade, I joined student government and have been part of it ever since. Joining ASB in high school opened my eyes to dedication, hard work, and friends. Now, I love it so much I don’t care if I have to wake up at 5 a.m. for it.”
Last year’s representative to the board and this year’s ASB Vice President Luis Espinoza said his experience with student leadership “has truly shaped who I am and has helped build my character.”
Link Crew Vice President Clare Skardoutos said ASB has “provided me a sanctuary by allowing me to be creative, step outside my bubble, and to have a fun time, all the time.”ASB Commissioner of Community Affairs Sofia Lemos said ASB “has made my high school experience better than I could have imagined, It has not only left a huge impact on me, but allowed me to do things that will leave an impact on my peers and my community.”Student Congress President Antonio Lara said, “ASB has opened up more doors in my life than I can express, not only in school but in the community. I’ve been able to express my creativity as well as myself. Helping others brings so much joy and ASB allows me to do that.”
ASB Class Coordinator Kylie Corrigan noted that during her freshman year, “the one regret I had was not getting involved. My sophomore year I decided that was exactly what I needed to do. ASB has allowed me to get involved in ways I didn’t know were possible. I feel as if I have made a positive impact on not only my peers but my community as well. ASB has positively impacted my high school experience and is something I will never regret.”
Events For Everyone
During a regular school year, ASB also coordinates Freshman Orientation along with Link Crew, assists Rally Club with the two Homecomings, conducts the two Bumpfests, two Air Jams, Powder Puff football, noontime activities every Friday, Student Congress, Senior Nights with assistance from Rally Club, the MORP Dance, the ASB Election Convention, Class Assemblies, the annual Benefit Drive, the canned food drive and BLTs (Baler Lunch Times).During ongoing remote instruction, ASB has never stopped working hard for their schoolmates. They jumped to Zoom meetings within one week of the shutdown and have conducted almost all of the planned activities virtually. This school year, all planned activities have been virtual as well.
“We conducted Freshman Orientation (five Zoom sessions that reached more than 550 incoming freshmen), the Virtual Olympics, Noontime Activities, and Student Congress, just to name a few,” Mrs. Lemos said.
A Legacy of Leadership
San Benito High School Trustee Juan Robledo preceded Mrs. Lemos as activities director, serving in that role for 21 years, starting in the 1991-92 school year. During his tenure, Mr. Robledo oversaw the continued growth of ASB, including air jams, Feeder School Assemblies, involving Link Crew in welcoming freshmen to campus, and expanding leadership opportunities for a diverse group of students. Principal Ramirez was a Link Crew leader while a student at SBHS, Assistant Principal Laurie (Cottrell) Chavez was ASB vice president in 1996 and social science teacher and girls’ soccer coach Becky Bonner was ASB president in 2004.
“We had events that made people want to be part of activities on campus” Mr. Robledo said.
ASB and Student Congress, he noted, “gave students ownership and pride in our school. It made students become part of the high school. ASB created a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Link Crew gave everybody a piece of the action, as seniors could be a big brother to the freshmen during Freshman Orientation. ASB made everybody a part of the beautiful thing called high school.
Robledo said his work with students made him and other teachers feel included as well, as they served as club advisors and mentors to burgeoning student leaders. “We’re here to teach students leadership skills,” he said.
Since the 1980s, CASC (the California Association of School Councils) leadership camp has been a prime component in the training and development of 45 to 65 SBHS ASB and Class Office student leaders each year.
“These students bring back outstanding leadership skills to implement on our campus,” said Mrs. Lemos. “For example, CASC helps to develop good character, conflict management skills and team building. The strength of ASB and Class Office, affects our success rate with clubs, school climate and culture and overall student success. Each year, the number of students that are trained to be counselors at the U.C. Santa Barbara camps goes up as well. This has helped take our ASB and Class Office to another level.”
Reflecting on Success
As she looks back on her seven years as student activities director, Mrs. Lemos points out that she has “had the amazing opportunity to be a teacher on campus and a mom to three high schoolers: Morgan (Class of 2019), Sofia, (Class of 2021), who has been on ASB all four years, and Laci (Class of 2023), who is on ASB and is carving out her own unique experience. All of her children also participated in athletics and other school activities.
“I am proud of the lessons they all have learned and applied throughout their years,” Mrs. Lemos notes. “Letting them each come into their own has been such a blessing. I try my best to guide all of my students in a good direction and be a good example. Being a mom has helped me to see all of my students as somebody’s son or daughter and that has made me a stronger leader and activities director.”
As superintendent, I am grateful for the leadership shown and example set by Mrs. Lemos, Mr. Robledo, all of the faculty and staff who devote their time to promote and lead student activities, and the ongoing support of our community, which our student leaders serve and represent.
Our vibrant, connected community is a constant reminder that every day is a great day to be a Baler!
San Benito High School Superintendent Dr. Shawn Tennenbaum