Sakari Jackson, Grade 9, Staff Writer
The High School of American Studies student government is a fundamental part of the school community. Since the freshman class has not had the opportunity to meet all of their peers in person, most do not know much about their grade’s representatives. Sakari Jackson, a staff writer at Common Sense, interviewed the freshman representatives, Noa Greene-Houvras and Amy Yu, to ask them about their experience at HSAS and their goals for the future.
Question: What’s it like to have your first year of high school be online?
Amy Yu: It’s definitely been a challenge. Nobody knows who anybody is, and as freshmen, we are in new environments. It’s really been a struggle to connect with others.
Noa Greene-Houvras: I totally agree. Mainly, it’s hard to make connections with anyone else since it’s all remote.
Q: Why did you want to be a freshman representative?
Yu: I’ve also always wanted to be a part of student government. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people and have become propped up on this pedestal, and I just felt like I’m in a position to help out with this change.
Greene-Houvras: I [became a freshman representative] because I’ve always wanted to be involved in student government. But, this year especially, there’s a lack of connection and I wanted to help out with that.
Q: Do you plan to run for representative, or any other positions, in the following years?
Yu: I definitely want to run again, [but] I don’t know [for] what position. Maybe I’ll become president, maybe I’ll become vice-president, [I] can’t say for sure at this point. But you will definitely see more of me in the future.
Greene-Houvras: I will [continue to] work [with] student government. I love it. There’s definitely a bit of Imposter Syndrome going on right now, but I would like to be Secretary in the future because I’m very organized and like to take clean notes.
Q: What’s one thing you want to accomplish this year as representatives?
Yu: Honestly, just getting through this [school] year. It’s a bit of a short-term goal, but I think it’s important … It’s difficult being online all the time, but making it through this year is a big hope of mine.
Greene-Houvras: I want to make a peer association group, like the parent-teacher association, but more geared towards helping students with homework and mental health. So kind of [combining] the PTA and Chocolate Milk Club. I also really want to put a bigger emphasis on mental health, with more focus on students [getting] in a better mindset. Also, putting trigger warnings on important videos and topics we discuss at school to better prepare students and help those who may experience trauma. And introducing students to the school therapist.
Q: What is it like to be a school representative online? What do your duties look like?
Yu: We use the Discord for most of our conversations. I won’t even realize it, but soon I’m getting pinged for all sorts of things—trigger warnings, ideas for student government, etc. Then Noa and I would look through all these messages and talk [them] over with the other student government members. It’s a lot, but we know what we signed up for.
Greene-Houvras: It’s kind of weird [and] harder to know the people you’re representing. You end up going out of your way to get everyone’s opinion and make sure everyone is heard. You have to keep messaging people to make sure everyone got [the announcement], but you don’t want to annoy the people you already talked to. But overall it’s fun, like a puzzle: challenging, but rewarding.
Q: What qualities would make a good representative?
Yu: I think you need to be easily accessible. If you can’t be reached at any time, you aren’t really doing your job correctly. Both Noa [and I] are good at responding to emails fairly quickly. It’s part of the job, really. And you should be accepting of all ideas, and listen to everyone. You have to be willing to listen to any idea, no matter how crazy, or else you won’t really get any at all, or any you can use.
Greene-Houvras: I agree. I also think that being articulate is important, cause you have to be a middleman between the freshmen and the student government. You also have to be open-minded, as Amy said, and give everyone a chance. Everybody should be free to share their ideas. I think [having] the ability to be a leader is also important; you can’t be a follower in a position like this.
Q: What is one goal that you personally have for the future?
Yu: [To] make it through the rest of the year. 2020 has been a wild ride, and I’m looking forward to 2021. What’s the worst that could happen?
Greene-Houvras: This is going to sound a little sad but I want to make new friends.