The student voice is louder than ever at Ashland High School, thanks to a group of 43 student senators who meet bi-monthly to keep the concerns and ambitions of their classmates at the forefront of school leaders' agendas.
The senators were elected at the beginning of the school year by peers from their morning advisory classes.
"Senate basically serves for all the voices of the kids who don't like to speak up," said sophomore Tristan Giannini, who was also elected to serve last year, when the Student Senate was established at AHS.
"Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's serious," he said. "It's always a very good environment for discussion."
The students spread out in a wide circle for Wednesday morning's final meeting of November. In 40 minutes, they set the groundwork for the school's annual food drive for Ashland Emergency Food Bank, offered several reports to AHS Principal Michelle Zundel about how students are coping with homework loads so far this year, took back to classmates information from Zundel about the implementation of next year's new performance evaluation model, and gathered ideas for next month's meetings.
Because the high school's 43 advisory classes are grade-specific, there is a healthy combination of upper and lower class members on the Senate.
"They've informed everything from advisory, to curriculum, to hiring," Zundel said. "And they're seeing the results of their input."
Elected student body Presidents Sarah Honeywell and McKenna O'Dougherty and Vice President Nathan Ostovar lead the meetings, with Zundel alongside.
"It's a really good tool to get feedback in an effective manner," said Ostovar, a senior. "Here, we get 40 different ideas, and each one of those is being fed by the 25 students in every advisory class.
"And there have definitely been issues brought up that I didn't know were issues or concerns," he said.
The consistent dialogue the Senate has opened between students and leadership at AHS "keeps us in the loop," said junior Logan Narramore. "And that's good to have."
Narramore and AHS senior Vidal Reyes said there is plenty of room for student senators to improve their communication with peers.
"Student Senate has the potential to be very powerful," Honeywell told the senators, before the group dispersed across campus to attend regular classes.
It's a "fair" and "democratic" approach to operating a school, and that can only benefit the nearly 1,000 students attending AHS, she said after the meeting.
"Things are still in the beginning stages a little bit, but I think Senate has a huge potential to take off at this school."