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Community Education

North, Sevier student councils reap top state awards

May 9th, 2014 11:57 pm by Rick Wagner

North, Sevier student councils reap top state awards

Ned Jilton II photo.

KINGSPORT — Sullivan North High and Sevier Middle schools won the top statewide student council award this year, the only schools east of Knoxville to do so.

It marked the 11th straight year Sullivan County's North has won the Four-Star Council Award from the Tennessee Association of Student Councils and the first time in nine years Kingsport's Sevier has won.

Both councils plan to convince other area schools to participate in the association programs.

Specifically, Kingsport's Dobyns-Bennett High School is a target for the Sevier council and its members about to go to D-B this fall.

During Tuesday night's Kingsport school board meeting, the board honored the Sevier program and viewed a video designed to spur interest in D-B's student council becoming active in TASC and seeking the Four Star award.

In addition, North council officials have invited D-B and other county high schools to participate in the association and plan to do so in the future.

To qualify for the award, councils must have at least 20 projects a year, including two new ones.

The awards were handed out March 28-30 during the group's annual convention at Bearden High School in Knoxville.

North projects that helped qualify it for the award included helping with the annual Santa Train, a Second Harvest Food Bank food drive, 11 homecoming activities, community service projects including those helping with the Saint Dominic School rummage sale and Madison House fundraisers, and helping with teacher appreciation activities at North.

Rebecca Ketron, a junior who is North council vice president and president-elect for 2014-15, said in a Monday interview that planning is already under way for the next school year.

"Our projects are going to be based on getting the whole school involved," Rebecca said.

The North and Sevier councils have a connection. Heather Donihe, who along with Rachael Wagner co-sponsors the Sevier council, was president of the North council 11 years ago. Donihe teaches eighth-grade science; Wagner teaches eighth-grade math.

Suzanne Demming, a co-sponsor 11 years ago, remains a co-sponsor for the North council along with Debbie Redman. Demming teaches biology; Redman teaches math.

"Mrs. Donihe knows very well the hard work it takes to be a Four Star student council," Demming said. "She was the president of the student council at Sullivan North when they received their first Four Star award."

Demming said the purpose of student councils is to provide leadership skills and opportunities for young people so that they can become leaders in their community as adults.

"Mrs. Donihe is a perfect example of how leadership skills developed in the student council at Sullivan North are now being used to develop future leaders at Sevier," Demming said. "Both Sevier and Sullivan North's councils continue to stay busy throughout the year with numerous projects and have plans to collaborate on a project this fall."

Sevier students are on a mission to get D-B involved in the association and Four Star program.

"We didn't even know about it (the association's Four Star award) before," Sevier eighth-grade council member Rithvik Vutukuri said.

He and other council members credited Donihe and Wagner with spurring interest in the association and award, although Demming said students must have the interest to participate.

"A lot depends on the interest of the kids and their advisers," Demming said.

Sevier council President John Lewis Corker, an eighth-grader, said the Robinson Middle council is not active in the association but that he'd like to see that school and D-B seek the Four Star award.

At Sevier, projects this school year included organizing spirit week activities leading up to the fall football game with Robinson, including a pep rally, said Corker and Vice President James Root, a seventh-grader.

For next school year, Root, the president-elect, said the Sevier council is working to host the regional workshop for middle school councils across East Tennessee.

One issue both school councils have is the $135 per person required to attend mandatory meetings to compete for the Four-Star award, the sponsors said. North sent three council members to the conference in Knoxville, while Sevier sent 11. Both programs did fundraising to help students attend.

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