Guest post by James Gomez, a student at Bettendorf High School, Iowa:
The first time I was told about the basic concept of RSVP, I was intrigued and fascinated by it. A student body directly bringing about change within their school is a unique concept. Though at that time I was a few years too young to be a part of this organization, I knew it was something that I wanted to join. RSVP is a student-led organization within a school that gives a voice to the student body and helps to build leadership capacity within students.
What is RSVP?
RSVP, created by the National Association of Student Councils in 2006, empowers the student body to identify issues within their school. These concerns and ideas are then taken to principals and school administrators, who work together with students to address them. This line of communication from student to administration helps the student body feel confident that their voices are being heard and valued.
A student-led leadership team and student facilitators are essential parts of an RSVP program. Comprised of students who are willing to take leadership roles, the RSVP leadership team represents the student body and helps to organize the RSVP student facilitators. The leadership team trains facilitators to run student summits in order hear what students like about their school and what could be changed within it.
When the facilitators have gathered this information, the leadership team picks out the top concerns from the first summit and has the facilitators return to the student body for a second summit to ask students for their ideas for solutions. To make changes within the school, the leadership team meets with the principal to discuss what steps can be taken to address the concerns of the student body. More student summits can be held to gather student reaction or to call students to action to help make the change a reality.
My experience with RSVP began as a freshman in high school. I signed up with a high level of enthusiasm for the concept of RSVP, but I did not know what to expect out of the program. During facilitator training, the leadership team showed the trainees some of the changes that had been brought about through RSVP. Changes to various school facilities, events, and policies were all included in that list. It was then that I fully realized what kind of potential RSVP had within a school.
After my freshman facilitator training, I was approached by the RSVP teacher advisor and asked if I would like to join the leadership team. The members of the leadership team saw that I had shown energy and leadership potential during the training. I was thrilled to take a more involved role in a program with which I was already impressed.
During my freshman year, I facilitated summits, participated in leadership team meetings and activities, and helped inform other schools about RSVP. Additionally, I helped bring about a major policy change concerning cell phone use at my school. This large shift in policy allowed me to see just how much RSVP empowers the student body’s voice to make substantial changes.
During my sophomore year, I attended a Student Council State conference with RSVP to present the RSVP program to students and educators from around the state. The interest and enthusiasm that people showed over our presentations helped me see how beneficial it can be to share RSVP with other schools. Additionally, during my second year on the leadership team, I took the lead of a subcommittee of the leadership team that dealt with all lunchroom-related concerns brought to light during summits. Taking this leadership role meant stepping out of my comfort zone to work independently to take on problems that the student body had voiced through RSVP.
Since first joining RSVP, my leadership and teamwork skills have grown exponentially. Working with peers on the leadership team as well as with facilitators has made me a more confident speaker and communicator. I believe that RSVP is beneficial not only for schools as institutions, but also for the students involved in it. For these reasons, RSVP has been an important part of my school and an important program for me personally.
To me, RSVP is empowerment of students to create the change that they want to see in their own school. RSVP allows many students to get involved and make a positive difference in their school environment. Students and administrators around the country can benefit from RSVP and from the differences that it makes within their schools.
James Gomez is currently a junior and Lead Team member of RSVP at Bettendorf High School in Iowa. Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), principal of Bettendorf High School, will speak about RSVP’s impact on students like Gomez at Ignite ’14 an Extended Learning Lab on Saturday, February 8, 2014.