StuCo Hosts First S.E.M.A.S.C. Conference

StuCo+placed+a+%22Saddle+Up+to+Leadership%22+backdrop+in+the+auditorium+for+the+S.E.M.A.S.C.+confernce.

StuCo placed a “Saddle Up to Leadership” backdrop in the auditorium for the S.E.M.A.S.C. confernce.

Peter Hoegler

StuCo placed a "Saddle Up to Leadership" backdrop in the auditorium for the S.E.M.A.S.C. confernce.

 

For many years, high school Student Councils throughout Southeastern Massachusetts have been attending or hosting Southeastern Massachusetts Association of Student Councils conferences—or commonly known as S.E.M.A.S.C—with the stated aim of fostering leadership skills as wells as inspiring their young leaders to reach their fullest potential. This year, on Friday, October 26, Walpole Student Council hosted their first S.E.M.A.S.C. conference; welcoming 550 young leaders to Walpole High for a day filled with motivational speakers, influential workshops, and organized activities. The conference required hours of preparation beginning months beforehand, which involved planning workshops, deciding on a theme, and finding motivational guest speakers. But after persisting through all their adversities, StuCo was able to achieve their most daunting task yet—hosting a successful S.E.M.A.S.C. conference.

The day began unlike any other as the Student Council greeted 33 Southeastern Massachusetts councils and lead the student leaders into the cafeteria for a substantial breakfast. The bagels, doughnuts, and muffins had been generously donated by Dunkin’ Donuts, Country Kitchen, and Blue Moon Café. The main lobby and the hall leading to the cafeteria was flooded with western and cowboy decorations—the theme of the conference—poster boards for the candidates running for S.E.M.A.S.C. president, and animated students screaming “howdy” and “saddle up.”

The conference atendees were then guided to the auditorium for “Opening Session”—the inaugural meeting of the conference in which S.E.M.A.S.C. President Josh Dyer called to order, Seniors Caleb Cofsky and Kemble Lindh sang the national anthem, Superintendent Dr. Lincoln Lynch and Principal Stephen Imbusch spoke, and  presidential candidates illuminated why they should lead next year’s conference.

President Dyer said to the student leaders in his opening speech: “Student Council is more than just a club or something you do on the weekends. It’s a place of happiness, a place of opportunity, and to some, a place of refuge. It is a place where everyone expects you to be you, the true you.” The crowd loudly applauded Dyer after his comments.

Student Council President Emma Commiskey then dismissed the student leaders to the large workshop session from 9:42 to 10:23, where they would be directed to various locations throughout the school to ascertain leadership techniques or listen to a keynote speaker. The most popular workshop was led by Matt Brown—the Norwood hockey player who was paralyzed from the neck down—in which he described his life story to a group of 140 students. Senior Co-Treasurer Micaela Barry, who pleaded for Brown to speak at S.E.M.A.S.C., said, “I thought Matt did an amazing job conveying his story. It was his first public-speaking appearance, and in my opinion, I think he should do more of it.” A large portion of the students in attendance of Brown’s workshop were tearing up after his presentation.

There were six large workshops in total—all with the stated purpose of fostering leadership and minimizing stress. Mr. Ferro—the school’s Psychologist—used Hypnosis to teach 40 students how to cope with their distress. Walpole High’s Vice Principals Mr. Hahn and Mr. Connor divided their student leaders into small groups and advised them to create various works using just marshmallows and Q-Tips. Mr. Geary held his large workshop in the gymnasium—promoting the importance of trust in the lives of these young adults. Juniors Matt Brownsword and Jack Stedman and freshman Dillon Knight gathered 40 students in the day-break cafe to brainstorm ideas to expand on Student Council events such as pep rallies, school dances, and spirit weeks. And finally sophomores Annie Gallivan, Mary Hinton, and Lucy Lynch ran a workshop entitled “Bandana Bonanza” in which students wrote down their council’s individual goals and compared reasoning.

At 10:23, student leaders were lead back into the auditorium for Shonda Schilling’s keynote presentation on her involvement in the Best Buddies program and her best-selling novel, “The Best Kind of Different”: her story about the family’s journey with the Asperger’s Syndrome. Her 35 minutes presentation consisted of her struggle with skin cancer, her son’s fight with Autism, and her journey as the wife of a former MLB star. Senior Anthony Kennedy of Norton High School said, “She was definitely an original keynote speaker for a S.E.M.A.S.C. conference. As student leaders, we should be constantly reminded that there are other people out there who have not been as lucky as us and that we need to respect their differences.”

Student leaders were then released to either Small Workshop Session A or First Lunch. The small workshops were located in both the English and History Wing classrooms and were managed by high school students. Most were aspired to teach the attendees vital leadership qualities, but others focused on specifics, including community service or societal issues. The only problem Walpole Student Council faced during this time was that groups of students were choosing which workshop they wanted to attend, thus causing some workshops to consist of only a few kids.

Lunch was held in the cafeteria from 11:10- 12:05. Walpole StuCo ordered 46 pizzas from Big-Y Supermarket and the WHS lunch staff provided an open salad bar for a side. While the students ate lunch, they listened to live music performed by juniors Mikey Van Der Linden, Brian Hazerjian, Andrew Hazerjian, and Jimmy Martin. StuCo also set up an area where the students could take pictures of one another putting their heads through a cowboy display.

Finally, at 12:05, students were directed back into the auditorium for “Closing Session.” At that time, S.E.M.A.S.C. Vice President Samuel Tully announced the winner of the presidential election—junior Jake Timcoe of Marshfield High School. Timcoe is this year’s S.E.M.A.S.C. Webmaster and, after his exceptional speech in the Opening Session, was virtually a lock for president-elect. After a long applause, Dyer called S.E.M.A.S.C. to close at 12:29 and all 550 student leaders exited the auditorium in elation.

During clean up, Student Council Advisor Ms. Mcmenimen said, “I am very pround of our Stuent Council. They came together and directed a very animated and organized conference. For many of them, it was a once in a life time experiance, and in my opinion, they made the most of it.”

Walpole Student Council continues to progress as a whole and seems to be inching closer and closer to the much coveted Gold Council of Excellence Award—and accolade only given to  the top Councils in the state. Hosting a successful S.E.M.A.S.C. can now be crossed off of StuCo’s “to-do list” and now Ms. Mac can sit back and watch her experienced student leaders lead Walpole High School to an animated school year.