When the idea of creating a student council at ISAK came up, students were vociferous in pushing for an inclusive style of government, so that every student at ISAK is empowered to work for positive change when they wish. The result was the ISAK Student Union.
Unlike a traditional student council with a president and other council members making decisions on behalf of the students, the ISAK Student Union serves to facilitate “grassroots” efforts by any student who want to implement a new idea or modify existing school rules. A core group of 6 – 8 students who are trained in ‘community organizing’ accept the responsibility to help build leadership in students as they advocate for and create positive change in the community.
The Student Union model combines elements from ISAK’s design innovation program with community organization training from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Students learn how to develop a prototype campaign, “recruit” and organize supporters for the campaign, modify the campaign based on objections and feedback, and then present their idea to the school community. Once projects and ideas are implemented, the student advocates are also responsible for monitoring implementation.
While still in its early stages, the Student Union has been a powerful way for students to learn important life skills such as advocacy, negotiation and compromise, as well as a better understanding of the challenges in developing and implementing policies that affect the entire community. Students have already worked to modify the WiFi usage agreement and develop a new weekend check-in procedure, and they are currently creating rules that improve student movements and freedoms off-campus.