- Parma City School District
Six Valley Forge juniors step up and make positive changes at their school
April 6, 2020
“Be the change you wish to see in this world” is the iconic quote from political activist Mohandas Gandhi.
For six Valley Forge High School students, changing the world starts in their school.
These six Valley Forge juniors – Zach Ansbro, Emily Beckner, Bryan Bobrowski, Solomiya Dmitriv, Vito Frate and Adrian Mendez – have been working since the fall to identify, and then create solutions for problems at the school.
They are members of the First Ring Student Leadership Institute, a program sponsored through the First Ring Schools Collaborative. The FRSC is a collection of 17 school districts that surround Cleveland, who in part, help provide resources for school district administrators and teachers. The FRSC is one of the many services provided through the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio.
“The platform that the First Ring platform offers for normal kids in the building is just trying to make changes for the better in the school,” Valley Forge Health and Physical Education teacher John Wessel explained. “I think that’s a really awesome thing. They aren’t student council and they aren’t necessarily leaders in their class. They are everyday students who care about their school and want to make things better.”
The group met for the first time this year, after a request from advisor Wessel, who also represents the PCSD as a member of the First Ring Teacher Leadership Academy. Wessel guided the students to identify one issue at the school which really affected students.
The group of juniors chose to address mental health issues by better connecting students to school programs and events.
“It’s something we’ve noticed over the four years that we’ve been here,” Borowski said. “With the clubs, the groups and the resources the school has to offer, we’ve noticed that most kids don’t know what’s available to them or aren’t interested in it. Most of our student sections for sports are lacking support.”
“We felt that if people were more connected to each other, or the school as a whole, we would improve our mental and social health,” Borowski added.
After identifying this problem, and a solution, these juniors developed a survey to send to all students. 972 out of 1400 students responded.
“972 students who took the survey gave us qualitative and quantitative data that really backed up what we were noticing ourselves throughout the school over the last four years,” Borowski added. “It really set us on that this was a problem in our school, we noticed it, and data from almost 1000 students in the survey really showed what was going on.”
The survey found data like six in ten freshmen had attended less than five events so far this school year. Conversely, nearly one-third of all seniors had attended more than 15.
The group continues to develop and work on recommendations for addressing this problem. They will make their final recommendation to the 17 superintendents from FRSC districts. Additionally, they will make recommendations to Valley Forge administrators.
Some of the ideas included allowing students to purchase dedicated parking spaces at the school, and then decorating them to be more welcoming. Another idea included allowing students to buy an athletic pass for the school for an entire season, boosting attendance. Other ideas included additional bonfires, pep rallies and maybe even talent shows.
Whatever the idea, these students just want to make lasting change in a school that means a lot for them.
“It’s really been a learning experience, for all of us,” Frate added. “It’s something we can take with us and help develop upon it. Even after we graduate, we hope to make an impact and it changes the school for the better. It’s our goal.”
“I think it’s really interesting because it gives an opportunity to actually make change,” Ansbro expressed. “And especially on a big of a stage as we have here.”
“I’m definitely proud of the work they have done,” Wessel explained. “When I first met with them, it was almost like pulling teeth to get them to have collaborative conversations. Now, I give them the agenda of needs to get done and they get to work. They have really good conversations, it’s been great.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Valley Forge High School juniors representing the school at the First Ring Student Leadership Institute. Back row (L-R): VF Physical Education teacher John Wessel, Zach Ansbro, Emily Beckner, Vito Frate, Adrian Mendez. Front row: Solomiya Dmitriv, Bryan Borowski.