LORAIN MORNING JOURNAL | March 25, 2017 | By CAROL HARPER
Administrators turned to students armed with ideas and enthusiasm to improve climate and academics at Lorain High School.
“We had a Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council meeting (this week),” said Lorain City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham. “One student’s comment was ‘Some kids only come to school to eat. If they don’t, they don’t eat.’ ”
So, Graham challenged the group of student leaders at the school at 2600 Ashland Ave. in Lorain.
“How do we engage those students so they have more reasons for coming to school?” Graham asked them. “We’re working on those ideas. We’re not far enough along to share those things yet.
“We’re looking at them to improve culture and climate opportunities. Right now, they’re identifying needs.”
More than a year ago, a similar group of students asked for more food in school lunches, and for permission to wear hooded sweatshirts they call, “hoodies,” Graham said.
In response, the Lorain School Board approved hooded sweatshirts as part of the dress code.
For some less affluent students, a sweatshirt takes the place of a coat and they were cold, Graham said.
The board also approved free breakfast and lunch for all Lorain Schools students, as long as they choose a full lunch.
Students still must pay to select individual items, such as a sandwich. So, the students can receive the free lunch and can buy individual items to increase food quantity, he said.
Now, the students are tackling new barriers, Graham said.
“There are several pieces we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “We want our district to be a better place to be. But there’s a process our students need to know how to follow.
“It’s how to problem solve: ‘Here’s our problem. Why is it a problem?’ We have a facilitator. Erin (Gadd, director of communications and community engagement at Lorain Schools) and I are attending. There’s a difference between leading and guiding.”
This is student driven, Graham said.
“Two outcomes I want are to improve student achievement and engage students,” he said. “And, two, to have students identify a problem and come up with solutions. And also, how do you get your voice heard?
“It’s easy to complain, whine and never really do anything about it. It’s important for a student to see what the problems are and help resolve the issues. These are students identified as leaders. We’re putting them in the leadership role and giving them the opportunity to lead.”
The next step is a survey of students, Graham said.
The student leaders requested more courses and electives, and after school opportunities.
“Right now, kids go straight home after school instead of staying longer at school,” Graham said. “The students feel school is a better place for them.”
Gadd said students feel having the right people as champions for the cause makes a difference.
“There are definitely student leaders,” she said.
Graham supports the survey.
“They were very clear if we give a random survey to everybody, either kids wouldn’t take it, or they wouldn’t take it seriously and we wouldn’t get good answers,” Graham said. “... They identified areas of weakness in our district.
“We’re going about looking into those. We’ll sit down together and support the outcomes. Then we’ll be there to help them fix it.”
Gadd said the students ideas include athletics, academics and arts.
“They did have opinions about what kids would want, but they also didn’t want to speak for all the kids,” Graham said.
Obstacles to after school programs include food, transportation and providing the right opportunities, Gadd said.
“I think there are a lot of positive activities,” Graham said. “It’s a safe place, and if we can provide productive, safe opportunities, that’s what we should do. We have to make sure we catch all the kids.”