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Good government: Brooklyn Tech High School student government wins the gold

Members of the Brooklyn Technical High School Student Government Organization and their adviser are, bottom row left to right, Nour Haredy, Laura Chen, Ji Yuen Cha, and top row left to right, Joseph Kaelin, Marly Banatte, Joseph Glanzberg, Jasmin Wang, Husna Ellis, Alexander Badiu, Rene Clever, Kecia O’Neal.
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Students from Brooklyn Technical High School — considered one of the most prestigious and selective high schools in the country — are no strangers to acknowledgment of their exemplary work. This past spring, their exceptionalism was recognized again — this time, the honor was given by the National Association of Student Councils. For its leadership and service, Brooklyn Tech’s Student Government Organization was awarded a 2017 National Gold Council of Excellence Award.

The school (often referred to as Brooklyn Tech), in Fort Greene, specializes in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is one of the specialized high schools operated by the city’s Department of Education. A large and diverse school, it stands 68th in national rankings, according to U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best High Schools.

“Receiving a National Gold Council Award reflects the highest dedication on the part of the school to providing a strong, well-rounded student council program,” said Ann Postlewaite, student programs director for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “NASC applauds the work of the Gold Councils of Excellence and challenges them to continue their leadership and service to their schools and communities.”

Attracting students from all five boroughs, Brooklyn Tech serves nearly 5,700 students. It is one of the largest and most successful high schools in the United States and is touted as one of the most diverse due to the large percentage of students identifying with multicultural backgrounds or lower socioeconomic status.

One of only a few schools in the country to offer 18 academic majors for upperclassmen to choose from, its curriculum model exceeds the scope of both the New York State Regents and the Advanced Placement program. Students’ test passage rates for both tests exceed district and state averages.

Due to this great success, admission is highly competitive, with an acceptance rate of around eight percent. Graduates of the high school attend prestigious universities — both Ivy League and other notable colleges like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, and Stanford University. Its graduates include scientists, chief executive officers, and top scholars. But before they were graduates of Brooklyn Tech or considered notable alumni, they were top students and were often recognized for exemplary work.

The National Association of Student Councils (representing middle and high school councils nationwide) has aimed to help student councils become more effective organizations. The student government organization offers the opportunity for students to become effective leaders. Alexander Badiu (class of 2017) says that his four years working as a leader in Brooklyn Tech’s student government have taught him “how to truly guide others, form agendas, and facilitate and launch initiatives.” He is most proud of the Big Sib/Little Sib program that helps to “significan­tly ease the transition [to high school] for entering freshmen.”

James Kettle (’18) says that his work with the organization has taught him “about cooperation and teamwork and how it is perhaps the most important thing for being successful because no one can do it all by themselves.” He helped to develop a plan for a Freshmen Guidance Reform Initiative so that every ninth grader will quickly meet with his guidance counselor in small groups to serve as immediate support to new students.

Student government organizations, a program of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, are encouraged to influence and aid in creating a positive school climate. One opportunity for growth in these areas is to attend the Leadership, Experience and Development Conference, which offers experiential leadership skill development for both students and advisers in order to sharpen their leadership skills to improve their school culture and community.

As a freshman, Yiting (Kelly) Su (’20) has already attended the conferences in Washington D.C. and presented at a workshop on anti-bullying efforts. She credits her student government experiences for helping to shape her confidence to pursue such an activity.

Brooklyn Tech’s student council met a variety of criteria in order to receive this award. Aside from the standard written constitution, democratic election, and membership in the National Association of Student Councils, the students also demonstrated a commitment to leadership, organized school and community service projects, and were active in both state and national student council associations.

Joseph Kaelin, a coordinator of student activities at Brooklyn Tech, said, “There are only three schools in New York State to receive this award, and Brooklyn Tech is the only school in New York City” to be so honored. While lauding the outstanding work of all the students, Kelly Nottingham, assistant principal of Student and Parent Engagement, added “the success of our SGO is mostly due to Mr. Kaelin’s ongoing dedication to developing effective leaders. His support and expertise is invaluable.”

For more information on National Association of Student Councils, visit www.nasc.us.

Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website, www.shniekajohnson.com.

Posted 12:00 am, October 12, 2017
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