Prince Hall Student Council vote teaches campaign process

Student Council president Nysara Williams and treasurer Nyasia McLaurin.— PHOTO BY ABDUL SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

Enter a room inside the principal’s office at Prince Hall Elementary School and see a group of Student Council members sitting around a table. The agenda for the day — starting to plan the visit for the Philadelphia Eagles’ Playground Build. Student Council members will not only be deciding the design of the playground and what different things they want to incorporate into the yard, but they will also be collecting feedback from fellow students.

“We’re starting to come up with ideas for the playground that we’re supposed to have,” said fifth-grader Anthony Nelson. “So far, we‘ve thought about a swing set, monkey bars, a slide for the kindergartners’ yard and a shaded area with tables. There are so many things that we have been talking about when it comes to the playground. The next step will be making a final decision on everything. I’m just looking forward to putting those ideas together and seeing how it will turn out.”

Since 1997, the Eagles Youth Partnership’s annual community-changing Playground Build teams the entire Eagles organization, including players, coaches, cheerleaders and staff members, with a school community to transform a barren asphalt schoolyard into a beautiful and imaginative safe haven for play and recreation.

“When you think about it, it’s really cool that we’re getting an opportunity like this,” said fourth-grader Tia Cannon. “Not every school gets an opportunity like this. It’s an honor to be the voice of the school and to make sure everyone’s vision gets across in the playground. This will not only be a team effort, but this will also represent our school and community. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Student Council started off the school year with the election process. Students had to run campaign s and tell fellow students why they should be elected. The winners of the campaign became elected officers of Student Council.

“This is my first year taking over Student Council,” said teacher and Student Council adviser Darlene Hickman. “I have a core group of about eight children. We did the election process for Student Council, which was really good because the students got to see what it entails to run a campaign. It’s very important for students to get a hands-on learning experience of what elected officials go through to get elected into office.

“They see it on TV, but they are removed from it because they are children,” she added. “This allows them to be a part of that process. I’m hoping that they understand that being a part of school is not just academics. It’s also about decision-making, being responsible, and sharing with others. They need to be able to lead others as well as themselves. Student Council is a great way for our students to become leaders.”

For fourth-grader Nysara Williams, being elected president was a great feat.

“Being a part of Student Council was something that I always wanted to do,” Williams said. “My brother was in Student Council and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. During the campaign, I got a chance to do a lot of different things to get people to vote for me. It was a lot of fun. Winning and getting to be the president of Student Council was a great honor.”

Located at 6101 N. Gratz St., the school is named after Prince Hall, an American Revolutionist, abolitionist, businessman, minister and educator. Hall was instrumental in the establishment of one of the first public schools for African Americans in Boston in 1798 at No. 8 Smith Court, where the first African-American church in Boston was located. Prince Hall is the only school named after a Mason. The school’s motto is “The Best Thing Between Heaven and Earth.”

“Prince Hall is a good school. I have really learned a lot since I’ve been here,” said fifth-grader Kristen Waples. “The teachers really do a good job of preparing us for the next level. There are so many different things for us to do. We’re not just learning in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom. This is the ultimate learning experience. I know I will succeed in middle school, because of all the things I learned at Prince Hall.”

In addition to Student Council, other programs at Hall include Scrabble, Drama Club, Shine II program, Homework Help Club, Knitting, Go Green Club and French Club. Students also participate in vocal, instrumental, visual, choir, and drum line. Some other points of pride at Prince Hall include Healthy School Initiative: 2011-2012; Fun and Fitness: 2011- 2012; and being the East Stroudsburg Scholarship Recipient 2000-2012.

“I’ve been here for five years and my experience has been great,” said fourth-grader Jaden Washington. “The teachers do a good job of teaching us. The principal is always finding new things for us to do as a school. The science fair is always something great that we participate in every year; last year I won. I also participated in the science fair again this year. It was a good experience.”

For parent Leah DeSaussure, seeing her daughter, Meah, succeed at Prince Hall has been a wonderful experience.

“The staff at Prince Hall is very friendly,” DeSaussure said. “The teachers do a great job of communicating with the parents. Meah is really doing well in school. Before attending the school, she had a little trouble reading, but now she’s excelling in reading. She’s learning about her heritage, doing well in math, and learning how to play the violin.”

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