Mondays with Maria: School Connectedness
Posted on 11/27/2023
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Speaker 2: Welcome to Mondays with Maria, brought to you by the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. Here's OCPS Superintendent Dr. Maria Vazquez.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Hi everyone. I have another great topic today so I invited two of the students who sit on my student advisory council here to discuss school connectedness. From Boone High School, I have two seniors, Drayton Bourne and Jack Rouadi. Thank you both for being here. In our meetings this year school connectedness has been a big topic of discussion. It really can make a big impact on how successful students can be academically, socially, and mentally. We're going to start with Drayton. What are some of the barriers you think students have in forming that connection to school?

Drayton Bourne: Well, the first barrier I would automatically think of is transportation. Because we have so many events that are outside of school, such as football games, and not everyone has access to a vehicle to get there. So something we are trying to do is to advertise things a lot sooner, such as announcements on Canvas, and we're making social media posts on our Instagram’s to try to give them some more time to think about how they could get there, how they could get a ride. As well as making a lot of more events on school, such as in our club council meetings and our rush week that we do in the beginning of the year to help student engagement and help everyone get involved in something on Boone's campus.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Yeah, that's, you know, I hadn't thought about transportation being like, probably the number one barrier, especially when it comes to all of the fun activities. So great to hear that Boone is trying some alternative ways to get over that obstacle of transportation. Okay. So Jack, can you share some of the ideas that Boone has come up with to help students feel that they are more connected?

Jack Rouadi: Yes. So this year we incorporated lunchtime pep rallies. Where we have like the cheerleaders, we had the football team, we had the teacher cannon. Everybody came together in the courtyard and was, we celebrated our football game, which was good because it was an in-school event so everyone could participate. And it was also just fun. We had our admin out there so everybody kind of got on the same page and just had a good time at school.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Yeah, That's great because we know that being connected to school also means having connections to the adults, and so being able to recognize who they are and see that they are having fun and engaged is, is part of that. Drayton, can you share some of the feedback you've received from other students regarding connectedness?

Drayton Bourne: Yes. So regarding our last pep rally that we had for the beat, the Edgewater game we had a lot of student turnout at the actual football game because we had a pep rally the day of. But I did hear from a particular student that said that they couldn't make it to the game, but they got to still celebrate with the school and be excited for the school event at the school during lunchtime. So I think that we're doing the best that we can on trying to get more students involved.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Mm-Hmm, and lunch is such a short period, so maybe we need to look at maybe extending some of the, that time at lunch so that you are able to engage in more of those activities during the day. So that might be something I'm going to have my student services team look at. So Jack, what advice would you give a new student at your school? Or how can current students help if they see a new student on campus to help them feel more connected?

Jack Rouadi: So, I would recommend that any student, whether they're a new student or a current student it's really important to get involved at school. We have a lot of sports organizations and clubs that anyone with any different, like activities they like to do, there's a lot for everyone to do. So it's important to try to get involved and ask people. We have our club rush, which advertises all the different clubs and just find something that you enjoy that you can do at school.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Yeah. I'm really amazed when I start to see all the different clubs that are offered. There really is something for everyone, but they need to take that step and, and join, find out about the club so that they can start to make friends and start to be more part of that school. Thank you both again for being here. I hope this will help other schools in ways to tackle this very important issue. We want everyone to feel a connection to their school and not only helps them feel valued and part of something, but it can reflect in their academics and socially. I hope families reach out to their school if they're looking for ways to help their child feel more connected on campus. Thank you for watching, and I'll see you next week on Mondays with Maria

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