ASB to Operate Under a Big Tent in 2016-17

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Inclusiveness will be a heightened priority of ASB at San Marino High School this school year, according to the group’s top officers.
“My freshman year, I felt like I was kind of on the fringe. I didn’t go to any ASB events. I was uninvolved,” said senior Douglas Luo, who has taken over as ASB president. “I don’t want other people to feel the same way I felt. You want to be out there and really get the kids involved — even if it’s one friend, one person you can go with to have a good time.”
Fellow senior Kathleen Liu, who is serving as vice president, said she’s noticed a troubling trend: “We always see the same people at every single ASB event. We’re trying to think of ways to include everyone.”
And one important step toward that objective is to be inclusive within ASB itself. Luo and Liu both remarked that when they were involved with ASB in prior years, the internal dynamic was heavily “senior-centric,” as Luo put it.
“Last year, as a junior, the meetings were always carried by the seniors,” Liu added. “Discussions were based on their opinions. It was actually harder to bring up my own opinions.”
To head off a similar prospect this year, the ASB’s roster of 26 officers has been liberally peppered with underclassmen — six juniors, for example, and five sophomores.
Of course, the objective of inclusiveness — in-house and throughout the student body — is not something that is achieved merely by talking about it. How fitting, then, that the theme for a recent four-day retreat in Long Beach was this: Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.
“We talked a lot about commitment and dedication and making a difference,” said adviser Jose Caire, who led the students through trust-building games, conflict-resolution exercises and leadership discussions.
One of the first things he did was make certain that the kids were fully committed to the program: He did so by confiscating all of their phones at the beginning of each day. Without the distraction of a ping or a ring, a text or a tweet, he knew they’d have little recourse than to focus on one another. The phones were returned late in the evening, at the conclusion of the various activities.
Caire continued: “Kids these days are doing many things, but you can’t give 100% to all those things — not because you don’t have the heart to do it, but just because, physically and the time commitment, you’re not able to get more than 24 hours in a day.
“I’m trying to get the kids to understand that commitments are important. One of the things that bothers me a lot is when I have kids who know we have an activity that has been planned for months, yet a water polo tournament appears this week and they’re going to choose to go to something [as a spectator] rather than honoring their commitment.”
Another emphasis on the retreat was character, driven by Assistant Principal Eric Bergmann, who dropped in on the retreat for a day. Nowhere in the ASB constitution does it say that good character is a qualification for a leadership role, but the SMHS group has resolved to make it a priority.
Caire said, “One thing we talk about to these kids all the time is making the right choice vs. making the popular choice — the choice their friends would like them to make.”
An example, he said, might be a school dance, where an ASB officer lets his or her friends slip in for free. This is a sure route to popularity, but what does it say to that person who observes this, then walks up to the door and is asked to pay?
That wouldn’t exactly comport with ASB’s goal of extending a wider welcome in 2016-17.
Caire has high hopes that Luo and Liu will capably lead the way this year, calling them “great kids, very motivated, hard-working.”
And, well, committed.
“We want to create a strong sense of community and inclusiveness,” Luo said. “We want to serve as an example that the rest of the school can follow. … We feel our job is setting a tone.”

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