Workshops about the school environment are making a student-driven positive impact on FHC


The media center where the workshop took place

Throughout a full day of discussing the culture of FHC and more, the staff found an entertaining midday activity to give the students a quick break from thinking and problem-solving. Resource room teacher Vicki Felton shares that in the midst of working and deeply dissecting the environment of FHC, students were able to find excitement in the light-hearted activities they participated in.

“I liked the activity Ms. Gernand ran, ‘Biggest Fan,’” Felton said. “[It is] the rock paper scissors one; I thought everyone was really pumped up and excited about that. That was a fun one.”

‘Biggest Fan’ is a rock paper scissors game where once someone loses, they follow around the person who beat them until only one person is remaining. 

While activities such as these are fun, they’re not the main focus of the workshop.

Earlier this month, around 20 freshmen gathered in the media center to participate in an all-day workshop focused around making FHC a better place for both students and staff. However, the students invited to the workshop weren’t chosen randomly; they’re freshmen whose teachers see the potential in them to become leaders.

“[The workshop] is supposed to accomplish building student leadership,” Felton said. “We take recommendations from teachers, and then we invite those students to come to the workshop. Within the workshop, kids come forward as leaders, and we can see that ‘oh, they really want to be a part of this.’ We want to make sure that they’re pulled in.”

Throughout the day, freshmen present at the workshop were acquainted with not only new kinds of thinking but also new people and their perspectives on student life as well. Students engaging with peers that they normally wouldn’t talk to is a key part of understanding the different experiences among their classmates.

We got to talk about what improvements we can make to our school and our community to make sure that everyone feels welcomed and like they belong

— Vicki Felton

“Students came together and met kids that maybe they didn’t know before, which is always an important part of the day,” Felton said. “We got to talk about what improvements we can make to our school and our community to make sure that everyone feels welcomed and like they belong.”

At the workshop, students worked in different-sized groups in the media center to encourage conversation in small and large groups.

Freshman Ben Bachert preferred discussing in small groups rather than large groups, and felt smaller groups helped more voices be heard. In small groups, students can get involved and talk with others rather than being talked to.

“I didn’t really care for like the large group stuff where we sit while they talk,” Ben said. “Working in smaller groups with your classmates [allows] you to get to know them better, and you get to talk with them a lot more.”

For Ben, getting to know his classmates better as well as trying to improve the environment of the school were the focal points of the workshop. He also thought being able to have input in his school was one of the most productive aspects of the workshop.

“It was a very fun experience,” Ben said. “[It was nice] to get to know your classmates better and get to know what we need to work on, and what the classes need to work on to make [the school] a better environment.”

Part of creating a better school environment is unity, which is an important part of being a Ranger, especially this year since one of the main focuses of the entire school year is the one-hat mentality that students and staff are all united under.

English teacher John Fisher shared that one of the concepts the workshop is centered around is not only improving the environment and unity at FHC but also the realistic goals for what a Ranger should look like.

“The focus was on what we want a ranger to be, what kind of characteristics we want graduates FHC to have; and, [it’s] not just that, but also getting the school in line with the students’ vision of what it should be,” Fisher said. “We’re all under that one-hat mentality that we all have this year. So, how do we get students to be the model students that we want and how do they get the school to be the model school that they want?”

One of the core values installed under the one-hat mindset at FHC is being a leader, and there’s no better way to encourage student leaders than by giving them the opportunity to share their ideas and solutions.

“We wanted to get [students] together,” Fisher said, “and try to develop some class leadership from kids that were hand selected by a lot of their teachers as being people who are influential on the class or potential leaders. So we just wanted to get them together and try to do some character development and some team building and just bring some of those potential leadership voices out to the forefront.”

Bringing the voices of potential leaders in the freshman class forward is essential because eventually, they’ll be upperclassmen with a different understanding of the school and more knowledge to apply.

The perspective of students is a valuable opinion that the FHC staff often need a better understanding of, and these workshops give them just that.

“I really enjoy hearing students brainstorm how we can make our school a better place for everyone,” Felton said, “because that’s the goal. Even our teachers are working on that this year. Our overall school goal is to make sure students feel a sense of community and belonging in this building. And, there’s value to having students putting in their ideas and their voices being heard by the administration.”