A sea of purple sport jackets, emblazoned with the Wallenpaupack shield entered the school board meeting at the high school library, October 9.

WALLENPAUPACK - A sea of purple sport jackets, emblazoned with the Wallenpaupack shield entered the school board meeting at the high school library, October 9. The jackets were adorning the premier class of Student Ambassadors, making up some of he “best and brightest” of their student body, according to High School Principal Jim Kane.

Mrs. Colleen Edwards, WAHS Career Coordinator runs the program. She introduced the group, several of whom offered brief remarks.

Penn State Worthington assisted in training 52 students in March 2017. Students applied to be part of this program, to serve as goodwill ambassadors for the high school. Wearing the distinctive purple jackets, they will be greeting and meeting visitors and guests at the school. (Purple and white are the school colors.)

The Student Ambassador program falls in place with the Career Academy Model being instituted at the high school, providing curriculum aimed at helping students set and achieve career goals.

Superintendent Michael Silsby was presented with a purple jacket by some of the students.

Silsby stated that since the ambassador program began, he has heard nothing but positive comments about the students participating. The students are being described as professional, genial, respectful and knowledgeable about the school.

Several parents of the ambassadors attended. Kane expressed thanks to them, and commented that they should be proud of their children.

Face of the school

In an interview afterwards, Edwards stated that the idea is to give students the opportunity to be “the face” of their school, to represent the school district. The students greet an meet guests, provide tours of school buildings and escort visitors through the maze of corridors to their destination.

The idea came about when Edwards and other school officials traveled to Nashville last year and visited different school districts. They were there to learn about the Career Academy Model and how it might be incorporated into the curriculum program at Wallenpaupack Area High School. At each school they visited, they were so impressed by the welcome and greeting from the school’s student ambassadors.

When they returned, she approached Dr. R. Jay Starnes, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, and suggested that such a program could be introduced here. The idea was met with wide support.

Penn State University has an active college student ambassador program. Board member John Drake put Edwards in touch with a representative of Penn State Worthington, who was delighted to assist Edwards in fashioning a similar program on the high school level at Wallenpaupack.

Any student from 9th through 11th grades may sign up; once in, they have a chance to remain as ambassadors through their senior year. The program was introduced at class meetings in the auditorium.

More inclusive

Unlike so many school programs which exclude many students based on grade performance or specific talents, the Wallenpaupack Student Ambassador program is open to any student who are enthusiastic, reliable and personable. They must be students in good standing- not failing, without excessive absenteeism and having no disciplinary issues.

Two days of training is required. The ambassador candidates must submit an application and go through an interview; each candidate is reviewed by a committee. They receive assistance in preparing them with the necessary social, communication and leadership qualities- coaching them in being friendly, giving eye contact and how to be successful at small talk, for instance.

Edwards, who works with students in choosing career paths, said that the Student Ambassador program is giving them real opportunities to practice these skills, which can help them down the road in a job interview. They are also potentially making contacts with the community that may be able to help them later.

When a guest arrives at the school, a couple Ambassadors are dispatched, going down the list of Ambassadors. They are notified by the school email system. The jackets are kept at the Main Office.

Edwards said that each one of their first group of Ambassadors have had multiple experiences; an average of 10 opportunities occur a week. There are another 38 students who have shown interest in the program. Edwards expressed confidence that there will be ample opportunities for everyone, as the program grows.

Expand to lower grades

The district is now working to expand the program at each level of the school, including the lower and middle grades, tailored to each school level. Although only the High School level will have the distinctive jackets, other schools will have some mark of identification, such as a purple sash or badge.

This is thought to be the first Student Ambassador program in any of the local high schools.

Edwards stated that she has impressed on the first group of Ambassadors of their unique responsibility of leading the way, as the founders of the program. They have been encouraged to hold a high standard so that other students coming up will follow, and share the same pride, passion and belief to make this program the best for their school.

Most students at Wallenpaupack show a great deal of school pride and respect, she said, and is no more evidenced that by the Student Ambassadors. The purple jackets, she indicated, has provided an extra layer for them to shine as they represent the school they love.

Board member John Kiesendahl quipped that after observing the students’ smart appearance, “I think we have found a new dress code!”

The next Wallenpaupack school board meeting is set for Monday, November 13 at 6 p.m. in the high school library. A committee meeting precedes it at 5:30 p.m. For more information regarding the October school board meeting, visit www.wallenpaupack.org; under Board of Education choose “Board Docs” and “Enter Public Site.”