Hard-Working Student Volunteers at Core of 2020 SMOB Convention Success

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 10:24am

The Howard County Association of Student Councils (HCASC) recently hosted its annual convention, bringing together 140 student delegates from across the Howard County Public School System who selected two finalists to become the Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB) for the 2020-21 school year. The day-long event was the culmination of months of planning, involving HCASC members as well as student volunteers from HCPSS middle and high schools.

Guided by a shared desire to provide student delegates and SMOB candidates with a positive convention experience, the planning group worked hard to ensure that every facet of the convention was well organized.

“We tried to think through each step of the day and figure out how we could make it as easy, equitable, and enjoyable as possible for our convention participants,” explains HCASC President and veteran convention attendee Alex Eapen, who headed up this year’s convention planning committee. “That meant having a plan for everything from greeting the delegates as they got off the bus at the convention site and helping them get checked in to making sure that the candidates had an equal opportunity to answer questions and make their views known during the convention.”

According to fellow HCASC officer Kiana Macharia , convention planning also involved creating folders for each delegate; establishing a sign-in and fair voting process; determining the convention day schedule for attendees as well as those working at the event; preparing a series of PowerPoint presentations; and developing “informative activities,” like a question-and-answer session with the candidates, to assist the delegates in casting an informed vote at the end of convention day.

Work continued for the student volunteers on the day of the convention. “We arrived early and came with posters, stacks of papers, boxes of pens, and lots of hands ready to get the day ready for the delegates,” Macharia recalls.

Hannah Witkin, who has been involved in the SMOB convention for the past three years and was a SMOB finalist last year, was among the volunteers onsite at this year’s convention. She joined current SMOB Allison Alston as an “applicant host,” charged with helping the SMOB candidates feel more at ease.

“We both know that convention day can be pretty stressful in [candidates’] shoes, so we did our best to keep them relaxed and thinking positively,” explains Witkin.

Other volunteers were charged with setting up the stage, sound, light, and video recording systems; facilitating the question-and-answer session; overseeing the voting process; and ensuring that the transition from one phase of the convention to the next went smoothly.

The volunteers’ hard work paid off, says Eapen. “We (the planning committee) set out to provide an enriching experience for both delegates and candidates. I think we did just that.”

Witkin agrees, noting that this year’s event was well organized and personally rewarding.

“Over the past three years, I've been able to see the event from three different perspectives. As a graduating senior, it feels like I'm now witnessing the beginning of the next generation of leadership in our community, and I am so impressed by what I see.”