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Washougal, WA — A recent Camas-Washougal Community Chest grant will support Washougal School District efforts to address historical, systemic inequalities for students with disabilities. The CWCC funds will provide the community with on-demand viewing access of the award-winning documentary Hearts of Glass on June 2-12, 2021.  This will be the first showing of the movie promoted in Washington State. 

This 2018 film follows the initial months of operation of Vertical Harvest, a state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse that grows crops while providing meaningful, competitively paid jobs for people with disabilities working alongside people without disabilities.  

“Our goal is to bring awareness of the needs for competitive employment opportunities within our community for young adults with disabilities,” said Jessica Nickels Washougal Adult Transition Program Teacher.

A follow up webinar discussion panel will also be presented on June 9, featuring a Washougal community member, former WSD student, and the films’ cast and crew.  

“The discussion aims to create awareness of the benefits of hiring people with disabilities from the perspective of the individual and the employers,” said Nickels.  “This conversation and collaboration between the school district and community will also help improve employment outcomes for these young workers.”

“Our goal is for the film and webinar to provide a platform to advocate for greater inclusion of individuals of differing abilities into all aspects of our community,” explained Heather Kassel, WSD ELA/EdTech Instructional Coach. “The discussion around the film is meant to serve as a catalyst for change and the creation of new partnerships between local businesses and the school district.”

“This film shows that innovation and inclusion can go hand-in-hand, benefiting citizens with disabilities and the community at large,” said filmmaker Jennifer Tennican in a press release.

“Our vision with this project is to align with the Washougal School District’s mission to Know, Nurture, and Challenge ALL students to rise,” said Kassel.  “The district strives to promote equitable educational opportunities for all students, and this film provides a model of what is possible.”

“It is our task as a school district to prepare students for successful post-secondary outcomes,” said Nickels. “It is our task as a community to recognize individual’s abilities and to work toward equitable inclusion into social and economic aspects of our community.”

Find the movie during the June 2-12 view period on the WSD website. The trailer can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuBSMUZa8wQ. For additional information about this film, please visit https://www.heartsofglassfilm.com/

Washougal, WA — Students are filling the classrooms, hallways, and playgrounds of Washougal schools after nearly a year away.  However, approximately 200 students were already meeting in school buildings in small groups one to four days a week since September 2020 for personalized education.

“These learners needed specialized instruction that could not be offered effectively with distance learning,” said Penny Andrews, WSD Director of Special Education.  “Some students had formal Individual Education Plans (IEP), while others either were not able to connect to the internet or not successfully learn online. Our staff worked hard to bring in as many students as possible to support them with their learning goals, their assignments and even some tutoring thrown in there.” 

Noah Dentler, a six-grade student at Canyon Creek Middle School, is an example of the significant progress these students were able to make during the pandemic.  “He is a student that has really blossomed in small groups with in-person-learning,” said CCMS teacher Katherine Baxter.  “The small group offered him a lot of one-on-one support. Now that we are in hybrid, he is flourishing. He is loving school and has a great attitude. He is more focused than he was at the beginning of the year.” 

“It was hard with everything online,” Noah explained.  “Now I feel more confident in my regular classes and I am working hard to keep up on all of my work.”

“The end of last year was rough… really rough, with the sudden move to online learning,” said his mother, Anni Dentler.  “It was so stressful for him that I took him out of the school.  The start of this year was also difficult, with the change to a middle school schedule with more teachers teaching different subjects.” But thanks to the improved communication between parents and teachers, development of a plan and small group instruction, Noah is doing much better now.” 

“Noah started out in the small groups as quiet and shy,” said Baxter.  “He would appear alert, focused and on task, but he was struggling and never let anyone know. His missing work was growing, but now we have a plan in place to work with the paras that helped him get caught up and keep him caught up.” 

“He now only has five missing assignments,” said Anni Dentler.  “And that is such an improvement. I’m proud of him.” 

The small groups allowed Baxter and the para educators to really get to know the students like Noah. “With the first two hours of study hall and Asynch learning, we were able to see what they know and how they learn,” she explained.  “The paras and I were able to see them in all their classes and how they focus and teach them how to start on assignments, to ask questions and advocate for themselves.”

With the move to hybrid learning, Noah and others continue the small group instruction two or three days a week as well as attend school on their regular days with peers.

“This 1:1 teacher support is important to providing them a focus on their learning goals to prevent them from losing ground,” said Andrews. “We have also had an increase of communication with families as teachers develop support plans to meet the needs of each individual student and family.”

“The communications between me and Noah’s teachers have tremendously improved,” Anni Dentler said.  “We have created a bond as we work together to help him.”

“Just the time of letting Noah know how much we all care for him and for him to be successful plus coaching from home, he began advocating for himself and asking clarifying questions,” Baxter said. “He has such a great support system at home that keeps us updated on things there or how he was doing.” 

“We have a number of ways our teachers are working to support students with special needs or IEPs at this time,” said Andrews. Those supports include: joining students in their class Zoom sessions, zooming with them to offer tutoring on assignments and learning goals, advocating for more time in person when students were struggling, request home visits from school personnel when students struggle with attendance, holding group sessions for students to work on collaboration and social goals, helping students access their classroom zoom meetings and assignments while at school, helping students stay organized and working proactively with families to offer assistance. I am proud of our entire special education staff in Washougal. And, by watching the work that Katherine is doing, and how she advocates for students, I can see she feels strongly that students do best when there is a human connection and when the students know that they have an adult who is cheering them on and supporting them.” 

“It is nice to see a child come out of their shell and go out of their way to learn all they can and to be successful,” said Baxter. “Noah is that student. He is a hard worker and has managed to persevere through this time to stay on track.” 

Washougal, WA — The successful Washougal School District Career and Technical Education (CTE) program focuses on providing students with real world experiences led by knowledgeable, passionate staff.  The newest addition to that staff is Alexandra Yost, Washougal’s first CTE Professional Technical Assistant or Pro Tech, for short. 

“We are delighted that Alex is bringing her extensive business and culinary background to the team,” said Margaret Rice, WSD CTE Director.  Yost is the former owner and chef of OurBar in downtown Washougal and is currently a member of the Washougal City Council. She is also very politically active in the area, and frequently attends and organizes local Black Lives Matter (BLM) rallies condemning police violence while calling for racial equality and justice. She has also advocated for defunding the Washougal police.

“Alex’s focus along with supporting CTE teachers will be managing two new, exciting CTE educational opportunities that feature project-based learning,” said Rice. “One is the development of a CTE operated food truck and the second is implementation of a Green Schools Program to our high school in collaboration with WSD Culinary Services.”

In spring 2020, a food truck was purchased by the WSD CTE Department with the goal to create a student-led food truck business.  “This truck will literally be a vehicle for learning,” said Rice.  “Literally!  It is also an extension of our professional kitchen facility in the Excelsior Building at WHS.”

The learning around the food truck is expected to reach far beyond the development of food plans and food service. 

“WHS students will participate in all aspects of the project development,” explained Yost.  “Students will work on a business plan, learn about health department rules, navigate through local permitting and licensing, develop manuals for training and safety and even the creation of marketing.  There will also be opportunities in manufacturing, welding, small engine service/repair and maintenance for students interested in those CTE experiences.”

When operational, the food truck will be available for hire to serve the community at events and will be student led.  Yost is developing a team of mentors to counsel students in this project work.

“We want as many aspects of the food truck as we can to be project-based and student led/created so the first step is a contest to develop a name and will be open to all students of WSD,” explained Rice. “The name should be representative of our community, perhaps with some derivative Washougal.  It needs to be appropriate for all ages, be catchy and not already copyrighted.” 

The contest process is in the works and will be announced soon and run through February 26. Details can be found on the Washougal School District website at http://www.washougal.k12.wa.us/cte/food-truck/.  The next student contest will be to design the artwork to adorn the truck.

Yost is also tasked with development of a CTE Green Team.  This effort will bring education, sustainability, and reduced carbon footprint to the WSD High School Culinary Services department, which became self-operated over the summer.

“A major aspect of that transition has been the move to scratch production of meals,” said Rice. “With that change it was also the right time to bring the Green Schools concept to the high school.  Our students have been sorting and recycling food waste and trash in our elementary and middle schools for some time. The high school program will provide an opportunity for students to continue these efforts.”

“Ultimately we want to take this Green Team experience and education down to the classroom level as well as eventually developing a Green Ambassadors program in which students are driving the program forward leading a sustainable program that can be passed on for years to come,” said Yost.

This environmentally focused program sits firmly in WSD’s mission pillars of sustainability and stewardship of resources, partnerships to support students, educational engagement, and equity to include all students. The goal is to involve students to significantly reduce our carbon footprint and contributions to the landfill while taking these experiences forward in life.  Their efforts also help to save District operational funds by reducing waste and disposal costs.  

“The program also brings in aspects of our career and college readiness by introducing students to companies such as Waste Connections,” said Rice.  “They will see various elements of career opportunities they may not have realized existed. In a time when it seems like everything is changing and nothing is ‘normal’, we are trying to take every opportunity to teach our students how to learn from change, collaborate and adapt to find efficiencies in the ‘new’ so we can continually improve the current situation.”

Washougal, WA — The roles of Washougal School District School Counselors have been altered during the pandemic, in the sense that the journey has changed, but not the destination. Their goal remains to build relationships with all students and families and provide children an outlet to be seen and heard.

“During a typical school year, I am able to see my students at any point throughout a school day, which makes it much easier to have quick check-ins, help problem solve in the moment, and to help students de-escalate and be in a state where they are ready to learn and engage with others,” explained Alysia Noriega, Hathaway Elementary School Counselor. “During remote learning, this is obviously much more difficult to do. While I am still able to connect with my students through many different means such as whole classroom lessons, small groups, and one-on-one, it takes much more coordination between myself, the student, and their families to make it happen.”

“Weekly lessons in social emotional learning are important at any time,” said Catherine Post, Gause Elementary School Counselor. “Right now, they are especially important because of the situation we are in. The lessons provide tools for students to utilize when they are struggling with our current schooling situation. These skills will also be of value when we are able to continue with in person learning again.”

It is important that every Washougal student has someone they feel comfortable with and can turn to in times of need. 

“By having these weekly lessons, I am guaranteed time with all my students,” said Noriega. “I can focus on continuing to build on the relationships I have already established with them, as well as develop relationships with our new Hathaway kiddos.” 

Additionally, it is important for students to spend time building social/emotional skills and language. Having a designated time each week to come together as a whole grade level and learn more about themselves and each other provides an enriching opportunity. 

“Because the students don’t have recess and other outlets for interacting with their peers, my lessons are a combination of check-in time to hear what everyone is doing and excited about, lessons from the district approved social emotional curriculum of Second Steps, and extra videos and games that apply to those lessons,” said Post. “The 30-minute sessions with each grade are very organic in feel. Each grade may need something different on any given day, so I remain flexible to let them have more or less of any of the lesson parts depending on how things go.”

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www.clarkcountyrelocations.com

Noriega has a similar approach. 

“I have been able to do a variety of different lessons and activities with my students, and the focus of these lessons vary from week to week, and from grade level to grade level,” she explained. “Topics we have covered this year include coping strategies, problem solving, emotion regulation skills, growth mindset, friendship building, and bullying prevention.” To keep students engaged, Noriega keeps things as interactive and fun as possible, and often incorporates videos, games, drawing activities, read-alouds, and activities that allow them to move.

“This year has brought on a host of different challenges that we didn’t know we would have to endure,” admits Noriega. “I believe one of students’ greatest challenges during this time is not having access to a learning environment that is consistent and structured. As a parent myself, I know how difficult it can be to balance my own work while also helping my kids with their schooling.”

For students to fully engage with their work and get the most out of their school days, it is helpful for them to have a consistent routine, be in a place that is free of distractions, and to be spending an adequate amount of time each day working on academic-related activities. However, it can be difficult for some families to create this kind of environment at home, which can create challenges for our students’ success.

Amongst all the obstacles that this year has brought, Post and Noriega have been able to do their job in a meaningful, successful way. “One main area of success is that I have been able to build strong, positive, and unique relationships with all of my Hathaway students,” said Noriega.  “I have been able to do this not only through my weekly SEL zoom lessons, but also by hosting small lunch groups, working with students 1:1, doing home visits, and delivering personalized notes to students.” 

“This year I have seen success in getting students with barriers to connect with their teachers,” added Post. “I have seen kindergarteners learn how to be students. I have also worked with staff and talked with them about tools to help with their emotional health because we cannot help our students if we do not take care of ourselves. Our Gause students know we care about them, and that is the best feeling of success.”

Washougal, WA — Remote learning has been a challenge to navigate for all students, teachers and administrator, but for two first-year teachers at Washougal High School, the challenge comes as they begin their careers in education.  

Jered Barker, WHS 9th and 10th Grade Algebra/Geometry teacher said his biggest challenge has been to build a relationship with students.

“Relationships are the key to any successful classroom and in the virtual world it has become increasingly difficult,” he said. “Students rarely have their cameras on, so I don’t even know what some of my students look like outside of one picture in their Skyward account. I love building relationships with my students so I have done the best I can with what they will give me.”

Elise Piet, WHS 9th Grade English and 10th Grade World History agrees. 

“It is difficult to get to know my students and their needs,” she said. “I have to help my Freshmen navigate high school and the demands of it, without them ever having set foot in the building.”

Both Barker and Piet use conversation starters in their ZOOM classrooms to help develop connections.

“I spend time every class talking with the students about their interests, things that have happened to them,” explained Piet. “The time I spend getting to know the students has paid off ten-fold as they are more likely to come to class, engage, and feel valued in my classroom.”

Barker starts his class with a silly question that has nothing to do with academics.

“The goal is to get the students talking to me and to each other,” he said. “This has built a sense of community in our classroom. I get to learn what they like and dislike and interesting facts about each student.”

Barker came prepared for the distance teaching having attended Western Governors University, which is a completely online University.

“All my classes were taught using a webcam with a teacher sometimes I never even saw,” he said. “All the work was left up to me to complete at my own leisure, so I know how the students are feeling because this type of learning involves a lot of self-motivation to get work done.”

Piet attended Washington State University Vancouver, and her program focused a great deal on restorative practices. 

“That relationship building aspect has helped me navigate classroom management and community and culture,” she explained.  “I also took a Technology in the Classroom course that has helped me navigate online learning, so I am able to better help my students when they have questions with tech.”

“For both of these educators; the first year of teaching is a scary and tumultuous time,” said Sheree Clark, WHS Principal. “The fact that they were not only willing but excited to start their first year of teaching during a pandemic, speaks to their dedication as educators.” 

Clark has heard feedback from both parents and students that Piet’s class is engaging and the students feel truly cared for.

“Elise also has a way of making history come alive and connect it to current world issues,” said Clark. “And Jered brings with him an energy that engages students yet challenges their math thinking skills. He has taken bold technical steps by using multiple platforms to help students engage during remote learning.  We are delighted Jared and Elise are both Panthers!”

Piet said she feels students are much kinder to not only their peers, but to themselves, which is a positive result of remote learning.

“They have really stepped up to the plate and are trying to help each other get through this,” she said. “Not just in my classroom, but district-wide students are volunteering, helping out, sending virtual hugs, and checking in with each other.”

An unexpected positive for Barker has been having more time at home with his newborn daughter. 

“It has been a blessing to get to work from home and see my daughter all day and help my wife out by changing diapers in between lessons,” he said. “It has not been easy or the first year that I expected but I am grateful to have a job and work with an amazing staff,” Barker admits. “I know going forward this will only make me a better teacher because I have learned new ways of teaching that I never would have thought of without the distance learning. I cannot wait to get into my classroom and see my students, some for the first time!”

Washougal
Jered Barker, WHS 9th and 10th Grade Algebra/Geometry teacher.

Washougal, WA – Washougal School District is making plans to reopen a two-day per week hybrid learning model in January.  Following Washington State Department of Health updated guidelines for school reopening released this week, the district will begin the phased implementation of its hybrid model, starting with students in grades K-3.  The hybrid model features both school and remote learning components.

“We are so excited to welcome additional students back in-person, we know how critical this is for student success,” said Mary Templeton, WSD Superintendent.  “We know this will be a huge support to our students and their families, and make so much more learning possible.”

These new state guidelines include new metrics, based on emerging research and data gathered by state and national officials, that will allow schools to have increased in-person learning opportunities for students.  

“We are working with our teachers and staff, public health officials, and other area school districts to review our safety protocols,” said Aaron Hansen, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Student Support, in a letter to parents and staff.  “We will get students into classrooms as quickly as we safely can within these new frameworks.”  School and class schedules will be posted as soon as they are available.

The WSD timeline calls for grades K-3 to begin the hybrid model starting Tuesday, January 19, 2021.  Grades 4 & 5 would begin the hybrid learning model starting shortly thereafter, as long as transmission in the school environment is limited.  Students are placed in small cohorts, or groups of 15 or fewer students per group.  They will be assigned their group alphabetically by their guardian’s last name. 

“We want our families to know they have a choice to come back to the classroom in the hybrid learning model, or to stay in distance learning,” said Templeton.  “Families can let the school office know if their student will remain in full-time distance learning, and teachers are provided time each week to support these students.”

According to state guidance, plans for middle and high school will be available once the spread of COVID in our community declines to levels specified in the updated reopening guidance (average cases per 100,000 over 14 days below 350 for middle school, below 200 for high school).  “In order to serve more students in our classrooms safely, all of us must wear masks, watch our distance, and wash our hands,” added Templeton. “Health officials studying the spread of COVID emphasize these simple, but critical steps the entire community can take to enable next steps in our reopening.” 

For more information visit the WSD website at:   http://www.washougal.k12.wa.us/covid-19-communications/

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Washougal and Camas, WA — The 14th annual Stuff The Bus event is happening now through December 11, and the need is greater than ever, say event organizers. 

The primary beneficiary, Children’s Home Society, is serving 350 families a month, which is about 100 more families than a year ago. Children’s Home Society is also serving local families through the backpack program.

“We’ve had to come up with a new plan,” said Stuff The Bus organizer, Tabitha Shaffer. “All schools in Washougal and Camas are allowing anyone to drop off food at the schools during normal business hours. You may also drop off food at the Camas Fire Department (Station 42) on Parker Street.”

What type of food is needed?

Non-perishable canned food, such as fruits, vegetables, stew, beans, and soup. They need cereal (small boxes), oatmeal, peanut butter, tuna fish, canned meats, such as SPAM, ham, etc. Spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, individual sized apple sauce, Mac and cheese, rice.

The C.A.R.O.L. Program works hard every year to serve 150 families each Christmas, which includes serving dinner, extra food, and presents.

Cash donations are also accepted via www.donatetostuffthebus.com

Under normal circumstances, students from both school districts participate by gathering donated food from all schools, and then distribute that food to various charitable organizations, such as Children’s Home Society, C.A.R.O.L., and American Legion Skamania County.

Key Stuff The Bus sponsors are: Long Building Technologies, Dan Jones Conveyor, and Caliber Home Loans.

Washougal, WA — The Association of Washington School Principals has named David Cooke, Principal of Jemtegaard Middle School, as the Washington State Secondary School Principal of the Year for 2020!  The Secondary School Principal of the Year award is given to individuals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, and community involvement, as well as advocating for education. 

“I am honored to be the Principal of Jemtegaard Middle School,” said Cooke. “It is an incredible place to work. This award represents the culture and efforts of the staff and students who come here every day.”

AWSP leadership joined WSD leadership at a middle school staff meeting to make the announcement to Cooke and his staff.  Superintendent Mary Templeton announced the guests from AWSP, who proceeded to share accolades with Cooke. 

“Under David’s leadership, Jemtegaard Middle School has gone from a school that was failing to make progress under No Child Left Behind to one that has been State Recognized multiple times for academic performance increases and closing the achievement gap,” Templeton said. “Through this work, Washougal students are rising, and our district with them!  I could not be happier for David receiving this great recognition!  It is so well deserved.”

Cooke has fostered a culture of support for students and their families, focusing on equity, positive behavior expectations, high engagement, and the whole child.

“At every opportunity, David credits the teachers and staff at Jemtegaard for the school’s accomplishments,” said Kurt Hatch, AWSP Associate Director of Middle Level Leadership, adding “His staff has a willingness to challenge practices, remove barriers to success, and do what is right for students.”

“I could not be prouder of my staff,” said Cooke. “About six years ago, we knew that we needed to make changes to ensure that all students could be successful. It was not easy, but we persevered as a team to make difficult decisions, learn together, and build the best opportunities for all students. As a result, our students have experienced significant growth. We have been supported along the way by so many including our fellow Washougal teachers, staff, District Office and an amazing Washougal community.”

Cooke has overseen implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention Support system at Jemtegaard, featuring common classroom expectations, quick support responses, and a focus on ensuring that students who need help are guided through restorative practices and back in the classroom as quickly as possible.  This has led to a dramatic reduction in missed instructional time, and fewer discipline referrals for students. 

“David exemplifies the best of the best in school leaders in his relentless pursuit of bringing adults together in a common purpose and mission. Their focus on equity, student achievement, and intentional impact on each and every child is what brought his nomination to the top,” said Scott Seaman, AWSP Executive Director. “Leading educational change that is student-centered takes an entire school community and David’s leadership has fostered that ongoing culture.”

“Our students are caring, hardworking and resilient,” Cooke said. “They support each other in their academic, social, and emotional growth.”

The Spanish Speaking Family Night initiative was started by Cooke in response to feedback from second language speaking families, who wanted to connect with the school and learn how they could be part of their students’ learning.  Cooke worked with community leaders and Spanish speaking staff and translators to build relationships with students and their families, identifying resource gaps, communication barriers, and providing support and resources that ensure families and students have what they need to succeed. 

Washougal WA — A student’s classroom can be almost anywhere during this time of remote learning.  For second grade students Marina Guevara, Julie Taie and Lisa Haskin at Gause Elementary, their field science assignment took them out into the world to look for and study signs of erosion.

“We began the year by thinking about what it looks like to be a scientist,” said Guevara.  “We felt that this unit provided good opportunities to ‘unplug’ and have students apply what they are learning.” 

Once they received permission to go outdoors, students were challenged to collect and examine rocks and take a photo or draw a picture of a nearby body of water to identify possible signs of erosion. 

The lesson included looking closely at phenomena happening at a beach in Northcove, WA, nicknamed “Washaway Beach” due to erosion.

“We are continuing to read to learn more about rivers, rocks, beaches, and oceans to help us understand what is happening and possible solutions once we do understand,” said Taie.

According to Guevara, taking this time away from the computer screen gives students a needed change of pace.

“We could see students, and even families, excited and engaged in this project,” she said.  “I think it’s powerful that they found these examples on their own. It is also exciting that this current distance learning situation allows us to collect a variety of responses and data to study.”

“If examples were provided in the classroom or in a group, all the students would see the same thing,” said Haskin. “This way we have different sets of eyes and ears finding evidence of erosion in a variety of places and making observations to share with the class.”

One of the biggest challenges with distance learning for all teachers is fostering connections.

“Creating relationships comes first for me,” said Guevara. “I want my students to know I am there for them and that I care about them.  Being behind a screen is a whole different ball game. Connections can be difficult to foster via technology.” 

But projects like this provide for moments of connection as they show their learning and share what they have seen. Students were connecting with the shared photos saying things like, “I know that place! I’ve been there!” 

“The pictures submitted by students not only provide different data points but also included some special moments shared by families exploring together,” said Guevara. “We were lucky that we had some nice sunny days to work with too!”   

Guevara says she sees evidence of resilience in her class of seven and eight-year-olds every day. 

“The end of last school year and the beginning of this one has been filled with challenges and growing pains,” she admits. “But I feel like we are really getting the hang of it. We have found a rhythm. Part of our learning mantra this year is ‘I’m here to grow every day,’ and I see our students embody that in how they approach their learning, how they communicate with me and with peers, and even how they advocate for themselves through technology.”

“Learning and communicating through screens can be daunting but we are still interacting with our students and they are showing a keen desire to learn despite the challenges,” Guevara said.  “We are so proud of them.”

Students
Having a fun day.

Washougal, WA — Washougal High School Associated Student Body leaders are putting 21st Century Skills to use as they work to reimagine their role to unite and inspire classmates. Gone are the tried and true pep assemblies, spirit activities, work parties and school events.  

Ethan Mills, WHS ASB President, said it is a challenge for ASB to do their job to help students feel spirit and unite a school community when everyone is learning remotely.  “We have been isolated for a long time,” he said. “For me, I’m definitely more of an in-person leader and it’s hard to feed off the energy of others when you are just on camera. I’ve learned that you just have to put yourself out there and do your best no matter what the situation is.”

According to WHS ASB Advisor, Kyla Ritchey, there were many discussions on how to shift the group’s thinking for this school year.  “Before the school year started the class met to discuss what we should do and how they are going to best serve their students’ needs as well as the Washougal Community,” she said. “What impressed me about the students was their honesty.  They had no idea where to start but felt the need to help. It was from this conversation that the idea of multiple surveys throughout the year would be the best way to gauge the needs of the WHS students.”

The first survey was given out before school started and ASB is using this data to drive the work that is being done.  “The surveys collected different points of views from the student body,” said ASB Senior Senator, Briahna Ruth.  “It was important to us to try and hear from as many students as possible since we are all learning remotely.”  

“A possible benefit to this situation is that, I believe, we are understanding more of our student body’s needs and their expectation,” added Mills. “Through our survey there are more voices being heard.”

WHS ASB students recently split into three project groups that were determined from the collected data. Each group is assigned a specific area of concern that came up frequently in the survey.  They are social opportunities, communication, and resources.  With the help from partner organization, Unite! Washougal Coalition, a “mantra” was created for students to consider as they work on creating their projects.  It is to “connect, grow, and be well.”

“Students will need to be able to explain how each project will help WHS students and staff feel connected, grow as an individual, and continue to be well whether that is mentally or physically,” Ritchey said. “While projects have not been determined yet, there are a lot of great ideas being thrown around right now.” 

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A major challenge for the group is getting to know one another and working together in this time of social distancing and remote learning. “Typically, they would see each other every day during class and multiple times over the weekend when working on events,” Ritchey said. “If they had a question, they could find each other at lunch or before school to get the answers. Currently, they only see each other twice a week during Zoom meetings. We are still working on community building and feeling comfortable working together.” 

Students are also being challenged to think outside of the box.  “These kids have great ideas,” said Ritchey.  “Some of the ideas though we just aren’t able to do for a multitude of reasons. Instead of giving up on the idea, I have encouraged them to think outside of the box to make some changes to the idea that would make it work. It may not be the exact picture they had in their heads but at the end of the day, it will accomplish their overall goal.”

“Our role as ASB, especially for the younger grades, is to help them keep in mind that they will be getting back to class,” explained Ruth.  “There are still good things to look forward to.”  For instance, the group is working on ways to celebrate virtual spirit weeks, development of a kindness week, exploring socially distanced events when it is safe to do so and plans to reimagine the annual Stuff the Bus food drive.  

The biggest challenge for Ritchey as their advisor is to keep the students motivated. “A lot of them feel overwhelmed and hopeless, this was not the year they had pictured,” she admits.  “I try to keep it positive during class, encourage them, and let them know that even though it may not look the same, we can still create some new experiences and traditions.” 

Overall, the WHS ASB students have shown resilience time and time again.  “Whether it be the laughs we share instead of showing frustration in the situation, or finding common ground when disagreeing on a topic,” said Ritchey. “These kids are really great and impress me more and more every time we meet. Being a student leader during this time is more of a challenge than ever before, but I couldn’t pick a better group of students to work with.”

“This is definitely a challenging year, and everything is harder to get done since we are not all together in person,” said Mills.  “I am learning a lot about leadership and resilience that should help us all prepare for our futures.”