Burke’s four co-presidents focus on communication and wellness in a unique year

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many new twists and turns to 2020, the first of which was an unprecedented election for Student Government Association (SGA) Co-Presidents last spring. The vote was so close that two pairs, Jonah LeCompte ‘21/Marlon DeBose ‘21 andSidney Howlett ‘21/Leah Winston ‘22, were declared the winners.

LeCompte said it doesn’t feel too odd. “This is a first for all of us, and so it’s really all we’ve known,” he said. “Yes, I was expecting to only work with Marlon, and Sidney and Leah only working with each other, but it just ended up [being] the four of us, and I feel like we made the best of the situation.” He went on to say that communication after the election was important to them so that they could really get to know each other before the real work began, and all report that they are now very close friends. 

Winston agreed, although she was nervous after the results came out. “I’m the only junior, so I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But it’s a recurring joke how we’re all really happy it ended up being the four of us, because all the work we have to do is much easier with four Co-Presidents.” She explained that they had to “rethink everything” because of the online format. 

Howlett echoed her sentiment, saying that they came in with set ideas and something of a timeline but had to rework everything because of COVID-19. She said she initially wondered, “What does reinventing the ideas that you initially made into a virtual situation [look like]?” However, she said it’s been a fun challenge and has really helped develop leadership skills. 

LeCompte commented that most of the Co-Presidents’ work this year has been in the background, such as being a part of task force committees in the summer (they’ve been working hard behind the scenes since August) or interviewing candidates for the new head of financing. They shifted their focus onto student wellness as opposed to big projects such as dances, which LeCompte said has been the biggest change from in-person to virtual work. 

DeBose said that they are getting better at working together virtually as time goes on and hope to keep improving and adapting. All four agree that communication is the key to their success as leaders. “I think what works is that we have a really great dynamic … we’re just all really good friends, we just mesh well as a team,” DeBose said.

SGA meetings, Howlett said, have also changed. They’re now large Zoom meetings held during the lunch period that begin with fun and engaging icebreakers before beginning the official agenda. The icebreakers hold a special importance for LeCompte. “It feels a little bit more like regular school, just because there isn’t that one person speaking and everyone else is muted. You hear laughter, and I feel like that’s an aspect that’s missing in virtual school right now,” he said.

Winston said that it took time for the Co-Presidents and other SGA members to adapt over Zoom, but the meetings have been getting better and more engaged over time. “There was a lot of talking to ourselves, and it was really weird at first, but I think we’ve created an environment where everyone feels like their voice is valued, their opinions are valued, where middle schoolers share their ideas, high schoolers share their ideas, all working together, and I think we’ve made a very inclusive and supportive culture in SGA,” she said. 

LeCompte emphasized that middle schoolers are just as vocal as high schoolers, if not more, and have taken up positions of importance. DeBose agreed that the Co-Presidents have done a good job allowing middle schoolers to be more heard than they have been in years past. 

The most visible result of the Co-Presidents’ work has been grade competitions. Howlett said that their focus has been on coming up with ideas that are fun and accessible and exciting to everyone. However, it’s becoming harder to think of ideas. “As time has gone on, it’s starting to get real. We can’t just keep recycling the same things over and over again. So that’s always fun, coming up with ideas,” she said. They recently had grade representatives pitch ideas in small groups, which they all feel lends to a collaborative environment, especially among the middle schoolers. 

Winston pointed out that different types of people are able to share their ideas on the online format. “We all work together. I hope people don’t think you have to be loud or extroverted to be in SGA, because that’s not true. You just have to have ideas and want to work hard,” she said.

LeCompte agreed, saying that he’s noticed people who are naturally quieter share more ideas, sometimes even exceeding those who are vocal. “Everyone is suited to be a grade rep or be in a leadership position,” he stated.