There’s no doubt that Neuse Charter School students stand out among their peers.
While rigorous academics are an obvious part of life here, community service and leadership are also lessons not lost on the student body.
During the 2014-2015 academic year school administration noted a need to engage the student population in a new way…to find students that would be the face of the school to those inside and outside the school community.
“The student ambassador program was formed in February of last year in order to provide leadership opportunities to students at NCS,” said Lauren Fail, NCS counselor and ambassador program advisor.
Fail explained that the program started with the goal to welcome families and community members to the school.”Last year the ambassadors were very involved in providing tours to prospective families,” she said. But with the program beginning its second year, students and staff saw more possibilities for the group by developing leadership skills and allowing students to be good stewards of the community.
Currently there are 15 ambassadors representing the high school and middle school populations at Neuse Charter. Eligible high school students must have a 3.8GPA and middle school students must be on the Principal’s List. All students must be nominated by a teacher and a competitive selection process narrows down the candidates.
Isaac House, a junior and ambassador since February 2015, said the high school ambassadors “really wanted to reach out to the community” and with Christmas coming up saw a need they could fill. Hence the seven high school ambassadors decided to arrange for the school’s participation in Operation Christmas Child.
“We always thought we wanted to do a service project,” House said. “Miss Dunn, a 1st grade teacher, brought the idea forward.”
“This is our first year in organizing Operation Christmas Child,” Fail said. “The high school ambassadors have worked together to plan, implement, communicate and collect items for this event. Even days when I was unable to be there advising them, the team prepared letters to be sent home and organized grade level supply lists.”
The goal is have 500 boxes filled by the end of October and a ‘packing party’ will be held during the Booster Bash on Oct. 30. The students decided to set their goals high after reading the book Taking People with You by David Novak.
“It talks about setting high goals even if you don’t reach them,” House said. But with the help of NCS families and a local church partnership, the ambassadors hope to help the dreams of 500 needy children come true this holiday season.
While the ambassadors may be leading the charge, they noticed a strong willingness among their peers to help out.
Mattie High, a 10th grader and new ambassador, joined the group because she enjoys helping people and wanted to take action in her school, but she’s also found ways to help others take action.
“Classmates ask if they can help us with what we are doing,” High said. She went on to tell about how students help during carpool with various activities the school and ambassadors promote.
Sabrina Sicilia, a 12th grader and original member of the group, said that Neuse Charter stills requires seniors to do a community service project and expects the students to complete 32 hours of community service. She explained that Operation Christmas Child has helped her and others fulfill their volunteer hours.
While the ambassadors look to be mentors to their peers, leaders in their school and dedicated philanthropists, they haven’t strayed from the group’s original intent for organization.
“From January to April we could have three to 23 tours a week,” said Fail (as a comical groan escaped the entire group.)
John Fang, a senior and original ambassador, said juggling classes and tours can be demanding, but the group handles it with the help of teachers.
“We can’t skip AP classes,” Fang said. “But our honors classes are very understanding.” He said ambassadors know about tours ahead of time and work with teachers to get assignments early so they don’t fall behind.
“And there are no tours for ambassadors on testing days,” House added.
Fail also said that a new rotation schedule will help ambassadors not miss too much class while allowing everyone an equal opportunity to showcase the school.
Although the high school ambassadors have been highly visible because of Operation Christmas Child, the middle school ambassadors are working equally hard, said Fail.
“They have been working the book fair helping organize, inventory and locate books,” Fail said. The middle school ambassadors are looking at a spring time “Stock the Library” drive for their community service project this year.
While the number of ambassador spots is limited, Fail said only about half the students eligible for high school nominations applied. She hopes to see the program grow, not only in applicants, but by expanding the program to the elementary school in future years.
“As a NCS staff member it is amazing to watch our students working together for the greater good,” she said.