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East Student Leadership Team Creates NEST to Shape Culture

East Student Leadership Team Creates NEST to Shape Culture

A new student leadership team at Lakota East High School makes its every move with one goal in mind: to create a welcoming and healthy school culture. For months, the student leaders have been building out a concept they've coined NEST. Short for Navigate, Empower, Support and Thrive, NEST reflects the group's highest priorities. 

From a video series that spoofs “The Office” to a roundtable discussion between students and teachers, an awareness campaign happening the week of March 27 will be full of activities to reinforce each pillar of NEST, a play off the long-running “Hawk’s Nest.” Every activity is being strategically planned to demonstrate, in a way that only students can, the impact of attitudes and behaviors on one another and the overall school community. 

“Our advisors gave us some parameters, but as students, we got to choose how to direct ourselves,” said East sophomore Jerod Reid. “It’s been really cool to connect with all these students who want to make a difference and really care about our school.” 

About 60 students, representing a mix of grades, interests, social groups and even academic levels, were nominated by their teachers to make up the organization. The group meets monthly and is led by teachers and advisors Katrina Fugate, Kayley Shafner, Jessica Garrett and Lisa James

Garrett emphasized that the student-led NEST grew out of a teacher-led initiative that took off last year, which was designed to redefine East’s Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) program. The group has helped reshape their ideas for an ongoing student recognition program into something that will be even more appealing for students. 

“When we started this work last school year, the next step was always to get students involved,” Garrett said. “Giving students ownership in the process and an opportunity to be leaders has so much influence over the culture.”

Students divided themselves into subgroups of each pillar, including, for example, a group dedicated to “Resiliency and Determination” and another to “Navigating Every Day” - both subgroups of “Navigate.” The “Support” subgroups are focusing on connecting with others and sharing empathy. 

East senior Karina Hoch opted to support the “Being Respectful” arm of “Thrive.” Leading up to the big kick-off week, her group helps oversee NEST’s social media presence and has been slowly releasing videos to demonstrate how respectfulness plays out in a high school setting. 

“This work is really important to me because I want to come back later and see that positive change has happened as a result of the foundation we are setting,” Hoch said. 

While one group was tasked with launching NEST to the student body and came up with “The Office” spoof to catch their peers’ attention, another has dedicated themselves to spreading their messages in all the Eastside feeder schools. Called “Thunder Road,” the group is developing posters and assemblies to take on the road and share with their younger counterparts. Still another group is leading the charge with bringing more student inspiration and personality into the visual aesthetics of the school building.

NEST is also partnering with East’s PTSO to help promote a new field day-like experience the parent group is calling “Clash of the Classes.” Any proceeds above and beyond the cost to put on the program will go to a local charity. Reid was excited about the opportunity for NEST to help shape such a program to make it more appealing for other students and an extension of their mission. 

“It’s really just a great way for students’ voices to be heard and for us to have a seat at the table,” Reid said.