Lower School Student Council: Giving Back to Shipley

Holly Caldwell
Lower School Student Council representatives dutifully brainstorm ideas as they huddle over their lunch trays. They’ve been given the task of introducing the guest of honor at an upcoming event. Each student confidently voices an opinion before the groups pitch their ideas to Dr. Tim Lightman. This is a practice they’ve become comfortable with, as LS Student Council meets each week to plan school-related activities, such as the assembly where they will honor Shipley’s Director of Security, Mr. Robert Meals, who has served as a volunteer firefighter for decades.

Since joining Student Council, these students have honed their collaboration skills and developed programming for fellow students while also serving in leadership roles alongside Dr. Lightman by participating in Shipley-held events, such as meeting with prospective families at the Pre-K and Kindergarten Admissions Day. Although a diverse group in many respects, they seem to have one trait in common—each wants to give back to the Shipley community. The desire to serve their school was a running theme in each student’s one-page personal statement, an essential component of the Student Council electoral process which takes place in October.

In this campaign message, students are asked to address what being a member of the Shipley community means to them, why they wish to serve on the Council, and the character strengths that will make them a good representative. Many describe an eagerness to give back to the community that has helped them so much, with one student describing the Shipley community as feeling “like warmth on the coldest days.”

They read their essays in a public forum before the election takes place via secret ballot, with each student allotted two votes. But teachers also remind them to really consider the content of each campaign message and reflect on who will make the best representative. In addition to the representatives elected by the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, Dr. Lightman and the classroom teachers choose the remaining Council members. To help ensure fairness and participation, students who are elected in their first year may not run again the following year.

As these students coped with change, whether adjusting to a new school or moving to a new home, each highlighted how Shipley was a center of support where they felt free to share their ideas and be themselves. And when asked to outline their goals for this year’s Student Council, they agreed that, above all, they want “to strengthen their community, make school the best it can be, and lay the groundwork for future kids.”


The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.