From Future Farmers of America to Gaming Club and Hi-Q Academic Teams, Gilchrist County schools provide a variety of club opportunities, and a new club looks to reach out to the community and fellow students.
The Ambassador Club started three years ago, but the program changed this school year by adding faculty sponsors. The previous two years, guidance counselors served to facilitate the club.
Terri Crawford, director of mental health services for the district, said the switch has added stability to the program.
The cost for the sponsors comes from funds allotted to the mental health department and Crawford sees the program directly impacts student’s mental health and hopes the program continues in that direction.
“Everyone wants to feel part of something,” Crawford said in an interview. “They want to know that they’re cared about, and staff do a good job with that. But when you can also get students to reduce bullying, it increases the capacity to feel important, to feel you’re a part of something that’s going on.”
Nathan Cook, a seventh grader, serves as president of the club at Bell Middle School. He joined this year and said many students are still figuring out exactly what the new club does.
Cook and the other members hope to promote themselves next year by creating a reporter position to write about the club’s events and create social media pages.
“We were new this year, but we’ve got to make it more active next year,” Cook said.
Students can join through an application process or by staff recommendation.
This year, the club tried to hold one event per month. The Bell Elementary School ambassadors helped prepare 44 Thanksgiving baskets, Bell Middle hosted a Friday Night Done Right with the sheriff’s department, and Bell Middle also joined in the Homecoming Parade.
Each Gilchrist County high, middle and elementary school—starting in third grade—has an Ambassadors Program.
The program looks to expand leadership training and also promote the state’s curriculum on character traits—like integrity, responsibility, helpfulness and compassion—within the school. Crawford hopes the program becomes an outreach to new students as well, pairing new students with ambassadors to guide them.
She said the club has ebbed and flowed since starting, but all of the 2021-22 sponsors will return next year, allowing relationships with students to grow.
“We lost some students to some other programs and clubs, but we will be doing additional recruiting,” Crawford said.
Crawford said the faculty have learned from the first year with sponsors and will look to use their experience to grow the program to build stronger schools.