Leaders of today

Students become role models, tackle school issues

The Student Ambassador program started in the Spring of 2022 and has gained momentum this school year. Student ambassadors connect with others throughout the community while also focusing on improving the atmosphere of their home campus. The program is student driven with adults taking supportive roles. Currently, there are over 3,000 student ambassadors in the district including more than 180 Bryan High students.

“I decided to join because I felt like the Ambassador program was doing good things: they wanted to involve the community and make changes in our school,” junior Vivica Paulhill said. “I’m hoping to instill leadership skills in our younger generations and the people coming up after us as well as make our school a better place.”

Junior Tristan Brown also wants to build a stronger community in Bryan ISD and believes the Ambassador program can help facilitate that change.

“I’m mostly hoping to give students a voice,” Tristan said. “I thought the Student Ambassador program would really help make a change, and it would be really great to help and be a part of this community.”

Dr. Brian Merrell, the executive director of school leadership for Bryan ISD, said that they want to challenge students by taking on the ideas of agency, leadership, and improving their campus.

“We’re giving the students the agency to make the changes that they want to see,” Merrell said. “We’re asking them what they want to do, what they want to improve, and what they will commit to, and giving them not only the leadership, but also the support to be able to make those changes happen.”

Though the Student Ambassador program’s main focus is to empower students, it also focuses on creating a positive environment for everyone in Bryan ISD. 

“I’m really hoping to make everyone feel at home and feel that ‘Hey, I’m with you. I really love you and we are here for you,’ ” student ambassador president Melvin Auston said. “This is a community that we can build together.”

To ensure that the ambassadors are able to do everything that they hope to accomplish, Merrell said that the adults’ roles would be to support the students and provide them with resources, but at the same time stand back and let the ambassadors lead.

“You have to involve the students,” Merrell said. “You have to give them the permission to lead, dream, problem solve, and step into action. Sometimes we just solve the problems for them or we roll them out and they’re already done. We don’t want to do that.”

Merrell emphasizes the importance of allowing the students to take charge and hopes that the process will help them grow as individuals.

“They need to know they can give back,” Merrell said. “They need to know that they can make a difference and serve. They need to know that they can do these things. We have to give them permission and then support them, not only saying ‘Go do it. Good luck!’ and stepping back, but saying ‘Good luck. What do you need and what do you need us to do? Do you need money, a ride, a bus, flyers, a set of keys?’ It’s been fun to watch them run that route and figure out how to get it done.”

Sophomore Miranda Seigler hopes she will be able to use these resources and opportunities in the Ambassador program to help her community.

“I decided to join because I love helping people,” Miranda said. “I’m a huge people person and I just wanted to help my community and make people feel welcomed, not only at our school but in our district.”

With many students demonstrating a desire to be a part of the Student Ambassador program, Merrell credits head monitor Lester Banks for being a role model on the campus for decades.

“We could have named the ambassadors the Lesters,” Merrell said. “So much of what Lester Banks does in and around this community is what we’re patterning the ambassadors off of; serving the greater good and giving back.”

Banks knows that it is important to challenge the students to be altruistic and think of others beyond themselves.

“The main thing we want to do is leave no child behind,” Banks said. “We challenge our kids each day, asking ‘who are you when no one’s looking?’ We tell our kids we want them to be able to say they’re somebody. Giving back is one of the things that we’re looking into.”

Last year the student ambassadors hosted a prom for special needs students and are looking forward to doing it again this year. Students said they enjoyed being a part of something bigger than themselves and connecting with a group of kids that they were not usually around.

“The kids were so excited, and so were their parents,” Merrell said. “Our ambassadors had as much fun as anybody; they were out dancing and having a great time.”

Melvin said that he has enjoyed all of the new relationships that he would not have normally experienced.

“One of the things I’ve enjoyed most is definitely meeting new people,” Melvin said. “I’ve gotten to meet so many new people, faces, and personalities. I’ve hung out with people that I would have never thought that I could ever hang out with, and we’ve really bonded over time. We’ve really just had that feeling that we’re together and we’re really strong.”

Above all, building relationships is the main goal of the organization and Banks hopes that students are able to see how much of an impact they can have on their community.

“The thing that makes me feel good is every morning, whether I’m going to McDonald’s, one of the elementary schools, the bus barn, or anywhere else, when a kid walks up to you and gives you a hug and says ‘I appreciate what you do for us. Thanks for making a difference in my life,’ it really touches my heart,” Banks said. “It goes back to what I said from Day One: if you can reach out and touch one person’s life and make a difference in their life you’ve done your job. That’s what I’m all about.”