2013 Middle Level NASC Adviser of the Year

Cathy HelfrichMs. Cathy Helfrich, student council adviser at Margaret Buerkle Middle School in Saint Louis, Missouri has been named the 2013 Warren E. Shull National Middle Level Adviser of the year by the National Association of Student Councils. Ms. Helfrich was announced and presented with the award during the NASC National Conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada late June.  The annual award is named for Warren E. Shull, the founder of NASC and recognizes middle level student council advisers of exemplary character, leadership and commitment to young people and who foster their development as student leaders.

During her sixteen year tenure as adviser at Buerkle Middle School, Ms. Helfrich has worked to help her emerging leaders how the student council, through its activities and projects works in concert with the educational mission of the school while at the same time creating a more positive climate. The result of her focus has helped the council design and sponsor activities that maximize student engagement. “The primary mission of our school is to help students become lifelong, productive members of society. Studies show a connection between student involvement in school and success thereafter. Through our student council’s leadership, Buerkle students are getting involved!” says Ms. Helfrich.

Since Ms. Helfrich took the reigns as student council adviser at MBMS the level of student engagement as risen dramatically. She points to her first year as adviser when only 25 students and one staff member (4% of the school) would attend a school dance and spirit weeks were dreaded by teachers due to the unruly student behavior and less than 50% participation that were a part of it.  Today, both students and faculty look forward to well-run student council dances that engage 85% of the student body on average. Spirit days were turned around as well and over 90% of the students and staff regularly participate.

Ms. Helfrich works to ensure a balance in the activities her student council pursues.  From the school wide team building day early in the year to social activities and spirit days, to the more serious themed projects like Ability Awareness Day and food drives.  After hosting an annual Senior Citizens Prom for several years, the student leaders at MBMS were empowered to share with other councils in the state how to organize and host senior proms of their own and have led several workshops on the topic.  The group also wrote and won a grant through Special Olympics that allowed the student council to share lessons with their peers about what life is like for other people and to bring in speakers to share with the student body.

As the student council became more active and capable, the next natural step for Ms. Helfrich was to give her students experiences with student council at the state level.  Her talents too did not go unnoticed by the Missouri Association of Student Councils and Ms. Helfrich became involved in MASC as a workshop presenter, camp adult counselor, and her council has been elected several times as a state officer school. On the national level, Ms. Helfrich is a past contributor to Leadership for Student Activities magazine and her council has been an NASC National Gold Council of Excellence for five years.

From students to staff, Ms. Helfrich makes a lasting impression on those around her. Mr. Ross Bullington, Assistant Principal at MBMS says this about her. “Mrs. Helfrich, as a teacher and adviser, challenges her students to become a better part of the world in which they live. Her level of creativity, from the presentation of technology curriculum, reminding students how to stop bullies, training other advisers, and preparing for our annual Senior Citizens Prom, draws all around into becoming more than they ever could have on their own.” The MBMS Student Council President, Rhiannan Creighton points out that because Mrs. Helfrich is the technology teacher, the student council is “current on everything electronic.” “Besides Mrs. Helfrich’s many achievements, she is also a very caring person. She has a deep heart for our student council kids and is always quick to help people. She is a fantastic adviser as well as a teacher. All of our student council kids and other students feel welcomed and important because of Mrs. Helfrich. She motivates me, our student council and everyone around her to put their best effort into everything they do.”

For her efforts to develop emerging leaders and providing opportunities for them to practice and grow into productive leaders and citizens in our society, NASC congratulates Ms. Cathy Helfrich on being named the 2013 Warren E. Shull National Middle Level Adviser of the Year, and wishes her continued success in her efforts to promote the value of student council in the middle level.