Terry D’Imperio, student council adviser and leadership teacher at Livonia Middle/High School (Livonia MHS) in Livonia, NY, has been named the 2021 Warren E. Shull Adviser of the Year. The annual award is named for Warren E. Shull, the founder of National Student Council, and recognizes high school student council advisers of exemplary character, leadership and commitment to young people—particularly those who foster their development as student leaders.
For 33 years, D’Imperio has guided the student council and demonstrated their mantra, “No one cares how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Actively involved in initiatives such as running blood drives, food drives, coat drives for local migrant workers, raking leaves, Toys for Tots, and annual charity fundraisers, members have developed a culture of service to the school and the community that has earned their council designation as a Gold National Council of Excellence.
D’Imperio takes pride in the leadership development of her students, watching for those moments that reveal they’ve reached the next level—like when someone is able to run a meeting without looking her way. Another key benchmark: “When a student sees the potential and good in others and cultivates that, then I know they are a great leader,” she says.”
A passion for service and the character to lead are traits all good advisers instill. D’Imperio also ensures that her students understand the significance of being “servant leaders.” She loves to show her students a video on the principle of being “the first follower,” which highlights the importance of supporting those who are leading.
In the tightknit, school-oriented community of Livonia, student leadership has a major impact. Mindful of this, the council strives to run activities that bring the school and community together whenever possible, from penny carnivals and an enchanted pumpkin patch to an annual breakfast with Santa.
Connection is a recurring theme in D’Imperio’s work, as evidenced by a leadership class project that directs students to “connect people together in some way.” Her inspiration for the class came after attending a workshop at her first National Student Council Conference. The class she developed was so impactful, her superintendent decided every student who passed through Livonia MHS should take it, giving way to Freshman Leadership.
Under D’Imperio, the entire student body isn’t just represented, it’s called to participate. Weekly student council meetings are open to anyone to offer new ideas, and officers from each of the school’s clubs are invited to discuss their activities and fundraisers so efforts don’t overlap.
Principal John Gammon says D’Imperio always “empowers her students to be the best version of themselves” while making a positive contribution to their school and community. “Through her work with students in the leadership classes, combined with her work as our student council advisor, Mrs. D’Imperio has nurtured a student-centered environment that continues to not only foster strong student leadership, but also builds school spirit that unifies our building.”
D’Imperio’s drive to give her council members opportunities to lead and serve—and work in service of students everywhere—is remarkable. She has attended every National Student Council Conference since 1995, leading many workshops or joining students running their own workshops, and helped run activities at several LEAD Conferences. For the past 15 years, she has served as secretary of the New York State Council of Leadership and Student Activities (NYS CLSA) Executive Board, and her school has had at least one student on the state board for the past 25 years. For three years, she served as the chairperson for the state conference, and each year in March, she helps to organize and run another conference for NYS District 11 that attracts over 800 students and advisers from five surrounding counties.
Named a Warren E. Shull region finalist in 2005, a three-time NYS CLSA Adviser of the Year, and winner of the Earl Reum Regional Award in 2019, D’Imperio’s dedication as an adviser is well known and celebrated in New York—and her expertise is sought far beyond. She has written insightful content for Advise magazine and National Student Council online, including ideas on how to carry on virtually during school shutdowns, fundraising, and getting approval for leadership projects. Since 2004, she also been a head counselor for the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in collaboration with NASSP.
Livonia MHS Student Council President Abigail Abrey notes that some of her favorite memories of school are at council events with Mrs. D. “She is someone I hope to be like as I grow up with how many hearts and lives she has affected and inspired,” she says. “I will never be able to thank her enough, not just for what she has done for me, but what she has done for our entire community and people all over the world.”
Being an adviser this past year hasn’t been easy, but Principal Gammon says some of D’Imperio’s strongest leadership occurred during the pandemic. “She was instrumental in creating a warm, caring environment for students within the strict structure of our COVID safety plans. She helped our students to look at each obstacle as an opportunity, encouraging them that all things are still possible if we are creative and carry the right attitude.”
Executive Director of NYS CLSA Roberta Bittel says, “When students speak of their experiences with Mrs. D, they confirm that she does so much more than teach. She instructs them about life, teaching young adults skills that will help them in their futures to foster great success in higher education and the workforce. ‘Adviser’ does not begin to cover all that Terry is. She is a leader, a teacher, a role model, a friend, a counselor, and for many, the person they will learn the most from about who they aspire to be.”
For inspiring students to serve their school and community, and for supporting the next generation of servant leaders in New York and beyond, National Student Council proudly recognizes Terry D’Imperio as the 2021 Warren E. Shull High School Adviser of the Year.