by Gaius Ong (14A01B)
How does one encapsulate all the joy and frustration, the stress and celebration of a year in Council, all in a simple, informative article? Admittedly, it would be unrealistic of me if I expected to paint a complete picture of what exactly Council is, and all that we do. After all, owing to the varying natures of our job scopes, each councilor’s one-year journey often differs greatly from another’s. Yet, for myself, herein lies the beauty of the Students’ Council: the convergence of uniquely different individuals with differing experiences, each one working together towards the common goal of service to the student population.
“Engage and care for all students so as to foster a sense of belonging to Raffles.” Our council’s main and primary purpose is to serve the student population, and it’s extremely important to remember that when considering whether or not to join Council. Humility is the key: recognising that there are needs to be served in the school, and giving of oneself, by utilising the skills and gifts you possess to serve and address these needs. “Lead by serving, serve by leading” – as oft-repeated and clichéd as this might sound, this really is the essence of what it means to be a councillor.
“As a councillor, you must always be aware of your overarching goal and mandate in everything that you do for council. For me personally, this was to serve with humility and sacrifice.” – Jia Yao, CCAD
Let’s get down to the basics first. Councillors go through a period of elections, which include nominations, interviews, and campaigning, before they are voted in by the school population. They can either nominate themselves or be nominated by their peers. After elections, the council elects go through the hallowed Council Camp, before being recognised as full-fledged councillors at the Students’ Council Investiture. Throughout the period leading up to the Investiture, each council elect will have a “buddy” from the senior batch, who will act as a mentor and familiarise elects with the general running of Council.
The Executive Committee is chosen after a second round of internal elections, and comprises the President, 2 Vice-Presidents, 2 Secretaries (Resources and Finance), Welfare, CCAD, and Communications (Commz’ D) Department Heads, and the 5 House Captains. The PresSecs (Presidents and Secretaries) form the ninth department, and they oversee the Council as a whole. Each councillor belongs to a department, or a House Directorate, and through the organisation of several events and initiatives, provides and cares for a specific area of student life in RI. Additionally, each councillor also belongs to one of 6 functions: National Day, Teachers’ Day, Graduation Night (for the Year 6s), Open House, Orientation, and Council Camp. For the 33rd Council, the Pre-University Seminar (a seventh function) was added; however, the incoming 34th batch will not be able to participate in this function. The functions will be led by 2 function ICs elected during the Internal Elections. Besides department work, councillors will also be expected to balance their function work and contribute equally to both. (More articles explaining each function and department will be coming up, so watch Raffles Press for more!)
“Support one another and nurture strong and lasting relationships so as to work together as one.” Council’s also a place where we build new relationships – not just professional working relationships, but long-lasting friendships where we care for and support each other. It’s crucial for each councillor to not only focus on completing the task at hand, but to always be mindful of the fact that you’re working with unique individuals, all possessing talents and skills that you might not necessarily have. Unique individuals who provide not only logistical and technical support, but more importantly emotional and moral sustenance. You’ll get to observe and understand the working styles and preferences of the people around you, and come to love and respect your fellow councillors. Each council’s culture differs from batch to batch, but what stays constant are the friendships built and the emotional bonds forged. As Alynna (CCAD) puts it, “As cheesy as it may sound, we are like one big family. We have each other’s backs all the time and we enjoy the success of events together and (even) get scolded for mistakes together!”
The learning experience that comes together with one whole year of assiduous planning and of decisive execution, of continuous negotiation and of cautious deliberation, is invaluable. Through the planning and organising of events and initiatives of vastly different scales, one acquires unique skills and knowledge that prove useful in other aspects of one’s life. Furthermore, by interacting with such a diverse group of people and working together, you also pick up people skills and certain values along the way. It’s intriguing (at least for myself) to observe others’ preferences in a working context: some might have a predilection for artistic creation; others might tackle the administrative work head-on. Be it painting colourful banners, contacting (and negotiating with) suppliers, or understanding when and how to compromise during discussions, you’ll learn a tremendous amount through your one-year term.
Of course, being a councillor comes with several challenges as well. Apart from monthly General Meetings, we don’t have regular sessions like other CCAs. However, that doesn’t mean that the commitment level is relatively low – quite the contrary, actually. Department and function meetings are called at their own discretion, not to mention sub-comm meetings within each particular department/function. For EXCO members and Function ICs, this also means more meetings and discussions with teachers and school authorities. Peak periods for councillors such as Inter-House Competitions (IHCs) might mean a greater workload, and a tighter schedule, among other concerns.
“Time management is crucial. Take up council only if you’re sure of being able to balance your commitments well, so that you’ll be able to fully commit to the council work you take up.” – Jacqueline, Moor-Tarbet House Department
The key to all this? Effective time management and sensible prioritisation, coupled with the mental strength to push on. It’s vital that a councillor knows how to manage his/her time effectively, all the while not compromising on both schoolwork and council work. Juggling the commitments of academic work, Council, 2nd CCAs, other external activities, and relationships with your friends may be an ostensibly insurmountable challenge, but prioritising these commitments well and being disciplined enough to give the best you can in everything you do will serve you well throughout your Council term. Most importantly, however, is recognition of the fact that your fellow councillors are always there for you, and they’ll be more than willing to help you. I’ve come to trust and love my fellow 33rds for tiding me through storms and hardship, even when I faltered and stumbled.
“There are various peak periods as everyone is holding different roles and responsibilities in their functions and departments. It is indeed quite stressful during these times and you may lose sleep and be unable to finish your tutorials but your fellow councillors will bring you through the hardship and in the end it will be all worth it!” – Zhi Peng, Bayley-Waddle House Department
In all, the culture of each Council (and consequently the experience of each councillor) largely depends on the individuals that make it up. It is true that the commitment level is pretty high, and sometimes the road can be stressful. Fundamentally, however, the Council is only as strong as its councillors are: if you’re willing to give of yourself for the betterment of student life, and if you’re looking for people who will stand by you and support you as you embark on your one-year journey with them, then the Students’ Council of Raffles Institution gladly and warmly welcomes you to our family to stay – it’ll be an experience to remember.
“I think the culture of council is what you want it to be. Definitely, there’s hard work involved, but honestly for me, it’s a lot of fun. I guess the culture you experience would be based on the choices you make. If you choose to not be so involved and what not then council work is just going to be a drag. But if you choose to give it your all and slog it out with the rest then you’re going to leave council feeling fulfilled and with many good friends by your side whom you’ve experienced thick and thin with.” – Ruthanne, Welfare