The Smith-Cotton High School Student Council has two reasons to celebrate this month. Not only did the group receive a gold award from the Missouri Association of Student Councils, but social studies teacher and STUCO adviser Greg Willson was also named the Trails West District Adviser of the Year.
“Being named adviser of the year is a great honor, but really, it’s more about the students,” Willson said.
Willson is being modest, his STUCO Executive Board insists.
“He definitely deserved the adviser of the year award,” Smith-Cotton senior Mazen Al-Badoni, an exchange student from Yemen, said.
Willson helped him find his place at the school.
“Being an exchange student coming to a new school, it was hard to make friends and get involved,” Al-Badoni said. “But Mr. Willson helped with everything. Whenever I was having a hard time he always had a few minutes to talk about what was going on. He’s a great teacher.”
Many executive board students echoed that statement, saying Willson was a favorite.
“He’s just a really good teacher and adviser,” said junior Ali Burkholder. “He sort of inspired me to get involved in student council and I’m really glad I did. It’s been a great group to be part of.”
Smith-Cotton’s student council has around 50 members and 19 students that make up its
executive board. To get a spot on the board a student must go through an application process, which includes maintaining a certain GPA, getting teacher recommendations, completing an essay and going through an interview with Willson and several sitting executive board members.
“We have the process we do to make sure we’re getting quality kids,” Willson said. “Student council isn’t an easy group to belong to, but most students end up really loving it.”
Willson said the group was likely chosen as the gold award winner because of the amount of service projects students participate in every year. Ranging from blood drives, to making Thanksgiving dinner baskets to participating in Toys for Tots, there’s a wide variety of programs available to get involved in, he said.
“Our Senior Citizen Prom is probably the one everyone looks forward to most,” he said. “Every year we host a ‘prom’ at the Senior Center and both the students and seniors love it. The senior citizens dance circles around the students, I can tell you that.”
“The great thing about Mr. Willson is that he really lets us plan events and take charge of them, but he also keeps us on track to get things done,” said student council president Elena Sharp.
Willson, who has been at Smith-Cotton and an adviser for STUCO for nine years, said he has no plans to leave.
“Student council is a way to really combat the stereotype that teenagers are completely self-involved and uncaring about others,” he said. “I really enjoy seeing and encouraging these kids to get involved and contribute to their community. I’m very very happy about being named the Trails West Adviser of the Year, but I’m much more proud of the gold award earned by the students. They do great things everyday so seeing them recognized for it is truly an honor.”