PBGHS students

Students from Palm Beach Gardens High School SGA pose for a photo in the Student Union after the UCF Senate meeting on Nov. 17.

Students from a high school Student Government Association got a glimpse into their future on Thursday when they attended the University of Central Florida’s Senate meeting.

Eleven students from Palm Beach Gardens High School were present, including SGA President Erin Emerson. They were accompanied by student government adviser Honey Smith.

Smith said it was a perfect opportunity for the students to experience college-level student government and how it differs from the high school government.

“We operate on a much smaller scale,” Smith said. “The kids were really excited to see what the possibilities are at the college level.”

The students interacted with several members of UCF’s Senate including Speaker of the Senate Crystian Cepeda.

Cepeda explained how the checks and balances work at the college level. High school SGA doesn’t have all three branches and the student body president represents the students directly.

“They were asking what exactly [the Senate] fund,” Cepeda said. “It was kind of cool that they asked that question. They actually did some research.”

Cepeda said that he also offered advice to the students on preparing for college, staying diverse, and asking for help.

“I was explaining to them why UCF is awesome,” Cepeda said. “UCF really does stand for opportunity.”

The students were very interested in the budget and how certain activities receive funding through student representatives’ votes.

“It’s been amazing to see how big the SGA here is and how big the budget is,” Emerson said. “We just have our Senate and our Executive Board.”

Allie Nelson, a member of the Public Relations Committee, said her primary job is advertising and informing the students via signs and posters. She said the biggest surprise was how organized UCF’s Senate is and it gives Palm Beach Gardens High School something to work toward.

Jaquan Starling, SGA secretary, said he enjoyed the complexity of the meeting. He works as chairman of faculty and staff relations, which serves as a liaison between students and faculty and assists with selecting teacher of the month.

The students said that even though the size and budget could be intimidating, none of them were discouraged by what they experienced.

“It was very inspirational,” Emerson said. “There are things we’ve learned that we can take home now. It’s been really cool.”

“It made student government seem like more of a challenge,” Starling said. “It’s more fun but there are more things to learn about. I’m very glad I had the opportunity to experience it rather than coming to college and wanting to jump in to it.”

Some of the students said that they were considering attending UCF for college and the experience was worth their time.

“We wanted to get some inspiration for what we could do at the high school, based on what we see,” Smith said.

Originally published Nov. 23, 2016.

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