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New VP-TECH Student Council helps students ‘make sure their voices are heard’

Oct. 24, 2019



The eight VP-TECH Student Council members pose for a photo together in the orange VP-TECH classroom


The Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES formed its first VP-TECH Student Council this school year. The members, from left: Ninth Grade Class Representative Cole Dowling, a freshman of Central Valley; President Sean Spellman, a senior of West Canada Valley; 12th Grade Class Representative Olivia Pickett, a senior of Little Falls; 10th Grade Class Representative Michael Conley (in back), a sophomore of Central Valley; Secretary Emily Almond (in front), a sophomore of Central Valley; Treasurer Brianna Holtz, a sophomore of Central Valley; Vice President Jaeden Coffey, a sophomore of Frankfort-Schuyler, and 11th Grade Class Representative Aleksandr Kurganov, a junior of Frankfort-Schuyler.




HERKIMER – Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School 10th-grader Michael Conley decided to run for a spot on the first VP-TECH Student Council as a way to represent his classmates and be part of how something is run.

Student Council is a way for students to make suggestions and be able to bring issues to students on the council, Conley said.

“I feel like it’s beneficial because sometimes there are things you want changed that you don’t know where to start,” he said.

The first VP-TECH Student Council was created this school year with elections on Sept. 20 and its first meetings on Sept. 27 and Oct. 10. VP-TECH, which launched in September 2015, is made up of students in ninth grade through 12th grade from Herkimer BOCES component school districts.

VP-TECH focuses on technology, project-based learning and real-world work situations. Students can spend four to six years in the program to earn a Regents diploma, an associate degree in quality assurance from Herkimer College for free, a certification in advanced manufacturing and connections with local businesses.

The members of the first VP-TECH Student Council are:

  • President Sean Spellman, a senior of West Canada Valley

  • Vice President Jaeden Coffey, a sophomore of Frankfort-Schuyler

  • Treasurer Brianna Holtz, a sophomore of Central Valley

  • Secretary Emily Almond, a sophomore of Central Valley

  • 12th Grade Class Representative Olivia Pickett, a senior of Little Falls

  • 11th Grade Class Representative Aleksandr Kurganov, a junior of Frankfort-Schuyler

  • 10th Grade Class Representative Michael Conley, a sophomore of Central Valley

  • Ninth Grade Class Representative Cole Dowling, a freshman of Central Valley

‘It took courage’

The VP-TECH Student Council advisors are school counselor Adam Bombard and VP-TECH business teacher Andrew Carpenter. Bombard first raised the possibility of a student council for VP-TECH last school year, and this year, it came to life.

“I think student leadership is very important,” Bombard said. “I think it benefits individual students, I think it benefits the student body as a whole and I think it benefits the program.”

The idea is for the class representatives to bring information from students to the council and from the council to students. Meetings will be held once every two weeks.

Students who were interested in running for positions on the council submitted letters of intent with written speeches and then gave their speeches in front of the whole VP-TECH program of about 100 students in the lobby at the Herkimer BOCES WEB Complex.

“It took courage to do that,” Bombard said.

The speeches were well written and well delivered, Bombard said.

Voting for the election took place on Sept. 20, and results were read at the end of the day. Pickett and Almond, who ran for other positions initially, were added to the council by the other members during the Oct. 10 council meeting to fill two positions that were still open after the election.

Part of the Student Council program is learning the rules of order and the experience of operating a meetings, Bombard said. He said he and Carpenter are there to help with procedure and other questions, but students run the meetings themselves, and the council is self-governed.

Bombard said he hopes the council takes on proactive efforts such as fundraising activities. He enjoys watching the students learn and grow through the process.

“We’re already seeing their excitement,” he said.

‘Into politics’

One reason Spellman ran for Student Council president was to improve the ability for students to be heard.

“It gives the students a voice, so they don’t feel like there’s anything happening that they can’t change,” he said.

Spellman also ran because it ties to his career goals.

“I want to go into politics for my future. My future goal is to be president of the United States, so I felt it would be a good stepping stone,” Spellman said, before noting why he wants to become U.S. president. “I think there needs to be a change in a lot of things, and I feel like I can do that.”

Spellman ran on the mission of getting the grant for VP-TECH renewed to make the continuation of the program easier. The election process included giving his speech and meeting one on one with students to tell them why he was running.

Now that the Student Council is established, he is excited to talk with the other members.

“I want to learn more about them and what they think,” Spellman said.

‘A purpose’

Coffey, said one reason she ran for vice president is because she has noticed that some students felt forgotten by their home school districts due to being at VP-TECH for the whole school day.

“I wanted to change that, so that in future years they don’t have to go through the same thing,” she said.

Coffey said she wants to establish a way for VP-TECH students to receive more information about what’s going on at their home schools and for the school districts to receive more information about student accomplishments at VP-TECH.

Holtz said she shares Coffey’s concerns – such as for VP-TECH students to participate in sports and dances at their home schools. She thinks the Student Council is a good way to address this and other issues on students’ minds.

“I saw it as a good opportunity to help my program, to help VP-TECH,” Holtz said. “I think it gives the students a purpose.”

Coffey agreed on the importance of Student Council for students.

“It lets them have a voice to say what’s the problem and get it done,” Coffey said.

‘We get a voice’

Dowling said he ran for ninth grade class representative because he noticed that nobody was running for the position and he tends to be a leader that people look up to.

“I figured somebody had to step into that,” he said. “My goal as a freshman representative is to talk to everybody and make sure their voices are heard.”

Dowling said he talks to a lot of people, so can be friends with students and get their thoughts as a friend – not just as a Student Council leader.

“The value of having Student Council is getting their voices heard,” he said. “This place won’t get better unless the students are the ones letting them know what needs to be improved.”

Dowling said he enjoys learning about other students – getting to know them and why they came to VP-TECH.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know everybody,” he said.

Kurganov said he initially didn’t plan to run for 11th grade class representative. He considered it but thought others might be better for the role, but then there was an opening for it, so he decided to go for it.

Now, he is excited about being part of the Student Council and what it can do for VP-TECH.

“I’m looking forward to giving ideas and helping the program adapt into what it should be,” he said. “I think it’s beneficial because instead of just teachers telling us what to do, we get a voice.”



Student Council members and advisors sit around tables put together in a circle for a meeting


Members of the Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School Student Council participate in a council meeting on Oct. 10 at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES. This school year is the first time VP-TECH has had a student council.