Candidate Statement: Sam Wolk ’13

1. For what position are you running?

I am running for the position of Senior Prefect, whose duty it is to be a representative of and advocate for the student body to the administration.  Furthermore, as the oldest members, the Senior Prefects must also be leaders of the Prefect Council, the Honor Board, and the entire community while being examples of the values of a model Harvard-Westlake student.

2. What makes you feel that you are qualified for the position?  Please describe any leadership experiences that you have had, if applicable.

I have been involved with student government four of the past five years, including Prefect Council these past two years, so I know the demands of the position. A major part of the job is communication, and over the past five years I have always sought to understand the pulse of the student body and speak with as many people as possible. I have already established a relationship with the administration and have gained valuable experience expressing our concerns to it.  I am always searching for ideas, big or small to make daily life on campus that much better, and I work to make them happen.  When it comes down to it, these past two years on Prefect Council I have really learned how to get things done. 

Some of the things I’ve been involved with include starting the H-Dub Smoothie Hub, helping to get wi-fi everywhere on campus for all students, getting water bottles back in the cafeteria, founding and running KHWS (which involves managing over thirty student DJs and 30+ hours of live broadcasting), helping to get phone chargers in the library, and putting together wonderful events like Coffee House where we all come together as a community to relax and show our support for each other.  My experience running KHWS and the tremendous amount of work I have put into it has also provided me with a lot of insight into how to efficiently run and organize a wide-ranging group of students.  This would prove to be invaluable help for a Senior Prefect organizing and running the Prefect Council and serving as a role model for the younger members.

Some of the most relevant experience to the role of Senior Prefect I have gotten has been as a Peer Support Trainee this past year.  Being a member of Peer Support has provided me with keen insight into group dynamics and how to create a group environment in which everybody feels comfortable sharing, participating and where everybody feels a tight bond of trust to each other.  This is paramount on the Honor Board.  This experience from Peer Support is incredibly important for Senior Prefects because they serve as the leaders of the group who will set the tone for the entire year on both the Honor Board and the Prefect Council; I have learned how to do just that from my experience as a Trainee and my two years on the Prefect Council.

Another important job of the Senior Prefect is to bring the entire school together and bridge the gap between groups of students and the administration.  I want to be the one representing all of us.  I always strive to understand the needs of the students better and to advocate for what they want. The better one understands his or her duty, the better they can carry it out, and that would be my goal.   

3. How do you feel about the Honor Board, and what has led you to feel that way?

Being on the Honor Board these past two years has really given me an inside look at why it is so remarkable and why it makes our school so special.  We are lucky to have a council of peers to help figure out how best to resolve a tough situation for the individual student and the community.  The Honor Board serves to enforce the Honor Code, whose goal it is to set standards that will bring out the best in us.  Though we might not be consciously thinking about the Code at all times, we have the Honor Board to help us get to where it is internalized and a natural part of our behavior.

My firsthand look these past two years has really let me see these merits; however, it has also shown me that there is plenty of room for improvement.  We need the Honor Board to be something that everybody really understands without needing to sit in on it.  Therefore, we need to come up with ways to make the Honor Board more visible to all students.  This could mean publishing anonymous versions of the transcripts from each case, or having someone from Chronicle report on cases to give an outside perspective.  No matter what we do, we need to be talking about these things, not just among Prefect Council but with the entire student body.  I’d like to do this in class meetings similar to the ones held for sophomores each year where we can get everyone’s opinions on how to improve the Honor Board.  The students are the only ones who know what would work in improving their understanding of the Board, so the students are the ones who must be consulted.  This would be a goal of mine as Senior Prefect.

4. Please describe one thing in the Harvard-Westlake community that you would change. Also, how would you use the influence of the position of Senior Prefect to change our community?  

I would like to change the level and the quality of communication between the student body and the Prefect Council.  I would want to do this by expanding Prefect Council’s use of online and social media as means of disseminating information and interacting with the student body.  I have had a lot of experience and success with this from KHWS (we just hit 60,000+ Pageviews!) – additionally groups like the Fanatics and the Chronicle have thriving facebook pages and websites, so it is clear that this could be a great route for Prefect Council to take in the next year.  It would be a way for students to easily share their ideas and for Prefect Council to easily get feedback, neither of which is true right now.  I really want to dedicate myself to turning the website that should be launching shortly into a success.  Additionally, Prefect Council could post weekly reports or even daily minutes that could also be submitted to the Chronicle.  Frankly, it might not always be clear what Prefect Council does on a day to day basis and all the little things we do – this would be a way to fix that.  These would serve to make Prefect Council more efficient as a whole.  The Chronicle has been calling for greater transparency, and I think they are right.  These reports would help that.  They would be a chance for Prefect Council to make sure we follow through on everything we begin. 

The job of the Senior Prefect is to represent the whole student body, so really the entire influence of the position rests upon the ability of the Prefect to understand and communicate with the community.  This is exactly what I would do in order to make changes happen – talking with people, holding small discussions during the class meetings period, and trying to always get as many people involved as possible.  I know from experience that when the student body has something that it wants and has good reason for it, all we need to do is talk to the administration.  That is where the influence of the Senior Prefect comes in, and I have the experience to know how to talk to the administration and make what the students want happen – take KHWS as a prime example of starting something from nothing.  When the administration is approached by a Prefect bringing something that virtually the entire school wants, they almost can’t say no.  I would love to be the person who represents the students to the administration once again.