Jocelyn Perez, Student Council President

Senior%2C+Jocelyn+Perez%2C++poses+as+a+proud+Panther%2C++just+moments+before+the+2016+Powder+Puff+game.

Senior, Jocelyn Perez, poses as a proud Panther, just moments before the 2016 Powder Puff game.

Scattered papers litter the lunch table, at least one Lenovo is being used at all times, lunches lay cold and untouched as there are bigger matters to attend to, and heaps of blue glitter cover the floor as the student council president, Jocelyn Perez, makes it rain sapphire flakes in an attempt to showcase her Panther pride.

Actually eating lunch is the least of our worries in the lower commons and Perez’s lunch is the loneliest of all as she types and retypes the next RLHSStuCo tweet, informing the Round Lake High School students about the next event and keeping everyone up to date on the school’s clubs and activities. Throughout my four years here, I’ve never seen a more hands-on and spirited team of students for our student council, and there hasn’t been a more passionate leader than Perez. From making decisions on the themes for special events and spirit days to being brave enough to teach a roomful of kids how to cook, Perez is constantly working to better both the school’s and the community’s crippled reputation by giving us her most valuable resource: time.

I felt the need to wait after the chaos that is homecoming week to meet with Perez, and speak to her about her work with the school and the community. Lord knows we’re both practically suffocating under the endless amount of assignments, projects, tests, and due dates that plague every nook and cranny of a high schooler’s mind. So, with a handful of spare minutes on our backs and a few cups of coffee on the table, we managed to discuss high school life among the murmurs of adult life surrounding us. On the brink of turning 18, we reflected on our grade school influences and came to the conclusion that we are both polar opposites of who we once were. This sloth-like shift first began in Perez’s sophomore year when she joined the student council to help plan events and put her creativity to work. It was from that point on when she realized that the motives of student council were much greater than planning events and making posters, and she became infatuated with the idea of making an impact on the whole school.

In between a chorus of yawns, we reminisce about her presidential campaign that took place late last year. I was there for most of it, helping her hand out the blue and yellow “Vote Jocelyn Perez for student council president” stickers– a few of which I still have. I asked her how it felt to win the position after putting so much time and effort into her campaign. “I remember a sense of relief and joy taking over,” Perez said with an incredulous smile, “As someone who was always rejected when trying to get involved in student activities, this very moment marked a turning point. Not only was I being accepted, but I was being chosen as a leader. The person who would have this school in their hands was me. I could not believe it.”

She would like to make others understand that we should not limit ourselves to a life of simplicity when we can be great. And yes, young people can, in fact, make a difference and do great things. It all begins with a step, a push, or even a tumble out of one’s comfort zone and into the right direction.

She hopes to become a teacher and return to RLHS, a bold move that would seem odd to most. But she’s determined to help the community and to preserve this positive shift in attitude from the student body. “I want to be able to do the same thing for the next generation and teach them that they can accomplish far more than they would ever imagine.”

I was very intrigued by her junior cooking class ever since she told me about it during the summer. Personally, I would not take the responsibility of teaching children how to cook, but Perez, bless her soul, thought it would be helpful to teach the children a skill that some adults can’t even get a hang of.

“I’d be terrified to teach kids how to cook,” I told her with a grimace.

“At first I was nervous to be teaching little kids skills that I had just learned myself, but after a while I got more comfortable.”

“Did that junior cooking class go well?”

“Junior Chefs cooking class was a success! The kids all did so well, and I am glad that they learned such valuable skills at their age,” she said proudly.

Her involvement has quickly turned into an act of respect for our community and a way in which it can be strengthened to support our rich culture, “After my involvement in the National Hispanic Institute I have understood the importance of community,” Perez said. “Round Lake is a school made up of minorities and quite personally I don’t like that term because it implies inferiority. This one factor should not be seen as a setback. We should all work together because I believe we are the diamonds in a society that won’t polish us. As long as we understand our value and strengthen each other, then our pride will out do everything else.”

Her massive impact has been felt by the students of RLHS and has left an everlasting impression on the faculty as well, raising the bar for all future student council presidents. “She’s very passionate about her work. No matter how many other things she may have going on, she puts her club first,said fellow student council member and senior, Stephanie Nava. “She’s extremely serious; she’s a fun leader but also a very strict one. She runs meetings smoothly in order to get all of the information out accordingly, and to get the most out of every minute. She’s too serious about school and basically has her life planned out– up to where she’s going to be buried, and somehow manages to make time for all of the activities she does even if it means she gets only 2 hours of sleep a night.”

Meanwhile, RLHS counselor, Penina Noonan has reflected on Perez and her journey in making the school as proud as it can be. “When I saw the woman she had become at our Homecoming Pep rally, I was floored,” Noonan said. “Who was this well-spoken, confident young girl addressing the student body? In this role she has excelled, and has made our school a better place as a result.”

As we conclude our brief meeting, Perez emphasizes that the success of an RLHS leader is not only expressed by showcasing pride in the school or pride in the community, but pride in one’s identity. And on that note, we pack our things, and head off. Off to write the papers, study for the tests, and fill out the applications that will ultimately reflect what we’ve learned in the past and push us into an exceedingly bright future.