Q & A with student leaders Shalaya Ramdin and Josh Holtzleiter
Note: This is the first in a series of Q&As with student leadership groups at secondary schools in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191.
#BurnsvilleStrong began as a hashtag in 2013, then became a club in 2014 at Burnsville High School. Now it’s one of the school’s three student leadership groups that also includes the Black Student Union and the Student Council. Membership is capped at around 60 juniors and seniors who are involved with mentoring, communications, community outreach, positive outreach and leadership at their school.
“Inspire, Support, Unite” are the three words that describe what #BurnsvilleStrong does.
“Our focus continues to be on helping others,” said Josh Holtzleiter, a senior in his second year with the group. “We ask how can we support others, how can we get through this, or just how can we get better. We’re developing more ways to reach out in our school, community, and even country.”
During the 2017-18 school year, the group collected supplies for schools affected by hurricanes and lent support to school shooting survivors. They also led numerous activities at Burnsville High School. This year, they’ve already assisted with orientations at their school and wore BurnsvilleStrong t-shirts to be easily identifiable to their classmates who had questions or needed assistance during the first weeks of school. The group also had a school supply drive to collect new or slightly used pens, pencils, notebooks, markers, crayons, etc., to be distributed as needed in the district to make sure everyone has the materials they need to succeed in school.
Two of the group’s senior leaders responded to a few questions:
Why did you want to be part of BurnsvilleStrong?
Shalaya Ramdin: It’s a way to help people going through tough situations.
Josh Holtzleiter: It’s a way to make a difference, and I believe that one person can make a difference.
What does BurnsvilleStrong contribute to the high school’s community?
SR: BurnsvilleStrong contributes a helping hand to those who want/need it. We are here to build each other up. We get involved with everyone, from students, to staff, to families. With every interaction that goes on, we want to make a positive impact or even a small one.
JH: BurnsvilleStrong provides a positive presence to the high school community. We are always trying to help improve the school through positive community outreach as well as through personal interactions with other students and staff.
What are you looking forward to this year with BurnsvilleStrong?
SR: We’ve developed some exciting themes to support students during each month of the school year.
What do you get out of your involvement
JH: It’s a nice feeling when you can help people who have questions or need information.
What would you want your classmates to understand?
SR: Don’t worry about what your friends are doing – it may not be for you – do what’s right for you.
JH: Reach out to BurnsvilleStrong members with problems or questions. We might not know the answers, but we can direct you to people who do.
What advice would you give to incoming 9th graders?
SR: Beginning in 9th grade, grades really do matter.
JH: Get involved! There’s so much to do at Burnsville High School – sports, clubs, volunteering. And if you don’t find what you want, there’s even a process for starting the club you want.
How has your involvement with BurnsvilleStrong made you more future ready?
SR: BurnsvilleStrong has given me the skills to listen and communicate effectively. It also teaches verbal and physical cues in a situation. Communication is something that happens in everyday life, but genuinely hearing someone and knowing how to respond is what is going to help me in the future.
JH: BurnsvilleStrong has provided me with experience in working with others to reach a common goal. This experience will help me be able to work with others in my career as well as my future in general.
What are your favorite subjects?
SR: Chemistry, engineering, math
JH: Engineering, physics and math