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Dan vs. Mr. Titelbaum. An epic showdown between the junior class and the math department. A crowd gathers around the table as Mr. T and I set up for the final point, the point that determines who will advance to the finals of the first-ever CPS all-school ping pong tournament. Though I lost the game, the ping-pong table and subsequent tournaments have proved overwhelmingly successful. It may sound strange, but the success of the ping-pong table helped motivate me to run for student council and eventually become student body President.
During my sophomore year, I began to notice that our school, though small, was split into cliques. I decided that buying a ping-pong table might bring our school together. I ran the idea past the Dean of Students, presented it to student council, and asked for funding. After almost a month of debate, the idea was approved and I bought the table. It was an immediate hit on campus. Within the first week, I set up a tournament, and quickly began to see an improvement in the general sense of community on campus, as students and faculty began to interact in the context of ping-pong. Athletes were setting up tournament games with math whizzes, teachers with students, freshman with seniors; the table and tournaments had brought together a diverse variety of students in a comfortable arena entirely unrelated to academics or the pre-existing groups.
Inspired by the success of what seemed like such a small thing, last year I ran for class representative, and then, this year, for student body President. I hoped that, as President, I would have more opportunities to initiate and lead other community-building projects – and I have. For example, this year the student council organizes a “Music and Food Day” every week, provides hot chocolate to all students on rainy days, changed the vending machine company to provide food that students actually like, and has helped to inspire and organize a school-wide spirit rally.
Even outside my role as an organizer and leader on student council I have attempted to move the school in a positive direction. During freshman year, my first project was to set up a class bowling party. The next year, building on the success of this bowling party, I enlisted a friend to create and organize a bowling class during “Intraterm,” a week where the school offers a variety of non-academic classes. For months, we did fund-raising and financial planning so that we could hire a personal bowling instructor, rent out the bowling alley for a week, and even buy two customized bowling balls for the winners of a tournament we were going to set up. After organizing all of the logistics of the class, we pitched it to the administration. The idea was approved. It was, for both of us, a rewarding accomplishment to set up one of the few completely student-run Intraterm classes.
I try to bring this leadership quality into other areas of my life as well. For example, I helped inspire the creation of this year’s Senior Combo, a five-person band. Also, I play a key role as captain of the track team and as the point guard on the varsity basketball team.
CPS has allowed me an opportunity to develop these leadership qualities and has taught me the value of community-building. I hope that I will be able to bring these qualities with me to a UC campus, and will continue to thrive as a community-builder and leader.
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