Smart Horizons Career Online Education established its Student Advisory Council (SAC) 2 years ago as a means of receiving valuable input from students enrolled in Smart Horizons Career Online High School (SHCOHS). The school’s Academic Coach and Social Studies Instructor, Yianna Pavlakos, serves as Moderator for the council.

“The SAC meets to discuss ways we can improve our services to the students,” Ms. Pavlakos said. “We serve a very diverse population, so it’s extremely important that we become aware of the particular needs of our pupils. The participants share their experiences and make suggestions on practices they feel need changing.”

Teresa Salafrio, the school’s Principal and Director of Academics for the district, also attends some of the bi-monthly SAC meetings.

“The SAC provides feedback on various aspects of the school including curriculum, communication, and services provided,” Ms. Salafrio said. “This feedback can then assist the school leadership team in making future decisions. The SAC is extremely important to us as it directly furthers SHCOE’s mission to provide a quality and supportive career-based education.”

Ms. Salafrio added that it also gives students the opportunity to work with their classmates, which enhances their sense of community. “Students have a chance to interact as a group with classmates as well as members of the leadership team. It serves as a way for students to collaborate and become part of SHCOE’s decision-making process. I always enjoy talking to the students and hearing their feedback.”

The world’s first AdvancED/SACS accredited online school district, SHCOE features coursework that is both self-directed and teacher-supported, enabling students to earn an 18-credit high school diploma and credentialed career certificate in one, comprehensive online program. Providing a supportive community is at the center of the district’s philosophy, as it serves students who have not had successful experiences in previous academic environments.

Five students currently serve on the SAC. Among them is Diana Tumova, a native of Latvia who now resides in Lanett, Alabama.

Diana, 25, began her coursework in July of 2013 with the goal of earning her diploma and certificate by the end of 2014. She chose the General Career Preparation track for her career certificate.

“I was happy to join the meetings when Ms. Pavlakos asked me to be part of the council,” Diana said. “I have really enjoyed the discussions and a chance to offer input.” Diana’s younger brother, Aivis Tumovs, also serves on the council.

“At each meeting we choose one or two topics to discuss,” Ms. Pavlakos said. “The student feedback has been very useful and we look forward to continuing this process.”