SIERRA VISTA — The energy level at Buena High School was off the charts Thursday evening when more than 2,000 costume-clad, chanting students packed the halls for the 86th annual Arizona Association of Student Councils.
Representing about 170 high schools across Arizona, buses from as far away as Flagstaff, Yuma, Camp Verde, Deer Valley, Gilbert, Glendale, Phoenix and Tucson rolled onto Buena’s campus where the visiting students were welcomed to a carnival-like atmosphere of music, dancing and exuberant cheers.
And Benson student council members were right in the middle of the boisterous festivities.
“We took 11 students to the convention,” said Katrina Jansson, Benson High School’s student council sponsor. “This is my first experience with an Arizona Association of Student Councils convention, and it’s really different than other student organizations that I’ve attended. The theme is about building community and they had great keynote speakers with powerful messages that touched on the importance of working together to accomplish goals. While the convention was about serious issues, they made it fun for the students in a high-energy, friendly atmosphere. The students loved it.”
Following a “Leadership Thru Teamwork” theme, Buena High School’s halls were draped with decorations, while the gymnasium was transformed into a convention center, complete with stage, tables, audio-visual equipment and more decorations.
“This is the first time AASC has been in Cochise County since 1955, and it’s the first time ever for Buena,” the school’s Student Council Advisor Dennis Nitschke said of the event, which got its start in 1934. Douglas High School hosted the county’s first AASC convention, Nitschke added.
“We knew that we wanted Buena to host AASC, but had to go through a bidding process in order to get selected,” said Buena Student Body President McKenna Heck. “We’re so excited this has happened for our school. This is my senior year, and we’ve been working on this since I was a freshman.”
Buena submitted its first bid in 2016 for the 2017 AASC convention, but was not selected, Heck said.
“We bid again in 2018, and got it for 2020. Every year, schools that are interested in hosting the convention put together a presentation that sells their city, their school and school spirit. The process is pretty involved and takes a team effort, so we were absolutely ecstatic when we were selected.”
While the entire council worked together on the bid package, Heck and other council members credit 2018 Buena graduate Jake Lane for compiling a winning video, showcasing Buena as an ideal host for the convention, with Sierra Vista as an ideal venue.
“Jake’s video is amazing,” said Buena senior Renee Romo, who co-chairs the 2020 AASC convention with Heck.
“Serving on this student council and putting this event together has been so rewarding,” she said. “It was a lot of work, but it’s been well worth it. For this to be at Buena during our senior year, is such a great feeling. Jake did a fantastic job of selling Buena and Sierra Vista through the video.”
Nearly 2,100 students were in Sierra Vista for the event, which started Thursday afternoon and ended at noon Saturday. Local hotels were completely full, with some of the visitors turning to Benson, Tombstone and Bisbee for accommodations.
“Buena did a fabulous job of hosting the 2020 AASC state convention,” said Benson junior Myranda Sutton. “The entire event has been very memorable. You get to bond with leaders from all over Arizona and make those interpersonal connections that last a lifetime. I’ve really enjoyed AASC and all the leadership lessons we get out of these conventions.”
Another Benson senior, A.J. Gardner, described the event as “awesome.”
“This is the second time I’ve attended an AASC convention,” he said. “I attended one in Havasu my freshman year, and now I’m at Buena as a senior. It’s been a great learning experience and a lot of fun. I’m glad I was able to be a part of all this.”
A few schools started arriving in Sierra Vista Wednesday to allow enough time for sight-seeing before leaving the area, while others stayed through Sunday to explore the area.
The students attended general sessions, listened to inspirational messages from keynote speakers Tyler Duram, Lilyan Prado Carrillo and Evangeline Parker, and participated in panel discussions.
Entertainment, dances, awards presentations, and plenty of free time to explore local attractions were incorporated into the program.