2021-2022 Student Body Co-President Candidates First Look: Drew Botta and Jack Feeks


To kick off this year’s campaign week, we sat down with each of the four pairs of candidates to talk to them about their platforms, backgrounds, and ideas. 

Why did you decide to run, and why do you think you would make a balanced pair of co-presidents?

Drew: We decided to run freshman year. During an assembly, we were watching a slideshow and [Jack] was like, “We should do this.” We thought that we would do a really good job. We started talking about it and building up our ideas, and since then it was something we’ve been thinking about. 

Jack: The original reason for why we ran, like he said, is long-lasting — it’s not something that we just thought of a week or two ago. We love Pingree in general, and we want to contribute to this community, and I think that a way of doing that is by becoming co-presidents.

Drew: Pretty early on, we felt that we were “accepted,” and so we want to build that same environment for everyone else, and we have had many underclassmen join our Problems and Solutions club. It was nice to be there for them the same way upperclassmen were there for us, and we think that we could be approachable and we could make it so people feel like they could come to us with their ideas, and we think that in that environment is the best way for everyone’s voice to be heard, and everyone feels comfortable voicing their thoughts to the administration.

What is the biggest issue you think that Pingree is currently facing? What solution/plan do you have for it?

Drew: I don’t know if this is the biggest issue: people talk a lot about having spirit, but I think that it’s more of a connection thing. With Pingree, something that we pride ourselves on is our community, but we’re always striving to maintain that. Right now, each grade is separated, and we want to bring everyone together again, and having the underclassmen build connections with upperclassmen, especially.

Jack: We’ve always been divided, whether through cohorts or grades. We want to bring back the sense of community between grades. One of our ideas is a “buddy system,” where the upperclassmen can sign up to have a freshmen buddy, because the freshmen this year aren’t as involved in the community this year as compared to past years. The people that sign up for it must be willing to do this and confident in their ability (this isn’t something that we want to force on people). We’re going to build a system where the freshmen can talk to someone who is not their advisor or an adult about any problems, someone who is very approachable, a friendly face.

Drew: Yeah, we want to get that system going. We want to stress that it is optional, and we want the kids that participate to be invested enough to do it. We’ve heard freshmen say that they wish that they knew more upperclassmen, especially this year. And we love being that presence for them! They’ve enjoyed having us be there for them too through our club, and we thought that we should formulate something so that everyone is able to have that good experience. 

Why do you think you can win? What makes you different from other candidates?

Jack: We have a lot of connections throughout the school, and we think that we would be a great option to lead all sorts of communities, all sorts of people. We’ve already integrated some underclassmen into our club: 20 or so freshmen wanted to get to know the school better, and each other better, by joining the club. Everyone is required to participate in an after school co-curricular, and we want to make that fun and enjoyable for everyone. We want to have highlighted games to be very exciting, and especially after coming back from COVID, everyone wants a normal high school experience, and we want to try to bring that back.

Drew: We’ve done some things for the community already, we’ve built connections with the faculty, so we want to show that we have no problem advocating for ourselves and the school by reaching out to department heads. Hopefully, we’ve shown that we’re nice guys, and approachable people. I think that the little things, such as how we appear to the student body on an everyday basis, people remember that stuff. We hope that people remember that and see that we can do a good job.

Can you elaborate on your club, the Problems and Solutions Club?

Jack: The club is called Problems and Solutions Club. We came up with this idea over quarantine, and at first we didn’t really know how it was going to turn out. We didn’t think that anyone would actually come to our club meetings. It wasn’t very serious at first, but we’re excited about what we’ve done for the community. We spoke with Mr. Williamson about some freshmen issues that have been mentioned to us, and some faculty helped us solve their problems and set up systems where the freshmen could hang out together. Problems were brought to us, and we solved them, and we were actually able to help some freshmen meet other freshmen in a less controlled environment. We really realized recently that we really want to help the school that helped us when we were underclassmen, and even now upperclassmen, and we want to give back to the community that made us love Pingree.

Drew: Our whole idea was that any problem, school-related, personal, or not, could be brought to us. We have amazing advisors and faculty members, but sometimes it’s easier to talk to another student. We started to set up an event with Mr. Williamson, and unfortunately due to COVID numbers rising at the time, that was never able to happen. But, we’ve been able to help a lot of people. Our club is more of a friend setting now. We’re happy with how it ended up.

The example set by your leadership is crucial to school culture. What specific proposals do you have to diversify Pingree and promote all aspects of student life equally? What about improving reception to diversity, equity, and inclusion work? 

Drew: Oftentimes, I think that highlighted games get more attention. We want to change that — many of the issues come from scheduling. If an art event takes place on a Tuesday night, not as many people would go to it as opposed to an event on Friday night, where more students can actually come, which opens up the opportunity where more people can come and participate. We also want to have catered food, or something like that, to attract more people. I love musicals, because my parents brought me to a lot of them growing up, but I would have never known that unless I hadn’t been to one. We want people to branch out and support all aspects of student life, because they might find a new interest, too. We want to make sure all events are seen equally.

Jack: I think that inclusion starts with feeling comfortable in the community, which starts by being comfortable with the people in the community. We want to make Pingree proud. We want our students to have spirit and go to these highlighted games, go to highlighted arts events and shows, all of which would help to bring the community together. That’s what we want to do, to bring everyone back. We also want to promote how valuable clubs are, and how important it is to find your people. 

Drew: We want to create an inclusive environment, but it’s hard to create an inclusive environment when not everyone supports every aspect of the community equally, or when students think that they should be going to a certain event over another one. I think that we are portrayed as athletes, but again, I love other things, like musicals, because I was fortunate enough to be brought up with these things. If we can help other people spread their wings and find other interests, it will bring more people together and create a sense of pride. Everyone is proud to be at Pingree. 

Jack: (In regard to diversity) Like I said, I think that being comfortable is important. We want to have ways where people can meet different people. We want everyone to feel comfortable in this community. If people feel ostracized or excluded, we want to have systems where people can come together and talk about that. I think that this attests to the Buddy System, because I think that could help people feel included in the community by knowing other people at school, to diversify your experience at Pingree. 

Drew: I got to experience this firsthand. During an event, I saw a freshman sitting alone while everyone was eating their lunch. I went over to him, and I sat with him. You could tell in his eyes he was thinking, what is going on, because he was obviously nervous. I introduced myself and we opened up to each other. You could tell how much more comfortable he was, and it was amazing to see and to be able to help someone feel like that. That’s what we want to continue doing. Last year, we did the same thing with a student who transferred to Pingree, and we got to build a connection. It was so nice to make someone else feel comfortable and have fun. It’s so important to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. 

Jack: We want to get people out of their comfort zone. That’s our message, and that’s why we’re running. We want to push other people in the way in which we were pushed. 

Is there anything you would like to say to the Pingree community that you don’t think will be mentioned in the panel/campaign?

Drew: We’re going to keep most of our ideas disclosed until the panel, because a lot of our smaller ideas are going to make our presidency campaign complete. We really just want to be approachable. That’s the environment that we want. We hope that we can build a community where everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinions to us, and so we can voice those to the administration. We want to build a school that everyone continues to love and feel happy at.

Jack: We want to be the messenger between the students, and people in the higher Pingree administration, and to communicate ideas between the two. As student body presidents, we aren’t going to run the school, we aren’t going to change everything about Pingree, but we want to be the voices for Pingree. We love Pingree, and we want to continue to make it an amazing place.