While the 49th annual conference of the National Association of Student Councils drew young people from all parts of the country, it was very short on students from the large cities, where much of the nation's minority population is concentrated. Therefore black and Hispanic delegates, while present, were hardly numerous. ``It's an area we have to do more work on,'' admits Rocco Marano, assistant director of student activities for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the NASC's parent organization. The fundamental problem, in his view, is that large-city school districts are so extensive in themselves that it's hard for them ``to see beyond, to state and national organizations.''
Among schools that do participate in the national student council group, ``it's amazing that Southern schools are better at involving minorities than many of the Northern schools,'' Mr. Marano adds.
Ed Phelps, who has worked with student councils for over 20 years and is currently associate principal at Elk Grove, Ill., high school, says that a major block to participation by inner-city schools is their highly bureaucratic, more politicized environment. He says he worked diligently for many months to meet with school officials from neighboring Chicago in an effort to involve more of that city's teens in leadership programs. ``But we couldn't get it going at all,'' he explains.
Mr. Phelps has occasionally had kids from the inner city in programs he has taken part in, and ``if you can get to 'em, you can work with them,'' he asserts. ``You can help them develop -- I know you can.''