Student Council: The People Behind the Names


(Left to right) President Connor O’Reilly (Adv. 201), Secretary Mai-Linh Weller (Adv. 203), and Vice President Justin Meng (Adv. 209)

Kieran Cuddy, Staff Writer

Student council members are charged with advocating for the wants and needs of the student body. You know their names and faces, but now you can get to know them as people. In interviews conducted between October 13th and October 20th, The Hoofbeat asked Student council members — President Connor O’Reilly (Adv. 201), Vice President Justin Meng (Adv. 209), and Secretary Mai-Linh Weller (Adv. 203) — questions about themselves.

Q: What made you want to run for student council?

O’Reilly: Knowing that I could have some part in resolving the issues of our school made me want to run for a position on [student council]. This is what I enjoy most about it… acting as a liaison between the student body and administration. 

Meng: When running for student council this year as a senior — I had done it previously as a freshman — I really wanted to make sure that there would be some lasting change in the school, as well as making sure that the student voice is well represented.

Q: What do you enjoy about being on student council?

O’Reilly: Usually, when I’m talking to my friends, there’s always at least one comment along the lines of ‘I don’t like this or that at Northside’. Knowing that I can propose solutions is really motivating.

Meng: What I enjoy is the fun board that we have this year, especially with President O’Reilly, [and] with the new initiatives that we’re creating this year.

Weller: My favorite part of student council is talking to the student body. There’s a lot of students that I was able to reach out to and connect with because of student council that I would have never talked to before.

Q: What other clubs are you involved in?

O’Reilly: I am in the North River Youth Council and am participating in the Civil Rights Scholars Program through the Office of Student Protections and Title IX.

Meng: I am in like a diverse amount of clubs. I do Ohana, the Hawaiian dance, Isang Hakbang, cross country and track, as well as robotics.

Weller: I’m the president of Students United for Change and Common Ground. I’ve been on the girl’s badminton team for the last four years. I’ve been in the fall play all of high school [and] also a peer mentor.

Q: What draws you to be involved in all of these clubs?

O’Reilly: In both circumstances, I am working to improve the conditions of my immediate environments — both my neighborhood and school. That’s what I enjoy most about each club.

Meng: I really like the dance aspect of it. I’ve been [in these dance clubs] for four years. I’m actually running Ohana this year, and in general it’s just really fun to dance and perform for everyone.

Weller: A lot of activities I’m in are leadership-based, and I’m very drawn to leadership.[I’m also drawn to] the humanities aspect of all my extracurriculars, I’m very much a humanities girl.

Q: What are your passions and hobbies outside of school?

O’Reilly: Outside of school, I participate in a lot of bike riding events and neighborhood improvement drives — be it painting a mural or cleaning up my dirty curbs. 

Meng: During the winter season I really do like to ice skate as well as roller skate. 

Weller: I read for fun a lot. I really have an array of different hobbies that I developed mostly over quarantine. I got really into bullet journaling over the last year. Also, over the summer I was an intern for Printers Row Literary Festival, where I worked on programming events and moderated two panels.

Q: What do you think is your best characteristic?

O’Reilly: It is imperative for the student body to know I am both lighthearted and pragmatic. I like to approach life with a zeal of happiness, but to remain in absolute bliss is a fool’s errand. 

Meng: I would say that one of the biggest aspects would be that I’m pretty outgoing. I do generally like to talk to any group of people just to learn about what they’re doing… I’m [also] willing to try basically anything.

Weller: I’m pretty extroverted, and while I have a pretty tight-knit group of friends, I have been able to connect with the majority of kids in our grade. I think one of the reasons I got elected [for student council] was because I was able to reach out to so many people and connect with so many people.  

Q: What is your life like outside of school and other activities?

Meng: So my private life is as an only child, so I do tend to go out a lot with friends. I also do family outings for bonding. And in general, I basically just talk to as many people as I can.

Weller: I have two sisters, both younger than me, so being an older sister is a large aspect of who I am and my identity. I’m pretty bad at driving so I’m normally stuck in my neighborhood — which isn’t an issue at all because I live in Lincoln Square and I love Lincoln Square. I hang out with my friends and walk my two dogs — Teddy and Miles — there a lot.

Q: What is your favorite part of Northside’s culture?

O’Reilly: The sheer motivation within the student body amazes me every day. Hearing people discuss their after-school activities makes me excited for their in and out of school careers.

Meng: We don’t follow the stereotype of being all nerds. We all really share our own passions as well as their own interests. That’s what I’ve seen especially across all the clubs I’ve [participated in]… We’re all really fun individual people.

Weller: How close everyone is here. Obviously, we are a smaller high school, and when I was running for [student council] both junior and senior year, I realized I know almost everyone in our grade. I actually ended up reaching 70% to 80% of our grade, which was really special, and I feel like you’re not going to find that in a lot of other high schools. 

Q: What is your most memorable experience at Northside?

O’Reilly: My favorite experience at Northside was the sophomore year Clubapalooza. The hectic shouting of clubs trying to get my attention. The pure chaos crammed within sectors divided by club types. It was beautiful. Truly representative of the exigency of school spirit within Northside.

Meng: I would say that I-Night in particular has a lasting influence on my opinion on dance as well as performance overall.

Weller: The fall play [in] sophomore year, I got really close with the entire cast and it is one of my most treasured memories at Northside. Also colloquium days: there’s a lot of little moments when you spend with your friends or get to know your teachers that I think I took for granted before we went into quarantine.

Q: Do you have a message for freshmen or anyone who hasn’t gotten to spend a lot of time in the building due to Covid? 

O’Reilly: For anyone who hasn’t experienced Northside to the fullest due to COVID — school life gets better. As we recover from this seemingly endless pandemic and transition to our “normal” school activities, you’ll learn so much more about the place you call school. I can’t wait to (hopefully) see it through my senior year, and have you all experience it well after I’ve left.

Meng:  I really hope you guys stay around to watch I-Night whenever it comes around as well as making sure that you participate in as many clubs as you can, since you only got four years here, so you might as well experience it [all].

Weller: There’s so much to look forward to. I’m crossing my fingers that we get to host events like Clubapalooza and Homecoming in the future. I would say join as much as you can, while you can. Things get really rigorous as you get further into high school. Junior year and senior year you have a lot on your plate so join as much as you can freshmen and sophomore year. Even try out for activities that you wouldn’t ever think you would like. Take advantage of everything Northside offers.

Q: Is there anything else you want the student body to know about you?

O’Reilly: I truly care about all of you. Please, don’t think for a second, that the wide masses of the student body can hide the exemplary individuals which comprise it. You are all phenomenal. I am beyond proud of you all for making it, not only to this school, but through the pandemic. And, I cannot wait to see what you go on to achieve.

Meng: If you ever have any questions about the school, or if you want to ask about clubs or anything, especially for dance, I’d be glad to answer them and I’d glad to be able to know you

Weller: If you ever need anything, reach out to me. I want the student body to know that I’m always here. If they need someone to talk to or if they have an initiative in mind, then I’m always here to represent them.