Annette Bell ’16 and Theo Pérez ’16: How They Embraced the Role of Co-Presidents

No one would have guessed that Co-Presidents Annette Bell ’16 and Theodore Pérez ’16 decided to run for the Co-Presidency just hours before the final deadline. The duo’s chemistry is palpable. Reminiscent of two lifelong friends, they finish each other’s sentences and are frank with each other, behaviors that often appeared during their All-School Meeting addresses. The pair believes that their differences balance out; Perez’s showmanship couples with Bell’s poise. They play off each other in speeches and conversation alike. As the pair approach their last term as Co-Presidents, they agreed to an interview with The Phillipian. In their dim and dingy Presidential Office – which is far from presidential in appearance – tucked away in an alcove in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, the pair discussed the work that has made them a part of Andover history.

What role do the Co-Presidents play? TP: I think the role is really what you make of it. There isn’t a strong precedent for what you’re supposed to do. There’s no real rulebook or guide as to what you’re supposed to do so it’s really what you make of it. In terms of what we have that is structurally laid out for us, we go to the Dean’s Table, weekly or bi-weekly we meet with all the Cluster Presidents and all the deans, and we talk about whatever subject they choose. As for what we’ve done on our own, we try and think a lot about setting an example. We try and think a lot about what we can do in our daily lives to try and make this place more comfortable. What makes a good Co-President? What are the qualities of one? Who might be a good one? TP: I think Abraham Lincoln would be pretty good… AB: I feel like the people have to be different. Theo’s… an interesting guy. He’s funny, he keeps people laughing, he’s always willing and happy to talk to people and goes out of his way to talk to people.

What about you? AB: Me? TP: She keeps me organized. AB: I email and text him a lot to remind him about things he has to do. But I guess I bring a different side in…
TP: Obviously we’re very different people. I’m all over the place, but for you, someone who isn’t all over the place, there’s still a lot of things people look at and admire. There’s a lot of things I look at and admire, like how you conduct yourself in your everyday life. AB: Next question. I don’t like talking about myself.

What makes you guys a good pair? AB: I think what makes us a good pair is that we’re willing to be honest to each other about opinions. Because if we’re not honest with each other then we won’t be able to get anything done. And so, sometimes we’re more blunt with what we say to each other than others. For example, the other day, Theo was not responding to my text messages, and I texted him 12 times and Facebook messaged him and I was like “Check your gosh darn text messages! I’m tired and grumpy – just answer the phone!” TP: I was asleep! My phone kept ringing and I was like, “I am not dealing with this.” AB: He eventually answered after he saw the grumpy message.

Ideally, what would Co-Presidents do? What should Co-Presidents do? TP: The goals that we set for this year, which I think should really be the goal in general of student council, are fostering connectivity and inclusivity. That’s just thinking about how we can make the whole community involved and feel welcomed here. AB: Not everything we did was in our platform. I think it’s taking initiative and being able to get it done because if you just have a closed mind of “This is what I’m gonna do and I don’t care about any else’s opinions or thought,” I think that it’s not gonna be a great experience. For me, I think it’s just everyone sees you and being, not necessarily as an inspiration, but as being someone that people can go up to and talk to and go and be the person that will make the effort to talk to other people and make people feel welcome and comfortable. TP: Picking up from what Annette was saying there, it’s not a punk rocker type of job. You’re not gonna go up there and be like “Oh, I’m gonna go up to Ms. Elliott and complain about all these things and have [her] take it back.” That’s worthless. It’s about building relationships with the administrators so, that way, ideas do come around and if students aren’t so sure about them, you could talk to them and inspect opinions and take that into account. It can and does make a difference. What was your biggest achievement? AB: I think our speeches just worked out really well. I love when everyone starts laughing, it just makes me feel so good! I’m not making the joke, but it’s still funny. TP: Sometimes you make the joke. AB: Very rarely. I feel like a lot of the time, speeches can be really boring, and everyone’s like “Oh my gosh, I just want this ASM to end,” and being able to have that moment when everyone’s like “Oh this is actually really funny, we’re enjoying this,” it’s really nice to have. That’s one of my achievements. Our first debate, I was literally about to pee my pants, I was so scared. I was shaking the entire time. Going from that to actually being confident… I made a small joke in our last speech, and I felt so proud. I’m slowly building up confidence. That was my big achievement. TP: I’m proud that I got to sit on the Schedule and Calendar Committee, and that I got to say things that I think were listened to. It was nice to be able to be involved with that, to try to share what I heard there with other students and faculty that I spoke to. I’m proud that I got to be on that committee and got to really think about the various schedules. Some things are still in flux because of the way implementation is going to work, but I made some suggestions that may very well have affected how an average day in the life goes for an Andover student in a couple years.
AB: Meaning: if they don’t like [the schedule], blame Theo. TP: Well, yeah. But I like the idea that I was able to have some sort of tangible legacy there.

Do students have enough power? AB: I think the biggest thing that we have to focus on in terms of talking about student power on campus is the way we approach it. Theo was kind of talking about it earlier, but if we come from the standpoint of “you guys are the worst, we don’t like you, you’re making all these horrible decisions,” the administration is not going to listen to us as much. TP: Somewhere where students undoubtedly have a major role is culture. That’s what I’ve realized, looking at things through my lens as Co-President, is thinking about things not just as institutional but as cultural. When I think about the things that I like the most about what goes on in our community and the things that I like the least, I can see all of them mirrored in our Senior class. Enough power, not enough power… it’s all sort of a subjective term. I think what it really comes down to is that we have a lot of control over the culture here, and while I acknowledge that we don’t have a lot of control in a vacuum, I think there’s a lot we can do in that regard. I think that, when we have a better culture established, we have a better chance of getting faculty and administrators to sincerely consider and appreciate what we’re saying.