Schools Need to Encourage Student Leaders

Dec 12, 2016

Full of so much promise and potential, student leaders play an important role in today’s society.

We all need role models and guidance to make it in the world, and true leaders are people who participate, collaborate, and are mature enough to overcome obstacles. Those are only three of many characteristics that make up a leader. When some people face challenges, many tend to shut down, but real leaders can demonstrate how to face these challenges and even cope with the stresses that may follow.

There is a form of leadership in everyone, but it just needs to be encouraged by others. In schools, that encouragement can happen by allowing students to develop and share their opinions, engage in conversations and class discussions, and contribute their ideas to the life of a school. Being a student leader is so important, as it shows one can be trustworthy, adaptable, courageous, and willing to take the necessary risks to achieve goals. True leaders will not settle for less.

I’ve learned that leadership forms trust, and that trust forms a foundation for functioning relationships and cooperation. A true leader knows what it means to be trustworthy, to stick to their word and not make any promises they cannot keep. To be trustworthy one also needs to be honest and own up to their mistakes, instead of passing on the blame. Leaders do not come up with excuses or blame others for their own mistakes. Rather, they own them and most likely will not make the same mistake again. Student leaders like anyone else use their mistakes as learning experiences for the future. Mistakes are a part of life, and leaders move past them.

I have grown up as an only child, and with no siblings was forced to do one of two things: I could either make up an excuse as to why something was done wrong, or just admit that I screwed up. Admitting fault is not easy. When I was in seventh grade, I wasn’t the picture-perfect student. I was rude, I didn’t get along with my peers, and I was disruptive. Over time, and with a move from Massachusetts to northern Maine, I gave myself a serious attitude check. Being known as a disrespectful student was not a reputation I enjoyed having, so I told myself that I wouldn’t be that person anymore. Ever since then, I have been an honors student, an athlete, and have been asked to represent my school for programs like Gear Up Maine, a federally funded project designed to help teach young people to become leaders in their schools.

Leaders will always face a set of underlying circumstances or issues that will be in the way of achieving their goals. But good leaders still continue with their best foot forward and strive to reach them. They are adaptable. As a leader, I grab onto every opportunity to learn that I can, and I try to set an example by taking pride in my work. Student leaders don’t shut down if things don’t go their way; they adapt, and they move forward.

I’ve also learned that leaders are courageous. Having courage is not necessarily standing up to a bully, or fighting off a bad guy like people in the movies. True courage is when someone is willing to step up and take on a leadership role. Some people are too afraid to lead because they may feel they are not good enough, or just do not have what it takes. Leadership means holding the perseverance to get through any doubts and setting an example for others to follow.

I always worried that people would judge me or just not listen to what I have to say. In some cases, that’s true. Since attending a Gear Up conference in Bangor this fall, I have gained confidence. I no longer have to care about what other people think, and I can go ahead and voice my opinion because there are people who will listen.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It’s easy to stand with the crowd but it takes courage to stand alone.” I’m learning that leadership is everywhere. It’s in school, and also in the workplace. Leadership prepares students for the real world and what life has to throw at them. Leadership is no easy task. It requires being trustworthy, adaptable, and courageous, and always striving for the best.

Amber Sandstrom is a first-year student at Community High School in Fort Kent.