Is Student Leadership Development Optional or Crucial?

July 25, 2014

In many schools, the work of student leaders is largely focused on activities and student government.  As such, the clear intention is for this to be an extra-curricular activity.  Important, but not integral.  Fun, but not crucial.  A division, not systematic. 

But what if it’s more than that?

What if the organizational chart read much differently?  What if student leadership was a straight line from the Principal?  What if it was more than an activity, but an active, relevant learning experienced that helped shaped school vision and effectiveness?

In order for student leadership development to move from nice to have to “must have,” it has to be integrally tied to the educational mission to empower our students to be ready for college, career and community.  Here 3 reasons why it is…

1.  Student leadership is a critical part of the 5 GLO’s, the Hawaii DOE’s overarching goals for education:  Self-directed Learner, Community Contributor, Complex Thinker, Quality Producer, Effective Communicator:  At its core, leadership is mobilizing others to struggle for shared aspirations and to make extraordinary things happen. It’s about people, and connection to them, which is a crucial part of community contribution.  It’s also about being willing to take the first step to explore, to create and to grow which is an important part of self-directed learning.  And it’s about navigating complexity and finding solutions to tough problems. 

2.  Students can be partners in educational reform: student can build culture and social environments like not initiative or adult can.  By allowing them to partner in school initiatives, they can be partners in creating environments that are conducive for learning. 

3.  Soft skills of leadership are crucial to academic and career success:  leadership is a people game, and with that comes dispute resolution, inter-personal skills, public speaking, personal empowerment, group leadership etc.  These skills are crucial for future success.  

Even if student leadership never tied directly to any initiative, isn’t empowering Hawaii’s future leaders with the courage, competency and connection to lead at the highest levels and to serve their community with energy and passion worth an investment?  

What do you think?

--Katie Chang, Executive Director of CTL

All rights reserved.  Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders. 2014