Student Leadership Opportunities

Author:  Diane Flaim, Education Specialist, Turnaround Support

 A school setting brings all types of students from all types of backgrounds together under one roof.  Having a Student Leadership Team that is representative of these various groups gives voice to students, and builds a trusting relationship between school administration and students.  Schools at all levels, K-12, have opportunities to empower students through leadership roles; however, when the leaders of the school intentionally plan for student leadership participation, students are truly provided with an avenue for influencing their learning community.

When developing leadership opportunities for students, it is important to remember that these opportunities can be formal or informal.  Regardless of the plan a school is putting into place, schools must:

  • define the student leadership role in a clear and concise manner;
  • allow a staff member who has a passion for student leadership to facilitate the work of the Student Leadership Team;
  • ensure formal and informal adult school leaders meet regularly and interact with the Student Leadership Team;
  • plan for active participation of student leaders in school wide settings;
  • model expected behaviors;
  • give timely feedback on the Student Leadership Team’s performance;
  • provide positive support to ensure success; and
  • recognize the Student Leadership Team’s accomplishments in a larger setting.

What are some ideas for student leadership?  The following is a list of student leadership opportunities that range from informal and unstructured to formal and structured.

  • Student Leadership Team. This could be a formal Student Council or a Leadership Group that meets regularly with school administration regarding school happenings.  These groups give feedback to administration on important issues at the school.  (Be sure to have formal selection criteria.)
  • Student Community Liaisons. These students assist with school fund raisers or community charity projects to help others in need.
  • New Student Greeters. These students spend the first few minutes of the day at the school office greeting new students and showing them to their classrooms.
  • Videographers. These students take videos of important parts of the school day describing how to be successful in each of these areas of the school (for example in the lunchroom, hallway, parking lot, etc.).
  • Lunchroom Assistants. Students help other students in the cafeteria.
  • Safety Patrol. Students assist with crosswalks, hallway monitoring, restroom monitoring.
  • Conflict Resolution Assistants. Trained in a conflict resolution technique, these students assist with simple misunderstandings to help fellow students come to a compromise/agreement.
  • School Events Planner.  These students work with school administration and the parent organization to plan, organize and carry out school events (e.g., read-a-thons, movie nights, art shows, assemblies, talent shows).
  • Tutor. Spends time assisting other students in academic needs
  • Morning Message. Students do daily announcements instead of school administration

This list may serve as a starting point for educators to begin thinking of ways to involve students in leadership capacities within the school context.  Grant Nelson, former Student Body President/Vice President of the Washington Association of Student Councils said, “The truth is that every student who wants to make a difference in his or her school must be willing to take action. Talking about the student who is eating alone a few tables across from you does not comfort him. Talking about the girl that gets made fun of in science class will not help her situation. Many of today’s student leaders I have met understand this virtue, and I just hope that over time more students catch on. It is only then that the halls of our schools will be filled with joy, that there will be no student at school who feels alone, and that the school community will be able to achieve true greatness.”

Student Leadership Web Resources

Peer Assistance and Leadership (PAL),

The Student Leadership Challenge,

National Association of Student Councils


John Hopkins University School of Education, New Horizons for Learning (2003), “Student Leadership Today,” accessed August 17, 2012.

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