Just about every North American high school -- and some middle and elementary
schools -- has a student council. If you think it would be fun to have your
name on a ballot, give student government a try.
"My estimate is that 95 percent of secondary schools have some form of
student government or student leadership," says Dave Conlon, student activity
director at a high school.
Conlon is also the communications director for an association of student
activity directors. He says his group has a database of just over 2,750 schools
that receive the association newsletter.
The National Association of Student Councils has about 9,000 member schools
in the United States.
Student government is open to and attracts a wide range of students with
varying abilities and experiences. The main executive positions tend to be
filled through election by a student body. But most councils also have non-elected
positions for class representatives or committee members.
In addition, there are often leadership classes or clubs providing all
students with the opportunity to participate.
Elected members and volunteers from junior and senior grades might work
together on the next school dance, provide the school district with input
into a dress code policy, or spearhead fan support for the next big basketball
Sound like fun? Well, student government is also educational.
Leadership and other skills gained through high school government can be
helpful for anyone, but especially for aspiring politicians.
"Student government is like a co-op placement for political life within
your school. You get to find out if you like working with and for people.
Many politicians have been involved in student government in their early schooling,
but not all student leaders choose the political life," says Conlon.
Troy Hashimoto is a regional representative for the National Association
of Student Councils. He agrees that student government is an excellent step
in preparing for a political career.
"Getting involved in student government will definitely help you develop
the skills which may help you in a political career or even in participation
at the post-secondary level," he says.
"It also gives you a sense of (whether) you are truly a people person or
"I know many students who have gone on to major in political science who
were involved with student government in high school," adds Katie Sciortino,
a student council member at St. Scholastica Academy in Chicago.
Getting involved could be as easy as signing up during a noon-hour meeting.
Or it could involve a several-week campaign during which you must earn the
support of your peers.
Either way, there's generally room for anyone interested.
"The elected students always need the help and support of those 'shy' students
who love to get involved but don't want to run an election campaign. This
is often the best way to learn what student government is about, to get involved
in making your school a better place to attend and to meet some very interesting
people," says Conlon.
"In order to plan or effectively carry out an event, you need all types
of people," says Sciortino. "Just because a kid is shy does not mean that
they do not have some great ideas or are not really hard workers."
A youth leadership development information clearinghouse
National Council on Youth Leadership
A program offering high school students the chance to learn leadership
skills through work with community health resources
Advanced Public Speaking Institute
Student summer camps and seminars on public speaking