Do you want to make a difference in your school? Try volunteering on your
local student council. It's great place to help other students and to
learn more about them.
Student council volunteers help organize student events. Those include
dances, fund-raising drives for charitable causes like food banks and guest
lectures about issues like alcohol and drugs.
At university, they also represent the interests and issues of students.
They lobby governments on issues like tuition and approve multimillion-dollar
budgets. Indeed, a lot of politicians start their careers at university.
But you don't have to be interested in politics to become a student
council volunteer. You just have to be willing to help and serve others.
"The position on student council means nothing if you don't do anything
with it," says Bianca Baldridge. She represents student council leaders in
Baldridge has been part of her school's student council since the
sixth grade. She says that her time on student council has taught her how
to create a vision and set goals for herself. She also gained some important
personal and professional skills through her work on council.
"I have learned the importance of working in a group and how to contribute,"
she says. "The facilitation and management skills will definitely help me
in the workforce."
Amanda didn't know anybody after she and her family moved to a new
city on the other side of the continent.
But she soon made new friends, and one of them encouraged her to join the
student council at her middle school.
Amanda says that has helped her become more comfortable in her new surroundings.
"It makes me feel like I'm part of something," she says. "It makes me
feel like I'm actually doing something."
She is definitely doing a lot. She helped organize a pumpkin carving contest
for Halloween and a bake sale. Amanda says the other students appreciated
the work their council was doing.
"It makes me feel good because you did something that you wouldn't
be able to do any other time. In school, you need to have fun too, and when
they say what we did was fun, then it makes me feel good."
Maryann Adamec thought she was finished with student politics after her
final year of high school when she was president of the student council.
University would be different, she promised herself. She would concentrate
on her studies instead. There would be no more meetings, no more fund-raisers
and no more poster campaigns.
But not much time had passed before she found herself right back in student
politics. An orientation tour for new students pulled her back in. It introduced
her to members of the university student council.
"I introduced myself to them, and simply asked them if they could fill
me in on the details, and show me around a little bit," she says.
"I sort of developed a relationship that way. And when vacancies were open,
I was encouraged by those people to fill them. The system sort of sucks you
in." It sure did.
After she served one year on a student lobby commission, she ran for vice-president
and won. Last year, she ran successfully for student council president.
This makes her the voice of a student union with more than 30,000 members.
She is responsible for a budget of several million dollars.
Steven Fletcher is also the head of a large student union. He entered student
politics after a car accident had left him a quadriplegic.
The accident happened one year after he graduated from his current university
with a degree in engineering. A year after the accident, he went to back to
the same university for a master's degree in business administration.
He also decided to run for president of the student council.
"I saw that the student union was in not very good shape, and needed renewal,"
he says. "So I ran, and I was successful. And the rest is history, as they
A dispute with the local student newspaper over funding made national headlines
and created many heated moments.
"I had protestors in my office on many occasions," says Fletcher. "I had
protestors storming a dinner I was hosting on behalf of the student union."
Fletcher is now considering a full-time career in politics. Last year,
he ran (and lost) in a local nomination race. But he says he will be back.
How to Get Involved
The main requirement for volunteering on a student council is that you
must be willing to help and serve others.
And if you are willing, you will find many opportunities.
Adamec says the best way to get involved is to ask lots of questions, and
to volunteer for things that already exist. That way, you don't have
to learn everything from scratch, she says.
If you are in high school, this means talking to other volunteers and the
teachers that are involved with the council.
Volunteering on a student council at university is a bit different. There
will not be any teachers around to help you. Also, the volunteer opportunities
are much more plentiful than at high school.
A university may have dozens of faculties and schools. Almost all of them
will have some form of a student council. And many of the departments within
faculties of schools also have student councils.
You can also volunteer for the student union council of a university. Its
members represent the students from the various faculties and school, and
make some pretty important decisions, like how to spend the student union
You can also serve on the many commissions that work alongside the student
union council. You can even run for a spot on the council executive.
But be warned. Being an executive often is a full-time job. Many student
unions give their executives a substantial honorarium or even pay them a salary.
You may also have to run against other students for a spot on council.
"You need lots of patience," says Amanda. "And have fun. Don't let
little things bother you, and if something does, just let it slide."
National Association of Student Councils
Represents high school student councils in the U.S.
Follow student government at New York University
Links to university student newspapers across the U.S.