Leaders leave lasting mark on school

In mid-2009, Aditya Todi, class of 2010, started his term as the first full-term president of the Honour Council. This was the first year of the Honour Council at Woodstock, having been created by Todi and some of his peers and teachers.

“The purpose of the organization was to increase awareness about integrity and put an end to academic plagiarism and cheating,” Todi recently told me. When I asked him what he means by cheating, Todi said, “Just like each country has their own currencies, the currency in the world of academia is intellectual prowess and originality. When those in academia cheat, copy, or do not provide citations for the original work, they are cheating the hard work of the author.”

The reason why the Honour Council emerged was because Woodstock had seen a rise in cheating at that time. “This was unfair for students who were doing their work on their own, and it would also set a damaging precedence,” Todi said.

After much thought, a group of students and two staff members came up with the idea of having this council at the school — a common platform which would give the school a way to decide what should be done when something goes wrong. After graduating from Woodstock in 2010, today, he is a graduate of Stanford University and is currently studying at Harvard University.

The story of the Honour Council’s creation at the school reveals what students can accomplish, if they have the will for it. One way in which schools encourage people to do things like this is by assigning them leadership positions within the school itself.

Student leaders have a mostly positive impact on schools, as they learn and experiment with their ideas at school, affect their peers, and create an environment that projects the school in a very positive manner.

When a student gets elected for a position at a school, a lot of things go on in his or her mind. What will my friends and teachers think of me? Will this look good on my transcript? How much work will I have to do? But other than affecting them as people, this role affects the surroundings as well. The environment of the school is highly affected by students, and when they take on leadership positions, their voices are usually heard and they end up making a difference in the school as a whole, whether it be for better or for worse.

Kritin Garg, class of 2019 and current school president, witnessed the beginning of Goal-A-Thon when he was in middle school. According to him, it was a very new thing and students were pretty excited.

Garg recalls Kritika Tara Deb (Class of 2011)  going up on stage in 2010 for her presidential speech. During the speech, she kicked a ball into a set-up goal and asked the students to imagine if, with every goal they made, a little money could be sent to charity.

She won the election, and now her idea has become one of Woodstock’s most loved annual events — Goal-A-Thon. The school even gives a long weekend to students so that they participate and raise money for a good cause.

This is just an example of what students are capable of doing; they only need some support and guidance.

Positions like these are the beginnings of very bright futures. Students attain leadership experience, which then goes on to make them great leaders, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Advanc-ed also talks about how students need to have the opportunity in school to become good leaders in the future. All this sets up a good reputation for the school which then benefits from such acclaimed alumni.

Positions and opportunities like that of a student leader also improve the overall education of students and shape them into better human beings, according to the Harvard Business Review. In most schools that promote student leadership, the authorities of the school listen to the student representatives, at least when they genuinely need student opinions. This way, students get to have a say in what the rules and regulations of a school should be.

Student leadership also affects students personally, as they gain confidence and realize what they are capable of doing and develop a sense of responsibility that can help them in the future.

The main work of a student leader is to give directions and have an influence on the people around them, according to International Journal of Business and Social Science. Along with that, it is also to learn how to implement original ideas and integrate the opinions of other students. Students can’t just depend on their own thoughts — they need opinions from others as well.

When students are in positions of authority, there is a balance between student and teacher opinions as students’ inputs are taken in as well. Their voices are heard, and it helps create a better living environment for the entire community.

But sometimes, things can go wrong as well. When an elected student leader is not capable of making the right choices, it can harm the entire school.

For example, if certain student leaders are given the responsibility to present to the Board of Directors of their school, they are expected to do it in the best way possible. If they fail to do so or give out the wrong idea, it can affect all the people in the school drastically and present the image of the school in a very negative way.

The opinions of the students can be put into the limelight in a very bad way if their representative isn’t capable enough. For example, the leader might only highlight certain students’ opinions and that can give out a wrong message to the administration, while most other students might have different views. It is somewhat a situation of “make it or break it.” This is why schools put in many requirements for a student to be eligible for such a position.

Extensive power and authority given to student leaders can also lead to them abusing it. They can start using their influence in a negative way, and can end up feeling superior. Some students also just stand for leadership positions just to make their college transcripts look better, which really isn’t the purpose of leadership. To control these things, schools should have a set of rules and consequences for the student leaders that they would have to deal with if they do something they should not be doing. Some consequences could be dismissal from the position, getting a record of the wrong deed on their report, or even expulsion if the problem is big.

Another thing that some student leaders fail to do is to listen to everyone around them. Some of them end up focusing on a certain group of students and this becomes a case of bias. According to mystudentvoices.com, “Student leaders focus on their own agendas too much and neglect difference in opinions from students they are representing.”

To prevent such things, student leaders should be taught that equal importance needs to be given to all of the students that they represent. A better solution is to have a diverse group of leaders.

When Todi talked about the different people who were involved in the process of making the Honour Council, it was clear that they were a diverse group of people– teachers and students. The committee included the 2009 school co-presidents Montazerul Mehdi and Rithambhra Garg, National Honour Society co-presidents Shahid Judge and Vedika Birla, five well-reputed juniors (including Todi) and advisors Ms. Amy Seefeldt and Mr. Bryan Powles.

Something to think about: Nine students, with the guidance from two advisors, created something so impactful and meaningful that, today, after almost ten years, it is something that gives Woodstock its identity.

If students want their voices heard, they need to realize that there are opportunities to speak up. Trying can actually leave a mark on their school and their futures.

Edited by Markhamsan Lyndem

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