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Called to Lead: Energizing Student Leadership

“Next!” I would call out to students sitting in the crowded reception area waiting to enter my office. Each day our principal’s office was filled with students waiting to see me, the assistant principal, as if they were held up in a crowded emergency room awaiting to see the doctor on call. But instead of an injury to their bodies, I would be treating them for a behavior that disrupted the classroom. As each student entered my office, I would diagnose the situation, and give them a directive and a slip of paper that would allow them to re-enter the classroom. Unfortunately, many of the same students would re-enter my office the following day or later in the week displaying the same behaviors that I had treated them for previously. Something had to change if I was ever going to leave my desk and explore different rooms of the building. This is when I discovered the power of student leadership.

Student leadership is not giving students a title or a position but helping them see the power in taking 100% responsibility for their thoughts, actions, and results. I realized that when I came up with the solutions to how students would need to behave to re-enter the classroom, I was in fact taking ownership of a situation that was not mine. I came up with a powerful plan that decreased our discipline referrals by more than 50% that year. My superintendent had me share this plan with other administrators in the district and since developing my own trainings and coaching sessions to address school culture, I developed a year long process to train and develop student leaders at every level.

Let’s face it, if we want to improve our schools and communities, we will need to provide students with opportunities to build self-confidence, enhance their emotional intelligence, while learning to take 100% responsibility for their thoughts, actions, and results.

I’ve been so impressed by the student leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years and how they’ve embraced the idea of taking responsibility not just to improve their time in school, but to better their lives outside of the classroom. A couple of comments that stand out to me when students were asked to spend time exploring the difference between “fault” and “responsibility” and to share ways they were taking responsibility for their lives come from a couple of high school students who write the following:

11th Grade Student:

The difference between fault and responsibly comes down to one thing being in control. If you are taking responsibly it is being accountable for things that were within your control. You are not blaming anyone for your problems but yourself. Fault is blaming others for everything in your life. "You're the cause of my unhappiness" if we keep blaming others for our problem we will never be happy. A way that I have been responsible this year is by paying for everything myself. This year I got my first job and my first car. If I need anything I will go out and spend my own money on it then my mom spending hers. If my car needs gas I use my own money. I have to be responsible and manage my money so I have enough until my next paycheck.

12th Grade Student:

Fault is an excuse or way out of getting something done. It is being irresponsible and being lazy. It is neither efficient nor helpful. Being responsible is about taking 100% accountability for your actions and duties. It is being a leader and being someone people can count on. I have been 100% responsible for all of my school work. I have made sure that everything has been turned in on time and completed.

Now more than ever, it’s important for students and adults to embrace their inner leadership as we become more self-aware of how our thoughts and behaviors prevent us from living an inspired life. We would love to talk to you about bringing our student leadership journey to your school. Schedule an appointment with one of our student leadership coaches today by visiting

Let’s energize student leadership!

Niki Spears,

Co-Founder, Culture Cre8ion

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