The Importance of Early Leadership Education
Coming into a university Honors Program that is centered on leadership, it is with no surprise that the students that are members of Arcadia’s Honors Program are the same students that are heavily involved in student leadership roles around campus. However, we did not all enter this university as first-year students with identical backgrounds and upbringings. Some of us spent our pre-college education at public high schools, others at private, some being homeschooled. We come from different socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, making each of our preexisting views and experiences that much different from one another.
I had a pretty standard childhood growing up. I went to a public high school, I participated in a handful of different clubs and after-school activities, and I struggled with giving presentations in front of my classmates. I was shy when it came to speaking, but I grew up on a competitive dance team, so all of my fears were left behind when I walked onto a stage. However, in school, I would still have difficulties making my voice heard in groups or being able to give a speech in front of a crowd. I had the chance to serve as Treasurer to my NHS for my junior and senior year of high school, however, my school had a rule that you could only serve on the board for one club. This greatly limited my ability to get thoroughly involved in more than one activity.
This rule seemed bothersome when I was actually in high school because it limited my involvement, yet looking back, I know that I definitely benefitted from it. Many of my fellow classmates in college have stated that the same group of students led all of the extra-curricular activities in their high schools. While I was restricted to only being on the board for one club, they were further restricted by not being able to break through the group that dominated their high school’s extra-curricular activities.
While it will always be impossible to guarantee that all students coming into my university’s Honors Program will have identical leadership backgrounds, there is a need to reform the education system to encourage leadership before students reach the university level. Leadership may not seem like a vital aspect of careers when a person does not see him or herself climbing the corporate ladder or moving up in managerial positions. However, leadership is an important aspect of one’s self worth that does not always have to manifest itself in a typical way. Knowing how to lead as well as one’s own leadership style can aid in knowing how to be an effective follower.
Waiting until the college level to begin students’ explorations of leadership stunts their ability to be exposed to a multitude of leadership positions at university. Instead of allowing the same small group of students run all extra-curricular activities at the high school level, educators should be encouraging every student to become involved in what they are interested in. Coming from a high school student who had high marks and was involved in many things, yet lacked the positions to fill the entire “Leadership Experience” category on college applications, I know that I could have benefitted from leadership courses in high school rather than starting them in college. I thought that I was overly involved in high school, yet comparing what I did then to what I do now, I know that I was not working to my fullest potential.
Even though every high school student is not going to go to a traditional four-year university and even those that do, not everyone is going to be heavily involved in student leadership positions, learning how to be a leader is not something that can be overlooked. The skills that I have learned in my Honors Program have not only aided in my student leadership positions on campus, but have helped me become more prepared to enter the “real world” post-graduation. By allowing students to know themselves as leaders, they can be more confident in their endeavors because they are capable and knowledgeable on how to handle difficult or challenging situations. Educators spend so much time ensuring their students perform well on standardized testing that life skills, like the ability to lead, are often overlooked and it is about time for that to change.