Spring 2024

Empowering Students: The key to transforming schools

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, empowering students to take an active role in shaping their school environment is crucial for fostering a sense of ownership and pride. By involving students in the planning process of making their school a better place, we not only tap into their creativity and fresh perspectives but also instill valuable leadership skills that will serve them well beyond the classroom.

Providing students with the tools to succeed in this endeavor can lead to transformative changes within the school community. From organizing sustainability initiatives to creating inclusive spaces for all, students have the potential to drive meaningful progress when given the opportunity and support. By listening to their ideas, encouraging collaboration, and offering guidance where needed, principals can empower students to become change-makers within their own school environment.

In providing students with the opportunity to take safe and supported risks within your school to create their impact, we know that this will not only enrich each individual student’s confidence but ripple onto your students and school culture. In 2020 the Canadian Student Leadership Association pivoted an in-person, one day leadership conference, Horizons, to be an online opportunity for students. This program gave students across Canada the chance to host their online event through facilitating peer to peer learning, emceeing, and hosting Q/A’s with keynote speakers. A student host from this program took part in hosting the day but it was obvious she was shy yet eager. Fast forward to this same leader deciding to join our National Conference, CSLC, as a Spirit Leader (student volunteer) to the next year attending CSLC in person in 2023, to most recently requesting to host an in-person Horizons at her school. After the event, this was her feedback:

I am so glad I got to participate in Horizons before I graduate! I am so excited to pass on my knowledge to all the leaders in lower grades because of this I actually feel like I’ve made an impact on my school and I have a lot of people to be grateful for.”

Time and time again we see the impacts of giving students the opportunity to get involved. Whether it is in event planning, creating a club of something of their interest within your building, or the chance to step out of their comfort zone.

We can also look at the example of providing foundational leadership skills through certification programs for students across Canada. The Student Leadership Certification Program offers students the opportunity to learn foundational skills to make an impact in their home, school, and community. We recently facilitated the certification program and received this feedback from the host teacher.

My leadership classes participated in the CSLA Student Leadership Certification Program. There, they learned tools for planning projects. Specifically, they learned that you need to figure out what needs doing Pre Project, during the Project, and Post Project. They were given a project scenario and then went to work presenting a plan. My students were much better equipped for success as they started planning and implementing their own leadership projects.”

Giving students the skills to succeed is crucial for creating a school that gives all students the opportunities to be leaders in their own way. When we give students foundational tools, they are able to implement their leadership skills throughout the school from being kinder and getting to know other students, to planning events, to building their own character overall.

As we look towards the future of education, let us embrace the power of student involvement in shaping a better tomorrow. By fostering a culture that values student voice and agency, we not only enrich the educational experience but also cultivate a generation of leaders ready to make a positive impact on the world.

Ashley Baer, Program Director Canadian Student Leadership Association

Ashley Baer is the Program Director at the Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA). CSLA offers programs across Canada for students of all leadership interests and works with over ten thousand students each year through certifications, regional conferences, and a National Conference. CSLA also offers membership-based programming for educators across Canada. To learn more visit: www.studentleadership.ca or connect with Ashley via email ash@studentleadership.ca 

Photos courtesy CSLA

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