Leadership at Latin: a Stepping Stone to Success

Stephanie Racker The Latin School of Chicago offers its students a number of opportunities for student participation, leadership, and governance in many aspects of student life at Latin. For instance, students manage clubs, lead school tours, run honor council, and participate in student government. This degree of involvement in student activities proves to be beneficial for many reasons. For starters, many of these opportunities for student leadership and governance mimic real-world situations that might arise in the future. At the club level, club heads are responsible for creating activities for each club meeting, sending out notifications regarding their club, as well as offering instructions and clarification to their members when posed with questions. In short, club heads need to be creative, organized, in control, and in command: just like running a business. Another practical benefit students gain from activity management is experience with exercising judgment. Through most of their early lives, students don’t have the opportunity to exercise judgment because they are sheltered by parents, teachers, and adults in general. In leadership roles at Latin, students quickly learn of the burdens of decision making. For instance, students who participate in student government must constantly make cost-benefit decisions when planning events. Situations like this give students a sense of real-world decision making. Perhaps less obvious, but even more important, are the psychological benefits to be offered by student management of student activities. Many people experience frayed nerves when presenting in front of an audience or when faced with a pressing deadline. When adults struggle with public speaking or pressure they must face real-world consequences, but Latin provides a safe environment for students new to the responsibility and pressure of running an activity to make mistakes and grow from them. This exposure helps them gain a sense of accomplishment every time they are faced with one of these challenges, allowing students to carry this newly instilled confidence with them into adulthood. Latin continues to sustain a supportive and comfortable environment for students to learn about real world issues like management, logistics, decision making, organizational discipline, and prioritizing. And in learning these disciplines, students can make and learn from their mistakes without “falling down” too hard.  But the important thing is that students at Latin are given the chance to “fall down.” Using a different metaphor, Cara Gallagher, the advisor to Latin’s Alliance for Women Club, noticed that student management of clubs at Latin allowed students to “become drivers rather than riders when students rather than teachers lead.” An additional important psychological benefit offered by student management is creating a greater sense of community within Latin. Upperclassmen have the opportunity to be a part of Latin’s recruitment process by holding student-led tours, leading possible future students and their families through the school while answering questions and explaining the general principles that Latin upholds. Although this may seem like a relatively simple task, it compels students to learn the ins and outs of Latin, represent the student community and Latin as a whole during each tour. By doing so, each student becomes more invested in Latin’s community and feels confident in their capabilities to interact with strangers who may become a part of their community. Not only does Latin provide students with a nurturing environment in which to learn these skills, but Latin allows students to utilize its resources to further enhance their experience. Students can exhibit their passions through organizing clubs, leading school tours, as well as participating in forms of student government. Each of these opportunities given to students by Latin provides a stepping-stone for success in a student’s future.  ]]>