Student leadership in high school: a trip down NWOSSSA lane

Oh high school…

The sound of the lockers, the smell of the caf, the drama in the girls washrooms, the geeks, the jocks, the cool group, the football and cheerleaders… it was all there. I love telling my European friends that “yep, it’s not exactly what you see on TV but pretty much.” They’re just dumbfounded and love pouring through my yearbook – complete with “Jane, I’m writing in your crack!” on the back page full of signatures and precious stories.

I didn’t realize it then, but I can see now how the independence and leadership training played such an important factor in my life. (I taught English at a high school in France and saw a completely different picture).

If I was to be classified, I was the girl who ran around the school, did the morning announcements, part of students’ council and part of NWOSSSA – the North Western Ontario Secondary School Students Association.

I went to my first NWOSSSA leadership conference in Grade 9 and worked my way up until I was head of events for the 2003 conference (dream dare do!). This is no small conference – it’s a three day long event with over 300 students and a budget of almost 50k. Not bad experience for an 18 year old.

What I loved most about it was the feeling that you got when you left these conferences. It’s a high you just can’t describe. Not only do the walls between jocks, geeks, drama kids fall (an incredible experience to see on its own), but it was incredibly fun, emotional and above all, inspirational. You felt like you could move on from high school and do anything you wanted. You were just about to embark on your journey of life and the world was at your fingertips. The games you played weren’t simply games – they taught you about the fundamentals of leadership and before you knew it, you were debriefing how you acted in a game, realizing your strengths and weaknesses and what to do to be a better leader.

It’s something you’ll never forget.

Though, there are times when I do forget.

I forget what it means to lead from behind, to let others do work (even if you think you know what’s best), to remember that it’s the journey, not the destination. In high school it seemed like a breeze, now I’m beginning to see where I slip.

As I likely begin my PhD journey I feel as though I need to revisit those NWOSSSA leadership manuals and take a good look at what seemed so second nature in high school.

My parents come to Finland next week and my dusty old leadership manuals are coming as per my special request. They’ll be good for me as I venture on to my newest project, starting and leading the Central Finland Net Impact chapter – an organization to change the world through business. Never lost the drive for leadership though, and sustainability in business seems to be my theme in life – and where leadership is needed most!

It’s been nice pouring over the good old NWOSSSA days. I can say I spent thousands of hours with that organization, not paid but one of the most purposeful jobs of my life, and the memories last a lifetime.

The 2009 leadership conference is next week and I’m even getting excited for the new delegates to see what it’s all about.

Good luck and enjoy the hug-tolls 🙂

For some oldies check out the pics and more.


2 thoughts on “Student leadership in high school: a trip down NWOSSSA lane

  1. Tania Lee says:

    Really Good Blog on Leadership skills courseware. It good to see an honest account and you talking real sense too. Great!

  2. aidan says:

    Its great to see that the nwosssa spirit still lives on in those who could have moved on. I am just starting to be part of nwosssa and I can tell you that it is just as amazing if not more so than when you were at the conference. Hope you’re keeping up with the warm fuzzies, just sent some out to some people last week and I was reminded once again why I love them so much

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