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Making my own footsteps

What is leadership?

Of course, there is the typical dictionary definition, but leadership is more than just authority and management. As a highschooler, I’ve found myself with the privilege of fulfilling various leadership positions both in and out of school, including within my SADD chapter; I am the current vice president of my chapter I joined the SADD club at my school at the beginning of my freshman year. I was encouraged by a friend whose cousins had been in the club as upperclassmen and I’m grateful that I stuck with it ever since.

By the end of my freshman year, our chapter’s advisor appointed me to be a public relations officer for the upcoming school year. My position as a public relations officer in my sophomore year was the first officer position of my high school career. Additionally, our advisor retired, so my first year as an officer was with a new advisor. I worked closely under a senior who had been a public relations officer before I joined the club. I was fortunate to have her guidance as I learned about the behind-the-scenes of club affairs and found myself inspired by the other officers I worked with throughout the year. By the end of my sophomore year, I felt had a profound understanding of leadership and was elected vice president of my chapter.

A new set of officers were elected along with me as the seniors who had previously filled the positions were graduating. My vice presidency has presented me with a new set of responsibilities; however, I’ve found the experience enriching. The previous officers were truly wonderful, steadfast leaders who left us new officers with big shoes to fill. At our first officer meeting, we began planning out our activities, sales, and campaigns for the year with a particular question looming over us; how would we follow in the footsteps of the former officers?

Fast forward to February, as I reflect on our chapter activities so far, I see that we have completed our Anti-Bullying campaign, promoted SADD at our school’s club fair, received an abundance of donations for our Island Harvest food drive, increased our social media presence and held numerous club meetings. Now we’re in the process of executing our P.S. I Love You Week campaign. Although we had members graduate last year, we’ve had plenty of new members join us this year. As I reflect on our accomplishments so far, I see that SADD has maintained its presence at our school and continued to expand the organization’s mission within our school community. As the new vice president, there is pressure to keep up with the ways of the former officers and do your best to fulfill the duties at the same level of excellence.

While I acknowledge that it’s important to recognize the hard work of previous officers and allow yourself to be inspired, I think it’s equally important to learn to make your footsteps instead of following in someone else's. I think a significant lesson I’ve learned is that we aren’t “better” or “worse” officers, we are different officers with something new to bring to the table. A common misconception when it comes to leadership is that acquiring a leadership position is extremely difficult. When it comes to winning an election, it may be, but leadership positions are available all around us. A leadership position could be something other than a president or public relations officer; it could be an assistant, a volunteer, or even a role model. There are countless leadership opportunities, but they require willingness and dedication.

So, to answer my initial rhetorical question, leadership is about learning to make your own footsteps and encouraging others to make their own as well. It’s about learning to distinguish between imitation and inspiration. It’s about encouraging others to lead, not to follow.

For more information on leadership, MySADD courses and more, visit the SADD Programs page! Looking for ways to start a leadership structure in your chapter? Think about what officer roles might look like. Here's some ideas to get you going!



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