Passing the torch: student leadership

Kandury: ‘our role is that of a mentor, a coach and a peer combined into one’

Behind every rally, contest and school event lay teams of students who devote hours and hours of their time every week to ensure that activities run smoothly and successfully. The Associated Student Body (ASB), Mock Trial, Academic Decathlon and Band are among the many that appoint student leaders to oversee what goes on within the walls of their respective classrooms.

With every school year, different students are chosen to lead such groups, each with a variety of leadership styles and techniques.

ASB has three different areas of positions that students can hold: cabinet, class officers and commissioner positions. Cabinet positions are voted on by the entire school and are reserved for juniors and seniors. Anyone can run for class positions, which are voted on by each respective grade. Commissioner positions are sign up-based through ASB itself.

According to senior and ASB President Danielle Gould, cabinet positions pertain to the ASB class, while class officers have a stronger connection to their own grades. Gould ran against fellow senior Cole McCreary for her current position during the 2017-18 school year.

“I was really worried, because [Cole]’s popular and there’s this stigma around it being a popularity contest. I just tried to campaign my best and I was really lucky that the school took to that campaign,” Gould said.

Gould’s job is primarily to run the ASB class and work as the liaison between advisor Heidi Cissell and the rest of the class. Cabinet Vice President Cade Creason explained that he “fills in when [Gould] isn’t there and runs the rallies.”

“One of the things we want to work on is passing down how we go about [running the rallies]. A lot of it is focused on inspiring students to be creative and come up with cool games and stuff like that,” Creason said.

Students looking to run for ASB positions can attend an informational meeting on how to run, and later comes a week where opponents will be able to campaign with the use of flyers, posters and a video. Gould explained that ASB leaders are often times “motivated, dedicated, patient and kind.”

“Go out and go for it — go big,” Creason said. “Don’t be too afraid to run against someone and choose the position that you think you could have your greatest impact in.”

Academic Decathlon coach and math teacher Robin Midiri explained that the after-school class is mostly run by the students. Positions include a captain, co-captain, treasurer, secretary and creative director. Team captains for Academic Decathlon work to teach academic material and keep classes on track. Currently, the team captain is senior Claire Epstein. Her co-captain is junior Lucas Joseph.

“I do all the paperwork and teach the math part of it, but as far as students learning pretty much all the other material for Academic Decathlon, it’s completely student-run,” Midiri said.

According to coach and English teacher Jan Willis, the captain and co-captain are responsible for “making sure that everybody else does their work,” including organizing what to study on certain days, what quizzes will be given and checking in on team members to make sure they are prepared for competitions.

“[Epstein] began working last spring, getting together a Google Site for all the students [to keep up to date with schedules] and putting in information for Academic Decathlon. She had the books they should be reading and organized meetings over the summer where the team where they would get together and practice speeches,” Willis said.

Epstein was previously elected as creative director during the 2016-2017 school year and co-captain during the 2017-18 school year.

“My experience with the election system was good and my experience with the Academic Decathlon team has been amazing,” Epstein said. “I’ve gotten to know very ambitious people and students who are very inclined to learn more and step out of their comfort zone.”

Much like Academic Decathlon, the Oak Park Mock Trial class is student-run and led by captains. The co-captains are largely responsible for running the class. The two team captains for the 2018-19 school year are seniors Rob Andrea and Krishna Kandury.

Kandury explained that captains are appointed yearly by the previous year’s captains and a poll of the students in Mock Trial. There are two team co-captains per year, both of whom have to be in their senior year.

According to Kandury, some qualities that are sought after for leadership positions include being “emotionally strong, resilient, yet adaptive to criticism that they may receive and ready to handle circumstances that may arise.” Other qualities that members of Mock Trial include the abilities to handle the workload and curriculum and embrace competition.

“The role of the team captains usually spend three or four years in the program. Because they have so much familiarity with how the case works and what the objections are, they teach the class,” Kandury said. “We give presentations, assign homework and give them tests.”

Andrea’s Mock Trial experiences began at Medea Creek Middle School and continued into his freshman, junior and senior years. According to Andrea, being a team captain allows for a “higher level of engagement.”

“We are students, so we always try to make sure we have the majority portion of students [at meetings]. Sometimes we have lots of students with a lot of tests the next day, so we also field all different types of complaints because it’s a class with every grade level,” Kandury said. “I’d say our role is that of a mentor, a coach and a peer combined into one.”

In the school band, students can hold positions through the Instrumental Music Council such as President, Vice President, Librarian, Social Media Manager, Uniform Manager, Audio/Visual Engineer and more. There are 13 different positions, many of which are held by multiple students. For the 2019-2020 school year, sophomore Jaya Murthy will have the position of President and sophomore Katie Inthavong will be Vice President.

In marching band, students can hold positions such as drum major, horn sergeant and section leader. Sophomore Anoushka Jasuja and junior Donovan O’Brien will be next school year’s drum majors.

“I rely on upwards of 30 students to handle, on behalf of all the other students and parents, communication and leadership. Each job has different duties,” Band Director Zachary Borquez said.

The application process for leadership within band allows one to speak on their interests and goals within the program through both a written application and an interview. Murthy wrote to the Talon that that incorporating an interview is helpful because speaking in front of a group builds their résumé and practice for future jobs.

“When I was a freshman, [alumna] Alex Trux was President, and she changed the band program for the better in so many ways. She truly had a vision for what her goals were for the program, and was able to carry out those goals through amazing leadership,” Murthy wrote. “Our current President, Olivia Buccieri, has also helped to improve the organization within [band] by introducing new methods of communication.”

Murthy wrote that she is looking forward to working with “an immensely dedicated group of people” in order to improve the band program.

“With this coming year, I hope to improve the reaches and involvement of the band program within our school,” Murthy wrote. “I am excited to see what next year has in store for us.”