Upper School Student Council: A Conversation with the President

With Student Council (StuCo) elections coming up after the break, we are delighted to share this interview between our current StuCo President, Eldar, and Mr. Jeff Penn, DP Economics and Business Management teacher and one of the advisors to StuCo. 

In this interview, Eldar reflects on his growth and accomplishments during his term, and the insights he has discovered about what makes a good leader. 

Hi Eldar! Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself? 

My name is Eldar. I’m in 12th grade, and I’ve been a student at ISP my entire life. ISP is basically my home.  I’ve been in the Student Council since ninth grade, and I’m currently the student council president. I joined StuCo (Student Council)  because it gave me the chance to finally give back to the community and take life here to a new level. 

So I’m curious, what are some of the things you have learned as Student Council President?

Being the Student Council President has shown me how important it is to learn how to communicate with lots of different types of people.  It’s not just communicating with people in your class or even the whole high school, it’s also communicating with parents and even people in the community.

It’s truly a whole new level of communication, and it has given me a lot of respect and admiration for people who can communicate with an impact. In order to do that, you need to understand people, where they are coming from, and what they want and need. Who exactly am I talking to? Where do they come from? These are just some of the questions I have to ask myself before I communicate with people, so we can truly connect.

At first, it was a lot of trial and error, but eventually, it became second nature. 

Thinking back to the beginning of the year, what were your goals as President and for StuCo in general, and how well do you think we’ve done?

Overall, I think at the start, I really just wanted to show students they could do more. They’re not “just” students. The school after all is for them, so they can also help shape it. Thus, my slogan when I ran for president was “a high school made for the students, by the students.”

Essentially, my goal for StuCo was to make it a very student-led process, which it is. Students take initiative into their own hands instead of being handed out problems like homework.

Of course, there is a lot that happens behind the scenes through meetings with the administration and much more to ensure our students have the freedom to do so, but I think we have been effective in being student-led.

As far as completing goals through STUCO, over the past 8 months we have had 30 or so projects/events accomplished. We’ve hosted a lot of celebrations, put on events, community gatherings, and accomplished bigger projects such as infrastructural changes. Since that’s almost 4 projects per month, I am very proud of everyone who’s been so dedicated to their goals and mission of the Student Council. 

Are there any particular highlights that stand out for you? 

Organizing field day last year was a big personal achievement, and I think all the holiday decorations throughout the year were also a success. We had a lot of positive feedback from that. But, really, every time I go to a meeting, and people are involved and talking, I feel proud that it’s all working. Our StuCo members are communicating well with each other, they are getting stuff done, and the organisation is working well overall… so every meeting is like a victory.

I’m curious if your perception of StuCo has changed now that you’ve been President and you’ve seen all that happens behind-the-scenes.  Some students don’t think StuCo is very student-led and I wonder about your thoughts on that or what you would say to them?

It’s interesting because if you’re not in a leadership position, or you’re not directly involved with putting on a big project, you just don’t know about the whole process that is happening at the school. It’s very one-sided, and it seems like it would be easy for StuCo to make big changes and not need supervision, but it’s not like that. As responsible as students are, there are things that they obviously do not account for, by no fault of their own, so it needs someone with experience to at least guide it in the right direction.

Working with the school – it’s like a partnership.  It’s a partnership of communicating with the administration, the teachers, students and the outside community (e.g. parents) all in one. People often forget about the layers of a community, which is why it’s essential to think of it as a whole, not just a single person trying to make a change.

That said, the students can make changes, it just takes time sometimes.

Like the Art on the Walls.  No one thought that would take 5 months, but it did, and it’s wonderful. Sometimes there are a lot of things that just take more time and also important discussions that happen that don’t always lead to visible results. 

Yes, like the discussion we had the other week, which was not on the agenda but was a really important talk. This ended up being a one-hour discussion with a lot of insights and ideas being shared, and it was quite spontaneous.  We came up with ideas to bring up to the administration, but even better, it was like people were so engaged and passionate about the topic that we just had a great conversation for an hour. That’s the dream – that people are so interested in what they are doing that the communication is authentic and people are really involved. 

What I think is interesting, and a sign of your incredible leadership is that people felt comfortable enough to really engage in a sensitive topic like this and that so many people contributed. 

Yeah, and most people won’t even know the discussion happened, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. I’m very happy we had it, and I’m very happy people were engaged.

I think that good leaders are those who are passionate about something and just want to do it to benefit others with their work. In my opinion, my philosophy for life going forward, is that there is nothing better than being able to help others, being able to impact others, and unify people. They may forget exactly what I said or looked like, but never the feeling of being welcome in a community.

That’s like the dream, and it’s a long process.  For me, I’ve been in StuCo, not just this year but for four years, and at ISP for 8 years. It takes time to finally learn how to lead. 

Do you think that you will continue in leadership positions, going forward in your life? 

100%. I don’t see anything for me other than leadership, actually, I don’t see any other purpose than being a leader, and I don’t mean that in a power-hungry way. I just think it’s so great to be able to impact people positively and move things forward. I’ve never been the kind of person to sit back and like wait for things to happen. I just naturally feel the need to get involved. 

When I think of my future,  I don’t have a specific job in mind. I don’t have a specific role, except that whatever I will be doing, I will be leading in it.  I want to do something that leads other people, and that has a high impact. That’s the only thing I see for myself, and one of the things that feels natural to me.

And so I think, yeah, 100% wherever I go, I will try to be a leader. 

And if students or parents are reading this, I would encourage them to be good role models to others and just start helping people. That’s what my parents taught me. They’ve always told me, you know, you have this great opportunity, go out and just try to help someone, talk to one person.  Talk to me, to your principal, to a friend, and then slowly you’ll build up this connection. And I think that’s it, I think that’s just one final thing, I would say.

Eldar, I’m really proud of you. I’m proud of you’ve grown and matured, and how you’ve handled the challenges of the year. I think you’ve been really successful in moving StuCo in the right direction and you leave the position with your head held high. 

When I think back to 2023 when I’m 30 or 40 or whatever, I’ll know this year was like a very important transition year for me as a leader. And an important year for my future because without this experience, I don’t know if I would have the same vision for my life that I do now.