Alumni cherish high school leadership opportunities

February 15, 2011 — by David Eng

Many a time, students at Saratoga High dismiss leadership opportunities in favor of a rigorous academic schedule and numerous other extracurricular activities. However, participating in class office, as these three alumni testify, bolsters a student’s high school experience and is truly rewarding later in life.

Q&A with Alex Shoor (then: 1999 ASB President, now: finishing his Master’s in Public Administration from USC), John Roberts (then: 1984 ASB Secretary, now: an owner of the investment firm Denver Investments) and Hays Fraim Padrnos (then: 1989 ASB mice president, now: local museum educator and active volunteer in the community).

Q: Did your high school experiences as a class officer/leader help you later in life? How so?

Shoor: Being in student government at Saratoga High gave me two gifts. First, it gave me my first awareness that a diverse group of leaders is essential to success. Second, it motivated me to continue to be a leader.

I was very fortunate to be in student government in 1998-1999 with a dynamic and diverse group of five other officers. There of us were three seniors, three were juniors. Three men, three women. Three Asian Americans, three Caucasians. Through this experience, I first saw the importance of having a heterogeneous group of leaders (relatively speaking).

Certainly, being different from each other can mean that differences of opinion occur more frequently and fervently. But it also means that disparate ideas will be more likely to bubble to the surface and more perspectives will be valued. As leaders, we must always strive to listen to points of view different from our own; otherwise, we fall into silos of isolation and ignorance. Although I sometimes fall short, I strive to surround myself with individuals who are from a different race, religion, region of the country, gender, sexual orientation or political party than my own.

Roberts: I would answer an unqualified “yes.” My experience as a student body officer helped me extraordinarily after high school. It presented opportunities that gave me a leg up on others after high school. Interacting with adults (i.e. Karen Hyde) in a business setting provided me with valuable real world experience that carried through to job interviews during and after college. I remember giving a presentation to the school board at one of their meetings—quite intimidating for a 17-year-old. This helped when it came time to do college presentations, and I would say helped me land a summer job at IBM that I had for three summers in college. These opportunities in turn helped me land a good job after college, and get into law school.

Padrnos: I believe that the two most valuable qualities that I took away from my experiences as a student leader were organization and public speaking. Being a student leader meant juggling schoolwork, extra curricular activities and life in general. You needed to be organized in order to get it all done! If you learn at an early age to do that well, you will be more successful in college, your career and life.

Second, as a student leader you are in a position where you speak in front of large groups of people more often than perhaps others in school. A gift of public speaking is essential in many jobs and becoming comfortable in that role in high school will also lend itself well for your future.

Are you still an active leader in your current life?

Shoor: I am currently finishing my master’s in Public Administration at USC, learning how to more effectively manage people and programs in government. I think that one needs to be both an inspiring leader and a thoughtful manager to succeed in my field. My experiences in student government at Saratoga High fueled my interest in being a leader and gave me the confidence to become a better one. After I graduate this May, I hope to return to the Bay Area to be a leader in local government.

Roberts: Yes. I am one of the owners of my firm, Denver Investments, a $9 billion investment advisor. I am active on a number of non-profit boards, and serve as the chair of trustees of one of these non-profits.

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