Leadership roles held in high school instill lifelong lessons

April 21, 2010 — by Serena Chan and Sarah Hull

No matter how many academic courses a student takes during his or her high school years, perhaps the most valuable lessons are taught not in textbooks but by experience. Students who participate in student government positions gain valuable leadership skills that invariably benefit them in the future.

Alumni John Roberts, class of 1984, shared how his leadership experiences in high school shaped his life in college and beyond. Roberts works at Denver Investments, a firm that manages individual and company assets in Colorado, and has held this position for 14 years. During his time at SHS he was ASB secretary, where he learned to improve his organizational skills. After graduating, Roberts attended George Washington University and has been in the investment business since leaving college.

“I had leadership roles in my college fraternity, as well as at summer jobs during college,” said Roberts. “I was able to advance quickly through the ranks at various companies I have worked at partially through the experiences I had starting at SHS.”

Although leadership did not have a strong influence on the career path he chose, the organization and people skills he learned from being a part of the ASB greatly helped him to succeed in his company. But Roberts is not the only alumnus to have taken away valuable lessons from his leadership experiences at Saratoga High.

During alumna Kelly Okada’s time at Saratoga High, she was freshman class president, and in later years held the positions of ASB secretary and ASB president. She graduated in 1989, and in her 20 years after high school, Okada feels that her leadership roles have helped mold her into the person she is today.

“My roles in student government influenced how I interact with people, approach problem-solving, and deal with conflicts,” said Okada, who works part-time as a director of marketing programs at Crescendo Bioscience, a molecular diagnostic laboratory in San Francisco that focuses on rheumatology. “They taught me about teamwork and showed me the importance of listening to and valuing the input of others.”

After graduating from UCLA, Okada earned her MBA at the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and proceeded to hold jobs in the field of marketing. Her interest in working with people and collaborating in groups influenced her decision to go into pharmaceutical sales and marketing, but what she gained from her leadership positions in high school goes far beyond her career decisions.

“These not only influenced the jobs I pursued and how I conduct myself at work—but also influenced the choices I have made about the important people in my life like my friends and husband,” said Okada.

Many people may not realize the impact of the life lessons they learn in high school until years later. This growth and achievement is not as concrete a success as report cards or sports awards, yet in many ways, this crucial phase of personal development defines a person much more than any grade or trophy, Okada said.

“My leadership roles instilled me with a set of lifelong values: integrity, honesty, trust, openness, compassion, and just a general appreciation for hard work and the importance of perseverance,” she said.

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