Hard-Won Lessons From a Student-Body President

Aria Hegde lost many elections before she won her presidency. Here's what she learned about failing and succeeding along the way

10 mins read

“Aria! Focus!” 

High tops squeaking, coaches shouting, the pounding in my skull drowning it all out. My mind is everywhere except the court. My chest is tight and my jaw clenched.

 “Aria! Heads up!” A volleyball hits me square in the back, sending me over the edge. I start crying, running off the court and out of the gym towards my car. 

“Aria! You okay?” I hear someone call over my shoulder. 

The pressure of being in a student leadership position had gotten to me. I was overcome with stress. The feeling has happened a few times over my Student Council (StuCo) career. These bad days happen, but the good ones happen a lot more. 

Vote for Aria! Illustration: Jiwon Park

I am Aria, the Student Body President of Westwood High School in Austin, Texas. I am writing this because I want you to know how I became Student Body President, in hopes that my story might play a role in your journey, too. I want to show you that YOU can be a part of your student council, and why you might want to. Being Student Body President is a lot of work, and it wasn’t easy to get here. I experienced failure, exhaustion, and failure again. But I recognize that is what it takes to become a student leader, and I’m grateful for the struggle.

I have three main roles as Head of the Executive Committee. The first is being in charge of overall club application process. Whether you’re leader of Fantasy Football Club, Women In Science Club, Breakfast Club, or Environmental Justice club, I help get you off the ground. I also lead all the Texas Association of Student Councils clubs (TASC), and I help our school’s committees prepare to turn in reports at the end of each year showcasing the progress, change, and affect we have made in our community. Boring? Sometimes. But it’s actually really fun to be able to see the impact these committees have on our community and it’s one of my favorite parts of the job. My third role is in event planning, where as you might guess, is where it gets really exciting. In these roles I get to engage with teachers and faculty, which is the best part of all. I learn so much about leadership with them. 

I spend eight hours a week on StuCo, working alongside the executive vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Being president requires a lot of socialization which can be exhausting or nerve-racking, but the more I do it, the more comfortable I feel about it. With all of the responsibility and expectations that come with being president, as well as the long road it takes to get there, being Student Body President is sometimes exhausting, but it’s so rewarding in the end. Here are some tips I’ve derived to keep in mind if you decide to pursue a student leadership position.

“Being president requires a lot of socialization which can be exhausting or nerve-racking, but the more I do it, the more comfortable I feel about it.”

  • Consider all your options. President doesn’t sound like the role for you? No problem. There are lots of other leadership roles available. I was not always President—in fact, my StuCo journey began in fifth grade when I was nominated as a Class Representative. Since then, I’ve been secretary, executive parliamentarian, and vice president. There are lots of options!
  • Get organized. Learn to delegate and set a schedule. It’s important to remember there are lots of people around you that want to help! Lean on them when you are feeling overwhelmed. Just because you are the president doesn’t mean you have to do all of the work, and you should still have time for other activities outside of StuCo. 
  • Put yourself out there. Making posters is part of that of course, and taking the time to make them look nice is important. Social media also played a big role in my campaign process, asking friends to give me a shoutout on their stories to reach as many people as I could. But I also highly recommend getting personal. Talk to people one on one. You will find out what they want in their president, and having a conversation with them will make them way more likely to vote for you. It’s a good chance to get to know your peers and take the pulse of your community. This is one of the reasons it is so valuable to run for president. Whether you win or lose, you’ve made a connection with your community.
  • Be creative in your vision. Be thoughtful and nuanced in the way you campaign and the way you lead. Set original goals. In my junior year, in November of 2020, I was head of the Homecoming Committee. I was given the chance to turn Homecoming into a gender neutral ceremony. I was able to send a message to my peers that we, as a Student Council, heard them, listened to them and accepted them for who they were. That opportunity and the role I played is something that I am so thankful for and reason enough to get involved in StuCo if you ask me. 
  • Be prepared to fail because there will always be things that don’t go well. I became a much better leader though enduring failures and learning from them. Even today as Student Body President, I mess up all the time. In the end, if you are dedicated, it will all be worth the struggle. You have to let your failures make you stronger, not discourage you.

Most importantly, do not give up. In the words of Michael Jordan, ​​“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” When I was running for tenth grade class president, a teacher told me my posters were ugly in front of the class and I was humiliated. I didn’t change my posters and I stand by it, even though I didn’t win that election. But I ran again the next year and I won. It’s scary to run for student government, but you’ll get better and feel more confident with time. It takes practice, so don’t think you’re doing something wrong just because you lose one election.

The experience of being Student Body President is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I promise that if you take the time to get involved with your student council, you will find the same thing as I have: a school filled with opportunity and support. 

A few days after I had run out of volleyball practice, I was sitting in a StuCo meeting surrounded by the most amazing teachers and peers, and I was remembering what a crazy gift it is to get to play this role. And so I challenge you to be the change in your school. Be the President.

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