One of the first things that students are told when they enter high school or college is that getting involved in various aspects of their school or university will help them become well-rounded and active members of their community. Despite the wide array of options that schools tend to offer, one of the first things that people seem to gain an interest in is student government. That interest largely comes from well-publicized recruiting initiatives, as well as older students discussing their experiences and telling new students how getting involved in peer-to-peer decision-making will transform their school experience. I have noticed with the school and national elections that there are a lot of people who feel like they can “do it better,” but many people seem unwilling to do anything and instead are more willing to criticize the decisions of others in power. Although I was never a member of student government in high school and have no aspirations to do so while in college, I consider becoming a member of the elected body an important commitment, especially for those who would like to see change implemented in their community.

If there is one thing that watching the ongoing campaigns for the 2016 presidential elections has taught me, it is that people interested in politics or making a difference must get involved sooner rather than later. Inexperience is one of the worst qualities a leader can have at a higher level. Getting involved in student government on a school level can be the first experience that helps someone realize that he or she may have an interest in pursuing higher level politics in the future. Rather than dismiss student-run governments as useless or a waste of time, the opportunity to lead and collaborate with others should be used to inspire a greater sense of collective involvement.

The closest role that I had while in high school that was similar to being a member of student government was my position on my school’s Honor Council. The position was one that students each year had to run for and be voted in by their peers and I joined because I have always had a strong sense of integrity that I wanted to share with other students in my community. I saw the problems that some students at my school had with academic honesty and I wanted to have a voice in ensuring that our motto “Knowledge, Vision, Integrity” would continue to be upheld. Those who wish to bring positive changes to schools and sponsor events that will create a closer community should consider taking it a step further than simply talking about change; they should put themselves in a position to make it happen.

On Feb. 23, Fairfield University’s Student Association held their presidential election. The elections that took place reminded me that not everyone focuses on the importance that comes from running for a position on student government. I think that the lack of focus is largely because many people believe that one person cannot make a significant difference. According to Andrew Leone ‘17, who ran for FUSA president, getting involved is important for change to happen. Leone said, “I firmly believe that people who want to see change should get involved. Student government is the face for all the students at this school. Therefore, it is very important [to get involved] because one is assuming the role to be the voice of all the students.” I agree with Leone’s statement because all people need a voice, not only on campus, but also in larger forums. The only way that we will have one is if initiative is taken to get involved in helping ourselves be heard, whether that involves running for a position or simply voting. Both are crucial to the democratic process and both are of equal importance. As we proceed toward our next presidential election, it is important to remember Leone’s words: Become involved and let your voice be heard.

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