AISB Student Leadership – Helping Students Find Their ‘Why’

March 31, 2021
March 31, 2021 Alex Sota

AISB Student Leadership – Helping Students Find Their ‘Why’

Student leadership began to take shape at AISB in the summer of 2017 when the Vampires summer camp introduced the concept of student-coaches and leaders into the program. Our students and kids from the local community loved interacting and spending their time with high schoolers who made their summer a blast whilst teaching them many new things each day. This idea of student leadership was then furthered by a small group of exceptional students in that school year, when they began coaching under 11 football and leading some artistic courses, such as CCA (Co-curricular activity) painting. The success of these students and the winds of energy ushered into AISB then gave way to new ideas and planning for the newly formed CCA department in the 2018-19 school year, when we welcomed over thirty student leaders and these activities made up over 15% of our CCA program, which was also the case in the 2019-20 school year, before we went into distance learning. Even then, the program would continue to grow, and it’s all thanks to the wonderful students of AISB.

Why we invest in student leadership

We truly believe that at AISB the best learning takes place when agency and autonomy are at the forefront of student learning and experiences. The more practical, real-world scenarios we can provide through opportunities and provocations for our students, and have them take ownership of their learning, the richer the experience is for them. When the CCA department came to be in 2018, we wanted to truly put an emphasis on our older students role-modeling our Vampire Values for the younger students. This was one of our goals in the athletics branch, which continued to grow into the activities sections of co-curricular activities, where we truly wanted students to bring their passions from outside the school’s walls into their actions and be able to practice something they love here whilst giving back to the younger generations, thus setting up a legacy and relationship-building within the school community.

Helping students to find their WHY

There are many reasons students choose to get involved in leading co-curricular activities, and the most popular among them is just that it feels good to be giving back. Most of the kids also have a genuine desire to develop leadership skills and fine-tune learning attributes by learning new communication, organizational and time-management strategies. They certainly can use these student-led courses as part of their Community Action & Service hours and in creating portfolios for university applications. Students also enjoy working collaboratively with peers and/or their mentors, and by lending themselves to the process of learning while they lead, they ultimately create bonds that strengthen their self-esteem and role within the AISB community. We truly believe that each student’s mindset for being a leader is different, and the one common factor is that they have found their ‘why’ at the point where purpose meets passion. In borrowing from the 3-Dimensional Coaching framework, each student leader comes up with a student- leadership purpose statement (SLPS), and this is their guiding statement throughout their leadership journey. The SLPS is personal, ever-changing, and keeps students-leaders focused on why they want to be a student leader at AISB.

How students are prepared to lead

In the past, students who desired to be student-leaders or coaches attended a one-day training seminar with Mr. Hughes and me to learn some strategies for building team harmony, create their lesson plans based on a seasonal or yearlong model, and have the opportunity to prepare for school protocols such as fire and earthquake drills, etc. This workshop was offered at the start of the school year. As the program grew, and athletics and activities coaching started to vary, we realized we need to further explore professional development opportunities for students such as some sport-specific courses, first-aid and health certification training, and also linking them with the right mentors within the school to help them grow as they lead. 

Our mentors are an essential part of the journey as they guide and offer feedback, constantly allowing the student to fail and evolve in the process. These people become the person who the students can turn to for guidance in situations where they do not feel comfortable or equipped to handle all the factors moving forward. The bond formed between mentor and student-leader is essential for one’s success criteria.

In 2020-21, all the student leaders who were new to the program and had expressed interest at the end of the 2019/20 school year, began the year by taking the Student Leadership Workshop. The course borrows some of its content from the NFHS organization as well as 3D Coaching to help students develop and outline their personalized leadership purpose statements. Each student leader underwent 4 hours of training online to reach the point of creating their LPS and also outlining plans for an entire season of activity, which were then shared with me and their mentors to start the process.

The formula for the student-leadership purpose statement is:

{action verb} + {audience} + {2-3 core values}

Some examples of student-leadership purpose statements are

To inspire the student-athletes to be hardworking and loyal to their passions. ~EK, G12 SL.

Inspire kids to take risks and do something that they are truly passionate about. ~ EP, G12 SL.

To inspire kids by encouraging commitment, remaining honest, and working on teamwork as we grow. ~ PG, G9 SL.

To motivate student-athletes by building trust, teaching them to respect themselves and their team, and learning to take risks that will improve their character. ~SD, G9 SL.

To motivate student-athletes to complete tasks and activities with focus, discipline, and most importantly fun and joy! ~ CA, G9 SL.

Leadership in the times of the pandemic

Impressively, AISB students have maintained a high-level of engagement in student-leadership and coaching throughout the 2020-21 school year, when all the co-curricular programs moved online through zoom.  We have drama happening, with elementary students getting ready to perform Aesop’s Fables virtually, we have fitness for athletes and gymnastics happening each week, where student coaches guide their peers and younger students through routines that allow for healthy lifestyle habits and creativity at the same time. Other student-led activities virtually include basketball ball-handling, drawing and painting clubs, artistic creations, modern dance, American sign-language, and Chinese folk-tales, just to name a few. 

The strength of the program goes to show that despite not being able to physically be together and lead these engagements on-campus, we had twenty-five students from secondary leading activities, and student-led CCAs made up 20% of our elementary program in the first four rounds of activities. The courage of vulnerability in making the best of a less-than-perfect situation, the creativity of the engagements themselves, and the compassion shown to participants and peers alike speak to the resilience of the student-leaders and our program for continuing to offer outlets for student and human connections, continuing to offer avenues of expression, and maintaining integrity in what we believe: that our younger students can learn from our older students, and that this will empower the younger generation to keep with tradition as they become the leaders within their school. No pandemic can stop that growth in spirit.


Senior Clara S. reflects upon her student-coaching journey in these words, “For me, it is not about the trophies and championships we win, it is about the transformation of hearts and minds and the growth that they achieve.” These beautifully spoken words reflect the Vampire spirit of ‘Once a Vampire, always a Vampire’, and that the powerful memories, positive experiences, and transformation of hearts truly are the foundation of the legacy that student leaders and coaches leave behind. 

A special thank-you to the trail-blazing graduates of 2021, whose dedication to student leadership has opened new doors and opportunities and their role modeling has inspired a generation of younger students who now find it cool to coach or to be an AISB student-leader.

Alex Sota & David Hughes