Before the March lockdown, I was sitting in one afternoon class, my last for the day. My course, being in social sciences, had—and still has—a lot to do with the nuances of language.
Suddenly—and I was completely caught off guard—my teacher told me, “Aaron, I can see it in your eyes. You want to run for a leadership position in your org. It’s just a waste of time.”
This was in the presence of my classmates. I responded, “We actually create articles and we publish them online.”
These articles weren’t just about a particular event or issues. At that time, I was a writing editor of Ateneo Celadon, the Ateneo de Manila University’s premier Chinese-Filipino student organization. We were writing about culture, cultural issues and fostering unity through culture sharing.
I don’t think those were a waste of time. And I also I strongly believe that the benefits of being a student leader outweigh any time that may be “wasted” on it. Here’s why:
1. Practicing communication skills.
In this article, I define student leader loosely—it can range from being class beadle to leader in student government. Whether beadle or president, though, communication is absolutely necessary. One has to readily be able to channel his or her ideas to the rest of the team, something books, though venerable, can never teach someone.
As a young Celadonean (that’s what we call members of my org), I remember being just a doer, never really a communicator. But as I became a writing editor and now associate vice president for documentation and publications, I came out of my shell. I never thought I’d actually be an extrovert in real life! Being a student leader forced me to talk to people more, I inevitably started gaining the lifelong needed skill of engaging in dialogue.
2. One learns to listen, too.
I cannot overemphasize this: listening to people comes hand-in-hand with engaging in dialogue. Communication skills are great, yes, but one must also learn to let others practice their communication, too.
I’ll never forget how one of my friends, a fellow student leader, suggested this rather revolutionary idea for our department in Ateneo Celadon. Being in documentation and publications, we specialize in releasing content ranging from photo essays, videos, articles and whatnot. My friend suggested that we do a monthly pitching meeting, where everyone under our department would bring up ideas for possible content. We tried it and it worked very well. Our department no longer had the problem of thinking about things to talk about because all these ideas are brought up in those meetings. In addition, this allowed us to listen and actually meet (virtually) with our entire department.
So yes, listen, listen, listen! Listen to people. No matter how high you get in a hierarchy, one still ought to listen to people and allow them to exercise their own capabilities as well.
3. Hard skills abound.
In Ateneo Celadon, and in many other student organizations, students plan all their events. There are so many things to consider—there’s the logistics, documentation, the programs, the sponsors, the partnerships, the creatives, the finances and more. All of that is planned by students, and to be quite frank, students sometimes plan these big events better than adults.
Despite being extremely busy with academics, I’ve witnessed my fellow Celadoneans exerting remarkable dedication and professionalism in planning events—big-time ones that professional adults also do. I’ve witnessed food festivals, leadership development programs (one outside the city), mall bazaars, amazing races in Binondo and numerous workshops.
And so, I’m calling on my fellow students to join worthy, fulfilling, and even God-centered organizations and events. Become a student leader. You really might just learn so much, and even if you discover that student leadership might not be your thing, I believe that a “rejection” is simply a redirection to something greater. There’s nothing to lose by simply trying it out. —CONTRIBUTED
The author is associate vice president of Ateneo Celadon and lifetime member of Philippine Association for Chinese Studies. He is a junior multimedia producer for CHiNOY TV who enjoys watching Chinese dramas and (occasionally) making TikTok videos; facebook.com/aaron.joseph.s.medina