A Belated Thank You Note:

How My High School Student Council Advisor Made a Lifelong Impact on Me

Pennsylvania Student Council State Conference, 2011

Today I am a college senior (did I really just write that?), and soon enough I will have to be a “real” adult. If it wasn’t for my high school student council advisor and teacher, Mrs. Walker, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Trust me, I’m scared to go out into the real world, but what I learned from Mrs. Walker is that the things that scare you the most make you a stronger person.

I must admit, at first I was even a little afraid of Mrs. Walker; she doesn’t put up with nonsense and expects the best from her students. She sees a potential leader in everyone and pushes her students to do good every day. It’s never too late to say thank you, so behold I have a belated thank you letter to Mrs. Walker- my advisor and teacher, but most importantly a lifelong influence. Here is what she taught me, which I will continue to take with me through life:

  1. Always step out of your comfort zone.
Pennsylvania Student Council Leadership Camp

In high school, there were few things that scared me. But when phrases such as “public speaking,” or “meeting new people” were uttered, I was petrified. Through being a part of student council, I quickly learned the things that scared me the most would have the biggest impact.

It was routine that those who ran for an executive position on student council were required to give a speech in front of the entire student body. Public speaking was never a walk in the park for me, and when it was in front of 300 of my closest friends and peers at the ripe age of sixteen, it was more like a sprint in the park on a 100 degree day - did I mention that I hate running?

Despite losing my place on my note card halfway through the speech (yes, I wrote out the entire speech on 3 x 5” notecards), I finished it. Whether it was because people felt bad for me or not, I was elected to the position for which I campaigned! During the speech, Mrs. Walker yelled from the front row, “Rahner, breathe!” Without her there, I probably would have ended it as soon as I lost my place.

Being a part of executive board on student council also meant attending mandatory leadership camps and conferences. The thought of going to a leadership camp with 500 strangers didn’t quite excite me, but Mrs. Walker assured me this would be one of the best experiences. She was right. At these camps and conferences, I met some of the smartest and kindest people, and I’m still friends with some of them today. We were all able to be our goofy selves and bonded on a level that only “student council nerds” could. At the end of the day, going out of my comfort zone wasn’t so bad after all. Thank you, Mrs. Walker.

2. When you look silly, you’re doing something right.

Villa Maria Academy soccer game

Student Council seems to have a nerdy reputation amongst high schoolers, and maybe it is somewhat nerdy. Yet what many don’t realize about student council is that students transform into leaders, which sometimes takes a lot for high school students to do. For me and my peers it came easy because Mrs. Walker constantly encouraged us to take the lead; she saw what most do not see in themselves and that led to amazing things.

What came with being a leader, at least at my high school, was acting over the top sometimes. Student council was in charge of teaching freshmen all of the school cheers and chants, and that meant yelling loudly and shamelessly in front of an entire class of meek freshmen, teaching them that it’s okay to look foolish in front of your peers. It was routine that on the first day of school every year we asked each class, “how do you feel?!” and each replied, “we feel good! oh we feel so good oh!” as loud as they could. When we asked the teachers, Mrs. Walker was always the one to yell the loudest, because she is one to talk the talk and walk the walk. Without her, our school spirit would have been on a very mediocre level.

Mrs. Walker taught us that we must leave feeling “cool” behind. Because of that, I developed a sense of humility that I wouldn’t have acquired anywhere else. She knocked sense into a lot of her students and taught us the importance of doing good for others. I transformed as a person from freshmen to senior year, and quickly learned that “feeling cool” isn’t all that cool. Mrs. Walker won again, thankfully.

3. Work hard for the things you care about.

In high school, students sometimes found it easier to get away with the bare minimum, and Mrs. Walker never put up with that. She taught me and my peers that it’s important to work hard in all things you do, and in the end you will learn to care about them if you don’t at first. When it came to events and other student council related happenings, if we didn’t work hard, we would likely embarrass ourselves. We always made it our goal to have the “best ___ yet” no matter what event it was. Plus, student council was in charge of all the great things — homecoming, Lip Sync, and different fundraisers for our school.

When I worked hard at one aspect of my life, the hard work crossed over into many other parts of it. Being a part of student council taught me how important the notion of “fake it ‘till you make it” is. Through this, I learned that there is value in everything I work hard for, even if I don’t care about it at first. Sometimes we don’t see the value until we work for it. Mrs. Walker — three for three.

I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Mrs. Walker. The scariest and most profound things in my life so far have involved new places and new people. Without being pushed to do things I didn’t want to do in high school, I probably wouldn’t have gone to school eight hours away, and I certainly wouldn’t have studied abroad halfway across the world. I have a lot to thank Mrs. Walker for, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way (even though it doesn’t look like it, she has been teaching for many years). It’s been four years, but I’m feeling more grateful than I ever have. The big bad world is waiting for me, and I’m ready to take it on. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Thank you, Mrs. Walker, for pushing all of your students to be themselves.

Nathalie Rahner is an electronic marketing intern at Focus Training. She is a senior studying Advertising at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a music lover in all ways — when she’s not singing with her a cappella group, Gold ‘n Blues, you can find her at a concert somewhere in Milwaukee.

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