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Student Perspective: Leadership is ‘Not One Person, It’s the Whole Group'

As part of the Indianapolis #CenteringStudentVoices series, Shortridge High School junior Mang Hnem Tial (she/her) shares on her leadership experiences and urges us to be actively engaged in social issues.

By Mang Hnem Tial

March 19, 2021

TFA Indy's #CenteringStudentVoices series seeks to elevate student voice and leadership on the issues that impact them directly. Our theme for the month of March is student empowerment and leadership.

What do you define as leadership?

I used to think leadership was having an official title or position within an organization or club. And while technically that is leadership, you don’t have to have a title to be a leader. To me, leadership can be defined as a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. It’s not one person, it’s the whole group of people. Anyone who has great leadership traits such as being patient, understanding, and open minded can become a leader. A great leader to me is someone who can communicate clearly and someone who isn’t so focused on the position but the goal. 

Tell us about a leadership experience you were proud of.

During my sophomore year, my friend, Khanae Miller, and I decided to start a club. We founded the Science Olympiad Club at Shortridge, not without facing some obstacles. Our first sponsor couldn’t stay with us and we had to quickly find a replacement. We had to compete with other clubs for members, and there were other complications we had to deal with. All the struggle just made the ending that much more satisfactory because we were so proud of ourselves for being able to accomplish our goal. Our purpose was to give students another opportunity to receive scholarships and expand their knowledge in science. We didn’t place in the top three, but it didn’t matter. Sadly, we couldn’t compete this year because of the pandemic but we’ll be ready for next year. While Khanae and I didn’t have official titles, we were able to guide and support the members in their struggle. We were able to motivate this group of students to try something new and had fun doing it. 
 

“A great leader to me is someone who can communicate clearly and someone who isn’t so focused on the position but the goal. ”

Mang Hnem Tial

Junior, Shortridge High School

What can you tell us about your overall school experience at Shortridge?

I have a love/hate relationship with Shortridge. While the teachers are wonderful and very open-minded with students, the workload is stressful, especially in the midst of a pandemic. More than ever, I think students are losing the motivation to go to class and do the assignments so giving us more work is counterproductive, in my opinion. Teachers could help us by being understanding. That could be as simple as giving students more time to turn in homework or coming up with different ways to introduce a new concept as not everyone learns the same way.

On the other hand, my favorite part of being a Shortridge Blue Devil is the “Week Without Walls” program. It is a week where we abandon the books and the confinements of school to explore and learn new skills while having fun. Students have the opportunity to go out of state, even out of the country, and explore the world around them. Shortridge is the only school I know of that does this and I take pride in it because it gives students a chance to step out of their comfort zone and learn new skills.

What are the issues that matter most to you and your peers?

I’m Asian, was born in Burma, a.k.a. Myanmar, and I came to the U.S. at the age of eight. The issue most important to me is spreading the news about what’s currently happening in Myanmar. There was a military coup on February 1, 2021. They arrested the president, Win Myint, and state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, among many other democratic leaders. Since then, the military has been using violence to try to control the public. People are going out every day, protesting against the military, marching in the streets and banging pots and pans. The military responded with guns and water cannons, cut internet lines and banned social media platforms to hinder communication with the outside world. They let thousands of prisoners out of their cells who are creating havoc in the cities and villages. Students can’t attend school, workers have lost their jobs, and banks have closed. The situation is getting worse every day. I’m concerned about what I’m seeing and as someone with family and friends back in Myanmar, it is my responsibility to spread word of this and to try to help them. 

As someone who advocates for human rights, it is my duty to fight against injustice around the world, which is why I am asking others to help raise awareness of this to put pressure on the military to surrender. To help, I encourage everyone to please consider either donating, writing to your elected representative, or spreading word on your social media account(s). 

Another issue that is important to me is climate change. Many of my peers rate climate change as the most pressing issue of our generation. I agree because it has the power to change so many aspects of our lives and the lives of future generations. That is why Shortridge is declaring a climate emergency. The Student Environmental Action Corps is working hard to create our official declaration/resolution and coming up with activities that our communities could partake in to combat climate change. We are hoping to get signatures from the faculty this week, as well as clubs and honor societies at Shortridge, so that the Student Environmental Action Committee can declare climate emergency on Earth Day (April 22).

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