The Social Economy of Student Organizations

COMMUNE (the need for connection and community) was rated as the “most fundamental motivation by young people. Globally, over 90% agree and 55% strongly agree with statements related to COMMUNE motivation.

This generation really cares about community. They care about what their friends think and about how other people are treated. It’s hard for many to really grasp the power of connection for these students but to give you an idea just look at how this generation wants to be remembered: it’s not for their beauty, power, or influence, but for the quality of their human relationships and their ability to look after those around them.

After working with hundreds of student organization officer teams one thing was clear. Their biggest questions and goals all revolved around how they could Leave a Legacy.

More then ever students want to know that they are a part of something meaningful. Something that is more then some plaques on the wall. They want to help the organization and their fellow students move forward.

How can your student organization help students Leave a Legacy?

  Nick Palkowski Student Officer Trainer

MENTORSHIPS – Allowing your members to have a direct influence on others is a great way for them to feel the power of leaving a legacy. They will get to see the direct impact of the work they are doing and the appreciation that person has for the guidance. You could have older members helping newer members become more involved in the organization (see Member Involvement Wohoos? for more info) or members of the organization could help non-members with general school or life related topics.

A few quick suggestions to help your mentorship program be effective.

1.) Create a formal structure. Students lives are crazy. They have sports, orgs, work, family, and a social life to worry about. While many will want to be involved in your mentorship program don’t make the mistake of thinking it will be their number one priority and they will clear their schedule to make it work. Create guidelines for them to follow. Frequency of contact, contact form, and possibly even contact time are a must. Especially for the first few contacts you should give them a structure for their meetings; topics or questions to talk about.

2.) Weekly Mentoring. Building relationships takes time. But more importantly, having weekly mentoring makes the mentoring more of a commitment for both the mentor and mentee. This leads to the mentorship program being more valuable. If they only meet once a month, well a lot has happened in that time so they will both be more likely to come underprepared. Having more consistent, regular commitments helps ensure the effort goes into making this program top-notch.

3.) Experiences lead to learning. This is true on a couple of levels. First, the student mentor should be sharing their experiences. Just talking about leadership philosophies does no one any good. Leadership, like life, happens in the experiences we have. The mentor should be sharing times of struggle, success, joys, and discomforts with how they taught important lessons.

Second, it is through experiences that we learn (as in activities). Whether it’s structured leadership or team building experiences like a high ropes course or simply playing hoops taking the time to do activities with your mentee is one of the best ways to encourage learning. They aren’t looking for another person to stand in front of them and lecture, what they need is someone who is a friend. So many of your meetings should take place around some type of activity.

4.) Set a goal. Like every area of life mentorship works best if there is a purpose or goal you are trying to reach. Setting goals, working hard and accomplishing something is a great practice for everyone. You could have your program specifically set up for a certain goal but you should always have the mentor talk to the mentee to create a specific goal for them. If there is not a specific goal for your mentorship program be sure the mentor is asking questions like, “If I could help you accomplish something in the next 3 months, what would it be?” The two can go through the goal setting process together and the mentor can serve as an accountability partner and a resource.

BABY PROJECTS – Have members take on projects that can “become their baby.” These should be projects that they are passionate about and want to take the lead on.

This is a great way for members to leave a legacy because they are creating something beyond themselves that could be around in the organization for years to come.

LEARNING ASSISTANTS – Give members the opportunity to become more involved in teaching other students. Have them create a program for elementary students and then offer to go around to different classrooms teaching their program or have them design and teach one of your lesson plans for a class. Many communities already have an adult education program, help them design a class that they could offer to the community.

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