For high school students playing football under the lights on Friday night, or basketball in a crowded gym on Saturday, the spotlight is a constant presence. But for many of their classmates cheering them on from the stands, the chance to be celebrated for their achievements is less common.

For more than 50 years now, dating back to 1972 and the Nixon Administration, NASSP has organized National Student Leadership Week (initially known as National Student Government Day) to recognize the numerous ways that students are involved in leading their classmates—from student council and National Honor Society to clubs and arts groups and service organizations. The details, and even the name, have changed over the years, but the end result is impressive: Over the years, millions of student leaders have been celebrated for their achievements and dedication to their schools, communities, and the world.

This year’s celebration is set for April 22–26, with the theme of “Level Up.” One big difference between 1972 and today? The central role of technology in everything we do. To that end, learn more at and see pages 34 and 35 for ideas on how to celebrate.

Recognizing the Whole Range of Student Leaders

NHS scholarship finalists are recognized during NASSP’s Trailblazing Leadership Week, held during National Student Leadership Week 2023. PHOTOS COURTESY OF NASSP

Miraya Julian, the magnet coordinator and adviser for her school’s National Honor Society chapter and student council, has been organizing National Student Leadership Week (NSLW) activities at Southeast Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas for many years. “We’re trying to constantly recognize everyone for their accomplishments,” she says. For example, her school has active and engaged robotics, DECA, and Latino student organizations, among many others. “We know that if students are involved in some type of activity or sport, they are more likely to come to school and they are more likely to do better in school. So, we just want to recognize that and highlight them as often as we can, even when it’s not National Student Leadership Week. But this week gives us a chance to have more structured celebrations.”

In fact, her campus has a culinary arts program and a banquet room for celebrations. During NSLW, the culinary arts students prepare a nice lunch, complete with linen tablecloths. Student leaders and other representatives from groups and clubs are invited to a lunch celebration. She and the students who help her organize the event collect key points about the groups from their members in advance, then put them on the tables so the students can interact with each other and learn about what the other groups do and some of their accomplishments.

“A lot of times, the hardest working kids on campus are those clubs’ members and officers and presidents,” Julian says. “They are just grinding every day, and they don’t always get recognized. That’s why I love the leadership week, because it lets us stop and recognize all the people who are doing all the things behind the scenes that people might not know about.”

Many Ways to Celebrate

Having an entire week also allows schools to recognize different groups of student leaders on different days. Lyn Fiscus, who served as a student council adviser in a number of schools and is now the extracurricular specialist for Loudoun County Public Schools in Ashburn, VA, has worked with the presidents and officers of all the district’s high school student councils to come up with a districtwide plan for the week. Last year, for example, they recognized different leaders each day of the week: Monday was leaders for any type of team, like debate, sports, dance, or cheer; Tuesday was arts and media leaders; Wednesday was scholastic leaders; Thursday was club leaders; and Friday was student government leaders.

“Each school was encouraged to develop their own activities,” she says. “I supported that effort by printing and distributing a poster that featured the information, along with a certificate school administration could use to recognize their leaders, and daily social media posts on district social media. I also sent a handwritten note and small gift to every adviser of student council and NHS/NJHS in the district on the day we designated as adviser appreciation day.”

“For more than 50 years now, dating back to 1972 and the Nixon Administration, NASSP has organized National Student Leadership Week (initially known as National Student Government Day) to recognize the numerous ways that students are involved in leading their classmates.

In her time as a student council adviser, Fiscus would have the students at her school plan activities for the week. Those included a breakfast or lunch for all the club/organization leaders with a guest speaker from the community; special gifts for student leaders like a carabiner keychain, bumper sticker, pen, or other token; signs hung up in the cafeteria featuring photos of the officers of every club; and signs placed on the lockers of every student who leads a club.

Jeff Sherrill, who retired earlier this year after serving 27 years as NASC associate director and then senior program manager for Leading & Learning, also sees the week as an opportunity for principals to reinforce their commitment to student leadership and student voice in their school. “There are benefits for both sides,” he says. “Student council leaders can be the advocates for the principal’s mission and vision for the school.”

But more than anything, Sherrill adds, “it’s a way for student leaders to get a pat on the back for what they do as leaders. It helps put the spotlight on all leaders in
our schools.”

As part of NSLW, students visit national landmarks such as the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Here are some ideas to show your student leaders that their efforts and impact are valued and appreciated:

Share student leader stories.
Tell us about an outstanding student leader in your school, what makes them exceptional, and how they have contributed to your school and your community. We’ll feature them on the National Student Leadership Map and social media accounts.

Send a student leader an e-card.
Express your gratitude for their exceptional leadership this year by sending your student leaders an NSLW e-card with a personalized message!

Student leader appreciation event.
Recognize all student leaders who are involved in any leadership in your school’s clubs, teams, etc. Schedule an awards ceremony, banquet, luncheon, or breakfast, and invite your principal, superintendent, school board, and even local elected officials or local celebrities to honor your students and those who support them.

Morning announcements.
Make a schoolwide announcement about NSLW and the importance of student leadership for making positive change. Consider featuring one or more of your student leaders each day of NSLW.

Student newspaper.
Collaborate with a school publication to publish an article that publicizes NSLW and celebrates the accomplishments of your student leaders.

Alumni event.
Invite program alumni to address your group, focusing on the things they learned from being involved as student leaders in middle level or high school that they find useful now in their careers.

Host an NSLW assembly.
A successful NSLW assembly is a great launching pad for an engaging and exciting celebration. Your assembly can communicate the goals and spirit of NSLW and motivate the entire student body and staff to join forces in service with you and student leaders.

Student poll.
Create and distribute a poll asking the student body the most important problem facing the community and seek their suggestions to solve it. Based on the results, draft a proposal for a year-long student-led volunteer project addressing the most popular issue.

Class competitions.
Host competitions to collect donations or raise charitable funds, with the winning class earning a special treat.

School media coverage.
Plan NSLW event coverage in the school newspaper, yearbook, and school social media posts. Mix inspirational quotes with activity posts/tweets. Our social media page provides image assets you can save and use on your social media channels. Make sure you include #NSLW24 in each post!

Leadership wall.
Create a “wall of leadership” where student leaders begin posting their acts of leadership and challenge their fellow students to do the same.

Community leader meet-and-greet.
Invite your superintendent, local mayor, city council, or state representative to have a luncheon or meet-and-greet with your student leaders. Talk about the importance of student leadership within your community.

Mayoral proclamation.
Ask your mayor for an NSLW proclamation to celebrate the student leaders in your community. Here’s a sample proclamation to share with your mayor’s office.  

Host local elected officials.
Customize this sample invitation to send to your state senator or state representative and ask if they will participate in your NSLW celebration.

Newspaper features.
Share student stories with your local newspaper and ask if they will publish one each day of NSLW to honor and celebrate your student leaders.

Newspaper op-ed.
Submit an op-ed to your local newspaper with a local angle about NSLW, perhaps asking for community support or participation in a student-led initiative.

Radio interview.
Call your favorite radio station and ask if you can set up an interview with your student leaders in celebration of NSLW.

Local news.
Contact your local TV station and ask if they will share information about your NSLW activities during their community news segment. They may even be interested in interviewing one of your student leaders.

Do a service project.
When considering how your chapter or council will commemorate the week, get inspired by browsing more than 11,000 projects and activities in our data base completed by Honor Society chapters and student councils around the world.

Student mentorship.
Send your student leaders to visit a younger group of students in your middle level or elementary school. The leadership of your students could inspire the next class to do great things!

Volunteer hour/donation matching.
Work with a local company or organization and ask them to match the number of service hours or donations that your students are able to raise during NSLW.

Learn more at

Dan Gursky is a freelance education writer and editor in Washington, D.C.