What is the National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program?

The National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program is a challenging national skill and knowledge-based recognition program created by National Student Council to identify outstanding individual student council leaders in high schools. Students who successfully complete the NatStuCo Distinguished Student Leaders Program will have demonstrated their personal leadership abilities and met the skills and criteria established by National Student Council. The program is founded on the principles of NatStuCo and provides broad recognition for the most worthy student leaders. Unlike scholarships or recognitions that have limited numbers of winners, all student council leaders in NatStuCo member schools who successfully meet the criteria will be recognized by National Student Council and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the parent organization of National Student Council.

What is the history of the Distinguished Student Leader Program?

National Student Council has historically promoted excellence in student leadership through its conferences, training programs, and resources that advisers can use to help students develop their leadership skills. Today, NatStuCo programs feature both student and adult-led workshops on a variety of leadership skills and topics. Schools throughout the country currently use National Student Council materials and content in their leadership curricula and student council activities.

While some states have developed leadership standards for students to aspire to, the missing part of NatStuCo's leadership development programs has been the lack of a defined set of skills and knowledge for which students can demonstrate proficiency. NatStuCo does have standards for student councils and sponsors the National Council of Excellence Awards that are bestowed on student councils that demonstrate evidence of meeting those standards. The National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program will provide the motivation and means for students to demonstrate their personal leadership abilities, and will recognize those who successfully meet the standards and criteria.

Why did NatStuCo create the National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program?

National Student Council has historically promoted excellence in student leadership through its conferences, training programs, and resources that advisers can use to help students develop their leadership skills. It sponsors the Warren E. Shull Adviser of the Year Award to recognize outstanding student council advisers. As part of its refocusing efforts, NatStuCo realized the need and opportunity to bestow national recognition on outstanding student councils and individual student leaders. In 2006, the association adopted standards for student councils and now sponsors the National Council of Excellence Awards to recognize student councils that meet those standards. The National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program is based upon standards that align to and support the National Council of Excellence Standards, and becomes the conduit for NatStuCo to shine the spotlight on outstanding young leaders serving their schools and communities.

Who can apply to the program?

The National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program is a service to our NatStuCo member schools. Students eligible to participate must be in grades 9-12 and be on student council, enrolled in a leadership class, or have a leadership role in another school club or team. The school's membership with NatStuCo must be current.

What is the goal of the National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program?

We created the National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program with five core goals in mind. We want to give schools a tool that will not only enhance and improve their efforts to develop student leaders, but one that will challenge students to work for recognition that is based on their abilities and knowledge in the area of leadership. The National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program does this by providing authentic assessment and national recognition. It supports the standards and goals of the National Council of Excellence Awards and has the potential as an added value to student college and scholarship applications.

How do students become Distinguished Student Leaders?

Students earn national recognition through a structured application process that is part of the National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program. After downloading an application packet, students work independently to create a portfolio of evidence demonstrating their having met or achieved the required number of indicators in each of the core areas outlined. They will also secure letters of recommendation from their adviser and principal, along with all signatures verifying their completion of the application process. Finally, they write an essay on a predetermined leadership topic and include it with their portfolio and application materials. Final assessment of each applicant's submissions will take place at NatStuCo. Those found to have met the criteria will be declared Distinguished Student Leaders.

What is a portfolio, and how do I build one?

A portfolio is a way to organize evidence that you have completed the required activities for your designation as a Distinguished Student Leader. It includes the requisite forms, evidence, and letters of recommendation. 

For detailed information about portfolios, visit our Building Your Portfolio page. 

What kinds of evidence do I need to supply in my portfolio?

National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program requires that you submit evidence that you possess the qualities and have completed the tasks described in the application and Step-by-Step Task Outline. For examples and explanations of appropriate evidence, consult our Leadership Library.

What will it mean for a student to be recognized as a National Student Council Distinguished Student Leader?

Students successfully completing the program will not only experience the personal satisfaction of having achieved national recognition, but they will also have demonstrated to others their ability to perform as a leader. For the school and student council, having one or more students recognized is a testament to the strength and success of the student council program in developing and training student leaders. As students prepare for their postsecondary schooling, they can include the achievement of being named a Distinguished Student Leader among their other recognitions and accomplishments on college and scholarship applications.

What do Distinguished Student Leaders receive from National Student Council?

Those who successfully complete the Distinguished Student Leader Program curriculum receive an official letter and certificate from NatStuCo and NASSP. NASSP also provides a press release template that students can use with local media to announce and explain the recognition students have earned. We also encourage schools and student councils to announce and celebrate this achievement with the student body, faculty, administration, school board, and community. NatStuCo even provides tips for public relations.

We wish you all the best as your student leaders accept the challenges of the National Student Council Distinguished Student Leaders Program as they work to earn the title National Student Council Distinguished Student Leader!

What is the role of an adviser/principal in the National Student Council Distinguished Student Leader application process?

Read our Adviser Guide or Principal Guide for information on each role in the process.