Leadership: a plural noun, and a lifestyle


Alexis McIlmoil

Chess pieces ranging in importance based on skill level. Just like how a leader builds off of their teammates, the king could not be at the top of the stack without the pawn at the base.

Leadership is a vital management function that helps to direct an organization’s resources for improved efficiency and the achievement of goals. Effective leaders provide clarity of purpose, motivation, and guidance the organization to realize its mission.

Wilsonville High School is more than just brick and mortar. Wilsonville High School is made up of 4 grades of students, teachers, janitors, and administrators  from all walks of life. The only way to describe the population that resides inside of WVHS is diverse. From family backgrounds, to political views, to how individuals spend their freetime ranges from about here to mars.

Wilsonville offers a plethora of sports and clubs which create a mixing bowl for students. You join a club or play a sport because you’re passionate about it or it interests you. Individuals become something much greater than themselves when they join a group or team with others. You all share a common interest or passion, which immediately creates connections between members or teammates. In these situations, a form of leadership is most often in place. In order to organize many people, there is a “governing body.”  

Several student athletes and club presidents, all individuals in some form of leadership position, were asked a series of questions. Not surprisingly, a lot of their answers overlapped. 

Team captains in sports tend to be assertive, hardworking, respectful individuals. Jack Johnson and Connor Green are two such individuals. Both seniors and captains on the varsity football team, they shared their experiences in leadership positions. 

Johnson says, “It was hard at first. There were times where I would question myself about if what I was saying was best for the team. I had to be totally honest with myself, and I’ve carried that over not just in football and not just in season but now everyday. Being honest with myself builds my confidence because I know when I’m doing what’s right.” 

Green also shares his feeling about how his time in a leadership role has stretched much farther than just football. “Learning how to become a leader has really helped me in all aspects of life. The mindset I developed will stay with me throughout all my years and really help me accomplish the things I want.” Both of these players, no matter the obstacles, stepped up to the role and led their team to countless victories. The boys’ football season ended during a tough game in the state championship semi-finals.  

Both players shared that the roles they played on the team had to change drastically from the previous upperclassmen. “They showed me how not to lead our team, unfortunately. They were an insanely talented group who were able to accomplish many things without dedicating a ton of time and effort into it. We had to approach our young, inexperienced team very differently,” said Green. 

The traditions and examples left from upperclassmen differ from sport to sport, and even sports to clubs. Miguel Tejeda, the president of MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Azatlan) who was accepted to his dream school– Stanford– this spring, shares, “The upperclassmen inspired me to dream big. The president while I was a freshman applied to top schools, so I was inspired to do the same.” 

Miguel shared that last year was centered around education and outreach, but the angle this year was to expand the club to show that there’s Latino representation in Wilsonville– a predominantly white community. His goal is to create a comfortable and safe environment for Latinos at school.  

Tejeda was left with an inspiring effect from his upperclassmen and a leadership role in an existing club. Oaklyn Hill who is one of the co-leads of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance club (GSA) shares, “Freshman year I didn’t participate in the GSA much, so I’m not very familiar with the former leaders. We basically restarted the club towards the end of last school year from scratch.” The former leaders of the GSA didn’t leave the same framework for Hill as the previous MECHA leadership did for Tejeda.

They had a much bigger role to fill, as well as new priorities. Hill shares that they focus on education goals for their club, like putting together resources and information to build awareness & help support queer communities. 

They share that the leadership role they play, “…helps me feel like I’m leaving an impact. I want to make this school safer and more comfortable for the next group of queer students & staff, & being able to represent the GSA and work towards that really helps me feel like I’m doing something important. It also makes me more familiar with other students and has made me more aware of things to work towards.”

Of course goals and wants will differ from activity to activity. Sports teams desire the win, but, for example, you can’t “win” in theater. The hope of a performance might be to touch the audience or the overall goal might be to take care of one another. What you get from each leadership role is different because the leadership reflects the group’s desires. 

This last fall, Dalton Mermis, along with the other varsity girls soccer captains, led her team to win the 2021 state championship. The girls soccer team had a fantastic season, with 0 losses to their name the entirety of the pre season and league. This is an incredible accomplishment that does not come about easily. 

Mermis shares how she became one of the strong and determined captains of the winning team. “Definitely hard work and a strong mentality and making sure that I stayed positive 100% of the time. It was hard at first because I wasn’t used to having to lead but once I started to do it, I felt a ton of responsibility. It is hard at some points but it was worth it.”

Leadership is often associated with top management, but leadership can occur anywhere. It is taking initiative, it is showing interest, it is pursuing a mission to serve a greater purpose, or greater good.

A good leader can inspire everyone in an organization to achieve their very best. Human capital is the differentiator in this knowledge-based economy that we live in. So leadership needs to attract, inspire, and ultimately retain as much talent as possible. Leadership is universal. 

Oaklyn Hill is a pioneer for the LGBTQ+ community at Wilsonville, a true leader who is concerned for the future and comfort of other students. Jack Johnsosn and Connor Green recognized the poor example displayed years before them and took an entirely new approach to create an environment where the younger players can succeed. They paved the path for a new and bright future. 

Miguel Tejeda was inspired by his predecessors, and makes sure to inspire those after him to achieve the success he has found and leads his club to creating a safe and comfortable space for the Latino student body. Dalton Mermis stood as someone who could be relied on during a very stressful state-winning season. 

Leaders are all around us, and Wilsonville High School is full of them. The leader qualities learned and used during high school will carry over into the future. Leadership principles apply in every era, in every culture, and across language barriers. They were true yesterday, true today, and will be true tomorrow.