As you approach your school’s awards season and year-end ceremonies, it’s time to look back at how your young leaders have grown and how you can celebrate their accomplishments.

Have your student council members demonstrated their commitment to growing as leaders? If so, they may qualify as Emerging Student Leaders or Distinguished Student Leaders—two student recognition programs that are designed to guide students in taking their leadership to the next level.

Emerging Student Leader Program—Middle Level

The Emerging Student Leader program identifies middle level student leaders who have made significant strides in developing their leadership skills and have shown a willingness to continue improving. More than an award, the program is designed to help cultivate middle level leaders early in their academic careers—ultimately improving the culture of student councils, creating role models for other students, and helping student council members far beyond their middle level years into high school and postsecondary education.

The program provides students and advisers with a set of criteria that identifies basic knowledge, skills, and behaviors that foster leadership development in early adolescents. Students demonstrate their growth and provide a personal account of their experiences by answering a series of reflection questions. Advisers are encouraged to work with students during the application process, administering guidance by introducing the skill criteria (including leader skills, listener skills, and writing skills), evaluating students using the criteria checklist, and providing affirmation for those who meet the criteria to be recognized at the Recognition Programs That Foster Leadership Development Developmental or Emerging Student Leader levels. Visit to download the criteria checklist and learn more.

Distinguished Student Leader Program—High School

Designed for students at the high school level, the Distinguished Student Leader program identifies outstanding student council leaders who have completed a variety of tasks focused on building leadership knowledge and improving skills. Students keep a record of their activities and achievements in a personal leadership portfolio to demonstrate their fulfillment of the program criteria. This portfolio also provides a valuable record when students are applying for scholarships or college.

As an adviser, your role is to support the students as they work through the program and build their portfolios, sign off and provide verification as students complete tasks and activities for their portfolios, affirm that the students have met the requirements upon evaluation of the student’s portfolio, and write letters of recommendation to the national office. Visit to learn more.

Through the Emerging Student Leader and Distinguished Student Leader programs, NatStuCo recognizes student leaders at all levels for the important strides they’re making on their leadership development journey.