Muslim woman working in home office.

Over 5,000 student leaders, advisers, and activity leaders participated in the first-ever virtual National Student Council Conference, which took place July 22–24, 2020. By offering this unique leadership experience for free and online, the virtual event was more accessible than ever before to student leaders from all backgrounds and locations. For the first time, the National Student Council Conference welcomed participants from all 50 states, five U.S. territories, and 25 countries—spanning four different continents.

The virtual sessions opened on Wednesday, July 22, with a keynote from Carlos Ojeda Jr., a former university administrator, professor, and small business center director who now focuses his energy on empowering students. Through his dynamic and engaging session, he inspired students to think about how “your voice is your power.”

After that, there was a “Getting to Know You” virtual mixer that allowed attendees from around the globe to interact. Small breakout groups facilitated easier discussion and created opportunities for real connections— which past attendees of the in-person conference cited as one of their biggest takeaways.

One of the highlights on Thursday, July 23, was a session on learning how to lead necessary but tough conversations in schools and communities. The session addressed Black Lives Matter and how ignoring those uncomfortable or difficult topics leads to difficult situations in the future. This can be especially challenging when talking with people who don’t necessarily agree, but it’s an important skill to develop as a leader. Attendees were active and engaged in the comments, and the students maintained an educational and respectful tone with each other.

This was followed by a keynote session from Rosalind Wiseman, bestselling author of Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World—the book that was the basis for the movie and Broadway musical “Mean Girls.” In her session, she discussed the differences between respect and dignity (respect is earned, dignity is given) and the importance of treating people with dignity even if they haven’t earned your respect.

Friday, July 24, featured a keynote session from Shaun Derik, a speaker and performing artist who has dedicated his life to helping people reconnect with their passion and go after their dreams. He engaged with students using TikTok videos and encouraged leaders to consider how they will be remembered.

Over all three days, advisers and students engaged with one another both in the virtual conference platform and on social media. The hashtags #NatStuCo20, #WhyStuCo, #StuCoPride, and #StuCoMakingHistory allowed people to express their reactions to the conference, tell why they joined student council, show off their student council pride, and share how they’ve made changes in their communities.