NatStuCo is committed to supporting students at all stages of their leadership journey and offers several programs that nurture their development. Be sure to build these programs into your school’s leadership curriculum so your students can earn recognition while they grow as leaders.

Emerging Student Leaders

The Emerging Student Leader program seeks to foster good leadership skills early by recognizing the strides middle level students make in developing themselves as young leaders. The program provides students and advisers with a set of criteria across eight categories that identifies basic knowledge, skills, and behaviors that cultivate leadership development in early adolescents. Students who complete four of the core categories earn the Emerging Student Leader—Developmental Level designation. Students who complete at least six of the categories can be declared an Emerging Student Leader.

The program challenges students to personalize their student council experience—and, ultimately, improve the culture of their student council—by striving to meet the criteria. Students who earn the designation build leadership skills and aspirations that will empower them to be effective student leaders in high school and beyond. Learn more about the program and download the skills checklist and reflection questions at

Distinguished Student Leaders

The NatStuCo Distinguished Student Leader program identifies outstanding high school student council leaders through its rigorous skill- and knowledge-based recognition program. Students must demonstrate their leadership knowledge and skill mastery by building a personal leadership portfolio that serves as a record of their achievements and commitment as a leader. The portfolio is also a valuable reference point when applying for college and scholarships.

This year’s process for the Distinguished Student Leader designation has been updated. A student council’s NatStuCo membership must be active, and any student applicant must have a student account that has been verified by their adviser in order to apply. The portfolio materials are submitted online through a new virtual application platform. Students who receive the designation will also get a verified digital badge that they can display on LinkedIn and other social platforms.

As you plan with your students, note that it can take the national office approximately three weeks to review and render its decision on portfolios. Those who would like to cite the Distinguished Student Leader honor on college and scholarship applications should take that time frame into consideration. Visit for more information. —