Female Leadership Speaks on West’s Supportive Environment


Riley Keiter, Writer

High school is one the first opportunities to take on serious leadership positions. For decades, many of these positions were held by the male students, especially on sports teams or in clubs like Student Council. At West, however, there are numerous female leaders in different activities. For example, Student Council President and senior Lauren Mehnert  presides over council meetings and projects. 

 “As Student Council President, my job is essentially to be the voice and image for the students,” Mehnert said. “My main goal is to represent them and to task the officers with solving and responding to their concerns. I am simply the ‘guider’ of the council, and I work to provide the representatives with tools and knowledge they need to complete these tasks.”

In athletics, senior Holly Barney takes over and leads the soccer team during practice and games.

“One of my biggest expectations and responsibilities as an elected leader is to always set an example for the players who are around me, and truly show them what West is about and what the soccer program is about,” Barney said. “Every player should be the first one on the field and the last one off and know the type of work effort our program entails in it.”

These women have drastically different jobs, but both encounter the hardships that naturally come with leadership.

“One of the hardest parts of being a leader is making sure that you are always being the person that people should look up to and setting the right example,” Barney said. “Always giving your best effort, being vocal, taking initiative, getting good grades, being active in your community, etc. etc. It can, at times, be hard to check off each expectation for yourself, yet also gives me a goal to always strive for.”

These women, and many others, are able to cultivate good leadership. Some say Olathe West served as a good environment for them.

I think when I was younger, I wasn’t as aware of how meaningful it was that there was equal or majority female representation in leadership positions at West,” said junior Emily Yan, Student Council Secretary and Captain of the Scholar’s Bowl. “I wasn’t consciously thinking about that when I started pursuing more leadership responsibilities, but in the past couple of years I’ve definitely become more conscious of our society’s gender gap in leadership. I’m glad that I’ve been able to get a lot of leadership experience during high school, and I’m grateful that our school has given me all these opportunities!”

Yan also set an example academically as she received a perfect score on her ACT. 

Senior Summer Sperke, who won the Blue Star award for Stage Management of last year’s musical Xanadu, also says that a specific community at West has helped her development. As a stage manager in many theatrical productions at West, she’s already cemented a place in that department.

“Theatre is one of the most accepting communities,” Speke said. “Because it’s so accepting, you feel able to explore your different leadership styles. Through the past examples of mentors and alumni, you can really pick and adapt to any leadership style you wish. Having a woman Director I believe makes coming into a leadership position a much more welcoming experience.”

Lauren Menhert says that students before her also paved the road to female leadership.

“I think it is really interesting how many women have become president of the Student Council here at West,” Mehnert said. “Our very first StuCo president was a woman, and then I was the third, and next year we are going to have another all-female executive board. I honestly think women are drawn to this position because they have seen other women do it. I was inspired by Anna, the first president, and I think the other girls have been inspired by myself and my other executive board members to run.”

This practice in leadership at the high school level could also lead to greater leadership in the future, says Mehnert.

“If women can become leaders in the school, that is going to give them so much more confidence to become leaders later in life,” Mehnert said. “Leadership builds confidence–something many women (and men) lack.”

These juniors and seniors also serve as role models for the current underclassmen and incoming freshmen.

Try new things, talk to new people, reflect, really dig deep and get to know yourself,” said Mehnert. “Because the way to be seen as a leader is through confidence, and to be confident you have to know yourself. So learn your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, and use those to build the best version of yourself. High school is about going out of your comfort zone–so do that! And these ‘higher positions’ will find you.”