Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, or risk that you have taken and its impact on you.

High school student government is a microcosm of American politics: a group of elected officials makes decisions that will affect and hopefully benefit their peers. They represent the larger student body, and therefore play an extremely integral part of each class’s future. By the spring of my junior year, I no longer wanted to be an outsider looking in; I wanted to be a part of the collective group making the decisions. My high school had given so much to me: an education, a group of friends, and memories I will remember forever, and I felt it imperative that I do something to help my class. The way that I felt I could be the most beneficial to my classmates was to lend my unique viewpoint to the student council, which is why I chose to run for senior class vice president.

I didn’t run just for the sake of it, I rand because I thought I could win and do a better job than the incumbent; the same guy who had held the position all three previous years and had his sights set on a political future. In spite of this, I believed the class could relate better to me than the incumbent vice president, as I had friends in various social circles that gave me a much more diverse outlook on my class’ needs.

I knew that I needed an innovative campaign strategy, and that the basic “vote for me and I’ll get you whatever you want” route wouldn’t be enough. I knew that having a memorable speech would be imperative to success, as it was my one chance to directly address the entire class. I led off the speech with my favorite joke, and was honest with my classmates encouraging their votes. I had worn a number of shirts with different messages on them, and, as I went through my speech, I’d take one off to reveal a new message. When I reached the last shirt with a huge money symbol on it (symbolizing the increased revenue I was promising the class) my friends interspersed in the audience launched monopoly money into the air on cue. The next day I came in early to school once and painted a giant chalk “ASA for VP” sign in the parking lot. I chronicled all of this on a website I created, and all of my campaign posters directed any interesting students to the site, which ended up hosting a heated debate between my opponent and myself. After 400 votes in the site’s mock poll, I was in a dead heat with my main competitor. That poll, however, was a lesson in statistical anomalies: I won the 4-person race with over 60% of the vote.

The process not only allowed me to have some say in the direction of the class, but enabled me to become a better person. I have since gained more confidence in myself knowing that I have the support of the majority of my classmates. There are few better feelings than walking down a hall and having someone you have never met say “congratulations on the win”. My dad’s mantra that hard work beats natural ability was proven, when my tireless campaigning showed real results. I also learned to take responsibility for my actions, as now I still have to follow through on those promises and reward the people who believed in me.

As John Kerry said in the 2000 Presidential election, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Up until I ran for vice president, I had been just another student on the sideline, having the decisions made for me. My goal was to get involved, make a difference, and give back to the school that had given me so much, and in doing so I learned a great deal. When the election concluded, I had learned a vital lesson about the importance of being an individual, setting goals, and working hard to achieve those goals.

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