15 Leadership Activities for High School Students

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As leaders, teens can learn, collaborate, and grow. But leadership skills don’t just appear overnight, young people need the right outlets to develop them. These 15 ideas for high school activities can help them discover new hobbies, expand on their interests, and become amazing leaders.

Taking on a leadership role can be incredibly empowering, but as the expression goes, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. High school is a wonderful time to start a transformative journey that could shape their lives for years to come. 

Leadership activities for teens

To get things started, talk with your teen about their interests. There’s no question that leaders assume a lot of responsibility, and these responsibilities are a lot easier to shoulder if they’re doing something they love! That could be sports, STEM, the arts: there are possibilities for just about any hobby or extracurricular activity.

That said, high school is a wonderful time to audition for a play, even if they’ve never set foot on stage or try coding even if they’re a total newbie. Branching out can be very rewarding as well! (You can apply that same thinking to high school elective courses as well.)

So, check out these 15 ideas, encompassing both specific organizations and broad categories alike for launching leadership in high school and beyond. 

1. Future Business Leaders of America

Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) is a nationwide organization and competition that focuses on business, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills. Teens can learn about real-world business principles and take on competitive challenges. Through FBLA, teens can lead their competition teams and even win scholarship opportunities. 

2. National Honor Society & National Merit Scholars

These organizations challenge high-achieving scholars to engage with their communities in meaningful ways. Both National Honor Society and National Merit Scholars combine leadership with academics in ways teens won’t find in the classroom alone. 

3. FIRST Robotics

Like sports teams, robotics teams provide ample opportunities for competition, hard work, and learning to work together towards a common goal. FIRST Robotics is one of many national organizations that encourage teens to bring their STEM skills into a thrilling arena. Read more about joining a robotics team here

4. Volunteer work

Nothing can inspire teens like a worthy cause. Talk with your teen about how they’d like to get involved with an advocacy organization. Volunteering can help change the world and expand a young person’s horizons in very meaningful ways. 

5. National STEM Honors Society

Yes, there’s an honors society just for STEM! National STEM Honors Society engages students with year-round enrichment, competitions, and ample opportunities to become a STEM leader within their communities.

6. Student publications

Whether it’s a school newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, or YouTube channel, student publications offer plenty of opportunities for kids to take a lead. If your child loves the written word, getting involved with their high school’s writing-centric extracurriculars is a great idea. 

7. Sports

Team captains and managers take on a tremendous leadership role. From building morale to developing strategy, organizing logistics, and so much more on and off the field, athletics are a tried and true way to build leadership and character. 

8. Community engagement 

Community organizations come in all shapes and sizes. Groups centered on the arts, the environment, politics, or a religious community can make a major impact. And by contributing to that impact, teens can show how they care for important issues. 

9. Jobs and internships

There are some lessons that can only be learned in the working world. By adding a job or internship to their resume, teens show they can take the lead with real-world responsibilities. Especially if your teen can demonstrate getting promoted or taking on more complex duties, having job experience on their resume could give them a real boost in applying for that dream college or internship. 

10. STEM competitions

On the local, regional, and national scale, STEM competitions provide techie enthusiasts with the chance to lead, practice teamwork, and innovate. If you’re ready to jump in, check out our comprehensive list of 2022 STEM competitions

11. Student government 

It’s a classic for good reason! To succeed in student government, teens need to practice public speaking, developing a platform, and motivating others to achieve mutual goals. And if this appeals to your student, they might also love Model UN, government on a grander, global scale.

12. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts

These organizations offer a wealth of different leadership opportunities in the outdoors, in their communities, and in honing a wide variety of skills. The Girl Scouts Gold Award and Eagle Scout status, the two highest accolades the organizations offer, speak volumes about the leadership skills participants have built over many years, and they give kids something to work towards!

13. Visual and performing arts

Whether it’s from the director’s chair, with a curator’s eye, or a choreographer’s moves, there are plenty of leadership opportunities in the arts. If your teen loves to perform, they can grow other talents in helping bring a creative vision to life. 

14. Cultural and language-oriented organizations

Connecting with other cultures is a wonderful way to broaden teens’ perspectives. This can be done through food, language, the arts, travel and many other avenues. Involvement in cultural organization can be indicative of a young person’s ability to step outside of their comfort zone, a key quality in a great leader.

15. Speech, debate, and mock trial

If your child dreams of a career in a courtroom or from behind a podium, these types of extracurricular activities might be a great fit. Not only can public speaking, debate, and mock trial be a team-based competition, success in any of these activities requires a high level of planning and teamwork. 

Leadership means lifelong learning

Good leaders are very knowledgeable. Great leaders never stop learning. That’s half the fun of getting involved with enrichment activities! 

As your high school student grows as a leader, there are endless opportunities to learn from others, about the world around them, and even about themselves. And as they prepare for college, careers, and more, that mindset can be even more valuable than impressive additions to their resume! 

A photo of Virginia

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains.