Editor’s note: The following guest post was written by Christian Knapp ’14, president and co-founder of the The Williston Political Awareness Club, one of the most successful student-run clubs on campus this year. The club regularly had more than 30 students in attendance and hosted debates on such topics as welfare reform, fracking, and inequality in public education. On Monday, May 19, Mr. Knapp presented his senior project, “The Next Big Thing for Clubs at Williston: The Unveiling of a New Resource that will Help Clubs for Decades to Come.”
By Christian Knapp ’14
According to political scientist Robert D. Putnam, the participation of American adults in civic organizations has been declining for decades. I believe civil society in high schools has faced a similar decline over the past few decades. We have no shortage of capable leaders and capable participants for student organizations. However, we do have a shortage of information to help students form and operate clubs. I have been unable to find a single book in the eight million volume Five College library system that provides thorough guidance for students who wish to run a student organization. To help fill this information gap, I completed a senior project over this past trimester that included a series of workshops on running student organizations at Williston. Additionally, I wrote a handbook titled How to Run a Successful Club.
For my workshops and my handbook, I drew upon my experience as the freshman class president, political club president, and founder and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper at my previous high school. As many Williston students will recognize when they read the handbook, I included many of the methods I used to make The Williston Political Awareness Club successful. I made countless mistakes in each of these organizations. It is my hope that this document will help student leaders avoid making the same mistakes that I made. In addition to my leadership experience, I conducted 17 interviews of students, faculty, and administration about their involvement with student organizations. Finally, I completed research in 22 books and scholarly articles, on topics ranging from leadership to marketing.