Leadership Scholarship Awards recipient’s essays

Layla Hindiyeh | Zaneera Maryam | Taylor O’Connor | Danielle Stockhofer | Sarah Hack | Grace Regan

Layla Hindiyeh

Societies around the world have thrived due to the courage and determination of individuals that take charge, often leading others to change. Tawakkol Karman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rachel Carson are all examples of renowned leaders around the world. However, some of the most successful leaders do so without recognition. Whether it be for peace, politics, or environmental factors; individuals who strive to enrich their field of interest become successful leaders. Being a leader in not only a title, but an active response to ensure change and benefit to others. As quoted by Jody Williams, “words without action are irrelevant.” To me, being a leader means taking the next step beyond what is expected, and not stopping when the job is finished, rather continuing until no more can be done.

Leaders do not lead because they have to, but because they want to. Personal desire to lead others to success and happiness always overpowers those who lead for greed. It is apparent that those who lead groups with passion and charisma have a deep level of connection with whatever task they are motivated to accomplish. Compassion creates successful leaders. Without compassion, leaders herd a pack with no destination. With compassion, leaders lead the pack to destination after destination. Successful leaders never quit when they reach their destination, yet keep looking forward to the future, where to go next.

Successful leaders are only as successful as their peers around them. Businesses and workplaces that succeed and thrive the most are the ones which have a strong foundation, built upon leaders that they can endow their faith and trust in. When higher level employers take the opportunity to connect with their workers, it creates a sense of unity within the workplace. This ensures that common goals are to be reached and mishaps do not occur. Leaders who create bonds with workers not only have healthy relationships with their peers, but also make sure that operations run properly and smoothly. Without approachability, leaders do not have the support needed to be flourishing in their field. Although well renowned and known all over the world, Tawakkol Karman proved to be an approachable individual, a positive attribute of successful leaders as herself.

In November, at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, I was granted the opportunity to meet one of the most renowned leaders in the world today; Tawakkol Karman.  Tawakkol Karman was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her efforts in non-violent struggle directed towards women’s rights and safety. Karman is known as the “Mother of the Revolution” for playing a leading role in the effort for women’s rights and democracy in Yemen. She believes that it is impossible for democracy to be achieved and lasting peace to occur in the world if women do not obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments within all levels of society. Karman continues to work to empower women and children to allow them to be viewed as equals among men, influencing women and children, offering insights, reflections, and hope from her experiences in the field.   

At the summit, Karman spoke about several controversial topics, proving that leaders have to take risks to stand up for what they believe in, a trait that all successful leaders have. A controversial topic that Karman breeched was female and youth rights. Coming from an Islamic background it was easy for me to relate to the prejudices that are often formulated against Muslims. People often crack jokes about Muslims when I am present, not knowing that I come from an Islamic family. The opinions that people formulate against Muslims are often biased and untrue, making the whole Islamic population come off as unwanted. Tawakkol wore her hijab with pride and spoke of her beliefs because it is who she is and she was not willing to change because of false information that is spread. In today’s society, Muslim women are often considered insubordinate to men. She made it clear that we are all human, with the same bones, eyes, and flesh. Her voice of equality for all was personally inspiring and moving. Although she spoke about a controversial topic it made me feel swollen with pride for my heritage and all women around the world. She stood in front of a group of students and strongly voiced her opinions because they are what she stands for. She gave me courage to stand up for what I believe in, because what others think is irrelevant to the morally correct thing to do. Karman enriched my perspective regarding the importance of female empowerment and for that I will always consider her one of my role models. Successful leaders not only stand up for what they believe in, but empower others in the process, which is something that Karman clearly did for me.

Successful leaders create impacts that are everlasting. However, not all successful leaders are renowned and well known. I find leadership in my teacher Ms. Bryant, an adult that has taught me to strive for success and always push myself passed expectations. I find leadership in my mother, who guides me to success every day, helping my family of five stick together like glue and work together as a single unit. Leaders are universally found around the world, although they are not all recognized. Yet, the beauty of being a successful leader is doing what you love because you are compassionate about it, not because you wish for the fame and recognition that comes with it. The most successful leaders are often the ones who do not credit themselves with success, when they are the ones that deserve it the most.


Zaneera Maryam

Throughout history, there have been many different types of leaders; some have been successful and some have been unsuccessful.  The characteristics and qualities that make a leader a successful one include, but are not limited to, honesty, strength, thoughtfulness, open mindedness, confidence, transparency, and dedication. All of these qualities are essential because they help a person not only lead but inspire others as they lead.    

A leader should be honest to his people because people trust him. No matter what happens, a good leader should tell his people the truth because they are his responsibility. It will make people open up and tell their problems so they can be solved. If a leader cannot solve the problems of his people then he is not a good leader because people choose someone as a leader because they believe that he will be able to solve their problems and protect them.

A successful leader should also be strong and protective so that he or she can guide people and also protect them from any enemies. If a leader is not powerful enough to protect the people then there is no point of giving him responsibilities. However, a leader should not use power against people by forcing them to obey or follow laws which are not in their favor and are inhumane.

A leader should also be thoughtful and try to understand what people want and need and then try to do as much as possible to help them out. Communication is really important because it is an effective way to spread good ideas and to come up with real solutions.  It is also necessary for a ruler to convey his or her ideas to everyone.  This helps the people understand what he or she is doing and gives them the opportunity to express if they agree or disagree. If people disagree, then the leader should have patients and be willing to listen and think about the views and input of the people.

It is important for a leader to keep his or her words. If he or she says one thing and then does another thing, then it means he or she is not being honest and does not care about what people think of him. A ruler should remember that power he is given is by people and if it is misused then the people can take it away  A leader also has be confident about what he or she does because if a leader does not believe in themselves then no one else will.

There have been many great women who moved out of their comfort zone to lead and make their countries a better country.  One in particularly was Indira Gandhi. She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian’s first prime minister, and was the first woman to be an Indian prime minister. She led the green revolution in India to help reduce unemployment, hunger and poverty. She invited Pakistani president to India, for a weeklong stay, where they signed the Shimla agreement in which both countries decided to resolve the Kashmir conflict by peaceful means. Her work led to the creation of a new and independent nation, Bangladesh.

Indira had all of the qualities a leader should have. She thought about her peoples’ problems and also took actions to solve them. She also helped resolve the problem of another nation by accepting 10 million Pakistani refugee who escaped from the marauding Pakistani army. She completed all of the responsibilities she was given and was a hero for Indians for quite a long time and was also awarded as Bangladesh’s highest state honor 40 years later.

Although I have not yet accomplished the types of things Indira has, I think I am also a good leader because I am committed to my work and fulfill all of my responsibilities. I tutor students in math to help them get a better grade and understand what they struggle with. My responsibilities as a tutor are to make sure my tutees realize what their strengths and weaknesses are so I can help them work on them. Also I have to make sure that they are able to communicate with me and tell me what they do not understand or if they do not agree with what I say. It is really important to explain what you think because I believe knowledge grows as it is being shared. I encourage them to ask questions so their misunderstandings are being cleared and they can learn new things while remembering what they learned previously. There have been many great leaders who have worked day and night to make sure that those they lead are content and getting what they deserve.  I aspire to be this type of leader now, when in college and when in my career as a doctor.


Taylor O’Connor

We have all heard the saying “Be a leader, not a follower.” But what exactly makes someone a leader? Can a person be trained to become one? Do you have to be born with the characteristics? In this essay, the traits of a successful leader will be considered and may leave you questioning whether you’re the head of the pack or simply falling in line.

By definition, to lead means to be in charge or in command of. What are the qualities needed in order for someone to be a leader? Let’s start off with self-awareness. An effective leader must be able to separate themselves from their colleagues. Not in a manner that suggests they are better than others, but in a way that allows them to form- and keep a unique perspective. Another characteristic that a persuasive leader should possess is the ability to make swift decisions with confidence. These decisions should most likely have a positive impact on the group as a whole. They must be able to put the entire organization’s best interest first and realize that not all choices being made will satisfy everyone. Leaders must be accountable and reliable. Often, people will be reliant on the head of the group to make tough decisions and keep everything on track.

The next characteristic to be focused on is persuasiveness. One of the strongest and youngest female leaders in the world is Malala Yousafzai. This young woman was shot in the head because she was receiving and education. Now, she is a spokesperson and human rights advocate for the education of women. Ms. Yousafzai’s story was horrifying but she took advantage of the opening. She was able to use the tragic shooting as a platform for women’s rights and education. She even won the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala Yousafzai is a truly inspiring individual and her persuasiveness is only one of the many traits that make her an outstanding leader.

I have never been a very outgoing person. I’m certainly not a “born leader”. I would definitely like to change this though. I have a disorder called Trichotillomania. People who suffer from this condition pull out their hair as a result of overwhelming emotions. In 2013, I went to a Trichotillomania Learning Center Conference. The TLC organization provides a very useful support system. Using their website can connect you to a network of other people who have Trich. At that conference I met Miss North Carolina, A.K.A., Josie Sanctis. She was one of the most down to earth people I have ever met. As it turns out, Ms. Sanctis has the same disorder as I have. She was using our condition as a platform for running in the pageant. In doing so, she was able to educate thousands of people (including doctors) on what Trich is and how to treat it. Josie showed true leadership skills. She was able to project her own private matter to an entire nation and educate people on a vulnerable subject.

Being in touch with your feelings plays a big role in leadership. To be a leader, one must be able to deal with tons of stress and frustration in a healthy way. Many people believe that vulnerability in the work place is always a bad thing. This is not necessarily true. You should be aware of your emotions and be able to realize when you need to take a step back. A leader should be focused and confident- but also open to the ideas of others. Optimism is a good quality to have if you want to become a leader. The reason behind this is that people will often view you as more approachable. You want to be seen as a person that people can talk to. It is always good to radiate positive energy, especially if you want to be the person who everyone trusts and relies on.   

Healthy communication is a vital piece of all relationships, whether you’re in the work place or any other setting. If you want to be on top, you must have stellar communication skills. Sending brief and direct messages will help avoid miscommunication. Miscommunication can frequently occur though, which may create a more hostile environment. This is clearly not helpful to continuing the progress previously made. Lastly, you must show a certain passion for what you are doing. It is likely that if the head of the group is unenthusiastic about the task at hand, then everyone else will be too. You must stay engaged in the activity as well as keeping your team interactive. All of the great leaders throughout history care deeply about their work.

Overall, being a leader is a crucial part of society. It takes will, determination, hard work and of course, dedication. A leader should be supported but not afraid to stand alone. To be successful in leadership, one should be empowering and motivating- building up the confidence of others instead of tearing it down. After reading this, there should only be two questions left. Are you the leader or a follower? Is that who you want to be?        


Danielle Stockhofer

By definition a leader is someone who leads or commands a group, organization, or a country. They are someone who others can learn from and someone who sets positive examples but is also willing to make sacrifices for family, friends, and the community. Although many women throughout history have proven to be successful leaders, there are some closer to home that have directly impacted my life. Whether it is my mother, my teachers or my fellow peers, I notice an amazing group of women who show leadership qualities.

The first quality of a successful leader is the ability to help. My mother is a truly remarkable woman whom I admire greatly. For 14 years of my 15 year life she has been the leader of my household. As a single parent she always tried her hardest to give my brother and I the best lives possible. On top of her parenting obligations she takes care of her own parents. My grandmother, her mother, was diagnosed with dementia in 2014. Every day is something new to worry about. My mother is someone who people look up to. She has taught me the importance of helping those around us and sacrificing free time for the benefit of others. In more ways than one my mother reminds me of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa always worked to help the people everywhere. She led a revolution of change by helping so many people. In the duration of her life, she worked to help children by supporting orphanages, soup kitchens, and schools. Not only did she help children but she worked with those who had HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Another very important piece to being a successful leader is being able to speak for not only you but for others when they can’t. It sends a powerful message when someone is able to stand up for the wrong doing they see and speak up to cause a positive change. An example of someone who has taught me a lot about speaking out for the things I believe in is our Kingston High School Psychologist, Ms. Coleman. While she took on the leadership of our Girls Inc. group, she taught everyone to speak out for the things that we are most passionate about. This caused us to work harder on our project in school against teen dating violence. As a group we decided that speaking out for the most common problems we see at our school, the more people hear about it, the more likely they areto re-evaluate any unhealthy relationships they have formed and work towards building healthy ones. A famous icon I wanted to use as an example is Michelle Obama. Her campaign of #bringbackourgirls made a world of a difference; it got out the word of unfortunate crisis, but it also helped others to express concern by using the hashtag and sparking up intellectual conversation about it. First lady Michelle Obama, also expresses her concern for girls who are unable to get a school education. She used the campaigns Let Girls Learn and Girl Up to spread her message about why our education can also make a world of a difference.

Unfortunately for sacrifice, another characteristic of a successful leader, no one close to home came to mind. However, there is a plethora of historical females to cover the topic. The first one that comes to mind is Rosa Parks. She sacrificed so much more than time or a reputation, she sacrificed her life. Rosa was not only standing up for racial equality but she also set an important example for women. She, along with other powerful leaders, caused changes that we as a nation needed to see. This resulted in her being a leader of a movement on diversity. Rosa Parks is a very important part of our history that will be taught in schools for many years to come. Another successful leader that came to mind was Harriet Tubman, which coincidentally was another female working to achieve racial equality. In her lifetime she helped many slaves gain their freedom. She led her fellow slaves to a better life. Once again, she set an example that will live on forever.

The most important characteristics of a successful leader are the abilities to help, speak, and sacrifice. A successful leader is one who is willing to put ambition and time into the things that they are most passionate about. Those who work hard and set positive examples for positive change are the ones who do their job best. These are a few of the leaders we should strive the hardest to be. As I mentioned previously, my mother, and my schools’ psychologist are the ones that have directly impacted my life. I believe that having these role models around me have really improved my school grades, my home life and relationships among my friends. Leaders and role models are something that everyone needs to steer them in the right direction.


Sarah Hack

A leader is someone that has a vision, a drive and dedication to pursue the vision, and the knowledge and resources to carry out the vision.  Successful leaders have all different beliefs and means of achieving influential power.  However, all successful leaders have many shared characteristics.  Triumphant leaders have goals for their community, nation, or world.  Without a goal, their stances would wander and would be ineffective.  Leaders are knowledgeable, as they must have the internal capacity to deal with the difficult situations that come their way.  Successful leaders take a stand and don’t back off from their visions of change.  Arguably to most important characteristic all successful leaders possess is adequate communication.  The best leaders motivate and inspire others through clear communication.  A leader sets a path and inspires others to follow.  The path must be direct and comprehensible or else others will turn hesitant.  Leaders must be trustworthy and able to listen to what others need or believe should be done.  Strong leaders are transparent, meaning they don’t hold anything back from their intended followers and listeners.  Followers start questioning their leader when they believe the leader is purposely holding information back from them.  Successful leaders live their lives focused on achieving their goals of bettering the community and the people they have so much influence over.  They don’t try to act fake along the way to upgrade or maintain their reputation.

Malala Yousafzai is a social leader, fighting for equal educational opportunities for all.  She is the mirror image of an effective, influential leader.  Malala Yousafzai changes the lives of girls all over the world, every day.  She became a laureate by fighting for girls’ education and rights as a teenager, and continues today.  Not only did she change her own life by getting an education, she changed the lives of many other young girls by inspiring them to continue their own education, even when people did not support them.  Even after she was shot, Malala and her family continued their advocacy work for education.  In Pakistan and many Middle Eastern countries, female education is not widely accepted.  Her stories make young girls appreciative of the fact that they can go to school without being questioned, and walk from the bus stop to their house after school without fears that they will be shot at. 

Malala is a leader by example.  The influences her actions have had on other young girls are astounding.  Malala took a stand and became a representative of her beliefs by continuing to attend school on a daily basis when the governing powers deemed it illegal to do so.  The Taliban closed numerous schools throughout the Pakistan’s Swat Valley.  The Taliban would take extreme measures to show their dominance and be sure that their rules are being followed.  Many schools and communities were bombed in order to establish control.  During this time of noncompliance with the Taliban, Malala courageously spoke out about her situation and the changes she hoped to make to her school system.  She spoke on the radio, on television, and to journalists.  She wanted everyone to hear her message.  The issue quickly escalated beyond just revolting against the Pakistan education system.  Malala brought attention to the issue and other advocates arose from all around the world.  There have been numerous young teenagers taking the stand against their government in order to fight for equal educational rights for both genders.  Malala allowed others to ponder on what they too could do single handedly to make the world a better place. 

Leaders often get caught up in their aspirations and future actions that they abandon the depth and heart they had when they began their endeavors.  Malala has kept the meaning behind her actions.  She practices effective communication skills and always references her own life in her influential speeches.  And Malala doesn’t just tell her story to gain recognition and honor. She does it to make others think about their own lives and influence them to support a cause bigger than her.

It is easy for leaders and people of great influence to try to act superior to their community.  But Malala genuinely cares about what she is talking about.  She acts like herself and does not try to put on a show.  Malala appropriately exposes different characteristics at different times.  It depends on the situation and the topic at hand.  She adds humor when she needs to lighten up the discussion and she portrays earnestness when she is trying to getting into others’ hearts and souls. 

Malala has two other characteristics that are essential to be a successful leader: authenticity and the ability to listen.  Malala’s authenticity allows others to feel safe sharing their struggles and hopes for the future.  Malala doesn’t just assume what others in a similar situations need.  She actually asks and listens to their requests closely.  Recently, Malala met with some Syrian refugees housed in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.  There were no schools for the refugees to attend.  Instead of just assuming what they needed and wanted, she asked them.  The responses she received allowed her foundation, the Malala Fund, to direct their focus onto what was actually needed and desired.  The refugees asked for vocational training so that they could start working and developing new, and ever more prosperous, lives.  Without Malala’s leadership, many schools around the world would not be here today and thousands more children would be denied the right to a quality education.  Malala really took charge in reaching out to different communities and making a change in the way school systems work.  Her cause has grown larger than just fighting for the right for girls’ to attend school.

At the heart of successful leadership lies distinct goals, clear communication, authenticity, and heart.  And Malala Yousafzai embodies every essential quality required to hold successful leadership, allowing her to spread immense amount of inspiration to other young girls in similar situations.


Grace Regan

When someone says leader, a typical person pictures a man in a suit, but when I hear leader, I think of everything I aspire to be. So what is a leader? A leader is strong, well spoken, understanding, passionate, and able to connect and form relationships. This leader, this influential, world changing leader is a woman, she is me. That is the dream. This leader is future Grace Regan: CEO and changing the world. For now, I take my inspiration from female leaders and Nobel peace laureates Tawakkol Karman and Shirin Ebadi.
Ms. Tawakkol Karman and Ms. Shirin Ebadi are such powerful speakers who I had the privilege to meet last year. Speaking in another language, they both captivate the audience and keep them on the edge of their seats. Although one needed a translator to understand them, everyone, despite the language they spoke, could miss out on the passion and power behind their words. Both women have made phenomenal steps not just for women but all social groups who have been deprived of human rights. Ms. Karman, also known as “the mother of revolution” and “the iron woman,” is a mother, human rights activist, and politician. At about 26 years old, she formed the organization “Women Journalists without Chains,” an organization with the sole purpose of advocating for human rights and freedoms. Ms. Karman reached out across the globe bringing attention to her cause, organizing protests and revealing social injustices. Suffering through imprisonment on numerous occasions, Ms. Karman has not hesitated on her road to extraordinary change, equality and social justice for all. She is everything I imagine a leader to be; strong. Her work has not stopped. After winning her Nobel Peace prize, Karman graciously donated her $500,000 prize for winning the Nobel Peace Prize to the Aid Fund for Families of Martyrs and Wounded in the Peaceful Revolution and has continued traveling the world and fighting for the same injustices she did 15 years ago. Karman stays active in her Yemeni community, giving several scholarships to promising students and consistently speaking out against the Shia insurgency and Al-Qaeda. Tawakkol Karman takes substantial risks every time she steps in front of an audience. However, she knowingly takes these risks to stand up for human rights, speak for those with no voice; truly selfless- another amazing leadership quality.

Ms. Shirin Ebadi is very similar to Ms. Tawakkol Karman in many ways. She studied and worked hard for years to earn a spot in the Iranian Department of Justice and earn her law degree. She took a substantial step for Middle Eastern Women when she became the first woman in Iranian history to serve as a judge. Today she fights many national controversial cases including social justices and human rights. Much like Tawakkol Karman she is selfless and hardworking, and most importantly she is a leader who understands her people. She too can speak for those without a voice and she too has single handedly made the world a better place.

I’m not ready to change the world at 16 years old. I do however, try to be the leader of my dreams. I used to be the quiet girl in the back of the room but I have stepped up to be Student Body president of Kingston High school, Vice President of YMCA Leaders Club, Vice President of the Model United Nations club, and treasurer for the International Relations club. As student body president, I try to include the whole community, not just one social group. Everything I do as president I present to the whole school; whether it is to volunteer for community events such as Homecoming and winter carnival, or to come to weekly meetings and listen to and share concerns about our community. Since the start of 2016, Kingston High School has been running smoothly and I like to think I played a part in that. Once scared to raise my hand in class, I am now outspoken like a successful leader and speak in front of thirty to forty peers every week, only to present any and all concerns to the principal. I am a leader who makes change. I am a eader who stands up for those with no voice; today, Kingston High school, tomorrow, victims of human rights abuse.

Once again, hardworking, selfless, amicable, strong, well spoken, understanding, passionate, and able to connect and form relationships are the qualities of a successful leader. The list continues to grow because as times change, as hot topics evolve, a successful leader must evolve too. Facing revolution or unrest, it is important that a successful leader uses their friendships, connections, and amicability to continue connecting to their people. Assoon as a leader is out of touch with his or her people, they are done. A leader needs all these qualities because if all the gears are not in place, a wheel will not turn. To learn and to adapt are the keys to remaining a successful leader, but to become a successful leader, one must develop those qualities on their own for you cannot be a successful leader without putting a little work in first. I intend to be the leader of my dreams: ten years or twenty, I will step up and change the world. I will change the world as the successful leader of my dreams.