A vacancy in the position of sophomore senator needs to be filled. It’s a potential pedestal for someone new to the Shorewood leadership scene to get involved. Erik Ertsgaard sees an opportunity. He applies and wins the position. This is the start of his three years in the leadership program.
During sophomore and junior year, Ertsgaard served as a senator. In last year’s ASB election process he ran for the treasurer position, but lost the race. So, in the subsequent class officer election, Ertsgaard decided to run for senior class president.
“I wasn’t confident that I would win the class president election, but I thought I could serve the class devotedly so I gave it a shot,” he said.
Ertsgaard won the position and set about accomplishing his goals of representing and motivating the senior class. His first big task was helping organize the homecoming assembly.
“First I tried to organize the other senior class officers and have them take on responsibilities. I helped with the freshman class name reveal and I checked in on people to make sure that they were doing alright emotionally,” Ertsgaard said.
His more public leadership occured at senior class meetings.
“During class meetings I utilitze the opportunity to contact the class to spread some kindness and some joy during the day while also giving out information,” he said.
Although Ertsgaard had a few responsibilities at the beginning of the year, most of his role as senior class president took place at the end of the year with prom and graduation. Due to COVID-19, both of these events have been delayed for the foreseeable future. With these events put on hold, Ertsgaard has struggled to keep leading.
“I’ve tried, but there’s no guidebook on how to lead people during a pandemic. I wrote a letter to the class on the class Instagram and I thought that was pretty successful. I think leadership is going to continue to do things like that.”
He says that it’s especially hard because he is at home, isolated from other class members.
“My work is done in my living room and the TV is a distraction,” Ertsgaard said.
While attempting to connect with students through the class social media outlets, Ertsgaard has tried to influence others in a more personal way: character strong.
“I was contacted by Houston Kraft to be a character dare ambassador. Character dare ambassadors complete character dares, which are these little tasks related to the eight essentials: honesty, kindness, patience, commitment, forgiveness, humility, selflessness, and respect, every week. Then, ambassadors tell their Instagram followers what it was like to complete these tasks and why they should do them,” he said.
Though he is trying to connect with classmates in quarantine, Ertsgaard, in hindsight, wishes that he could use the pre-COVID senior meetings to celebrate and bring together the senior class.
“I wish we had some meetings where we emphasized how lucky we were to be in school, celebrating our senior year and spending time with each other. Even just recognizing this as our last semester and influencing people to make more connections and say more goodbyes,” he said.
In the absence of such an event, Ertsgaard acknowledges that seniors could distance themselves from high school and start thinking about college, but he says that they should take some time to remember Shorewood.
“My advice right now is to just think about all the things that you are missing whether that be prom, graduation, and the last goodbyes that you will have. Most of them are about connecting with your fellow seniors, underclassmen, and teachers. So try to get a little bit of that experience back. Try to get some of those connections back. I know it’s hard right now because none of these connections will be physical. They all have to be online or through the mail. But, I would encourage you to email or write a letter to that one teacher that you loved all throughout high school who influenced you, or that friend you can always go to give you advice or cheer you up, or even just those friends who aren’t in your circle right now but are still great people that you want to stay in touch with.”