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Student Leadership Opportunities
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Jessica Gaffney, NYSOTA member, and OT Student at Gannon University, is the newest contributor to NYSOTA News. She is a stand-out student and a leader who is truly forging her own path. We are excited to share Jessica's ideas on taking initiative and creating your own leadership opportunities.


How to Create Your Own Leadership Opportunities as a Student
by Jessica Gaffney, OTS

Leadership roles within organizations are very important. They create structure for organizations and ensure responsibilities are taken on by specific individuals. The problem with leadership roles is that individuals within an organization believe they need a leadership "position" in order to be a leader. This creates a structure where a select handful of people make decisions, take all responsibility, and control how something works while the majority of members stand by and do not get very involved. It is so important to realize, especially as a student, that leadership does not always need to come with a position. Wonderful things can happen when members of an organization have ideas and take the initiative to make a vision a reality.

Here are some ideas for how students can create their own leadership opportunities within their occupational therapy programs without a leadership position:


  • Create your own volunteer experiences for an organization.
    If you have a passion within OT, but you don't see any way to get some hands-on experience within that setting or with that population, make a way! Reach out to your school's Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) or the Pi Theta Epsilon chapter and offer to make some calls to get a volunteer opportunity set up within your desired setting. You could ask to send an email out to all occupational therapy students at your school to inform them of the opportunity and get volunteers.

  • Organize a trip for your school.
    Have you always dreamed of going to the American Occupational Therapy Association's (AOTA) Conference and Expo? Or perhaps you have always thought attending a student conclave would be exciting. Just because your school has never done one of these trips does not mean it isn't possible. Talk to a professor or the director of your program to see if planning a trip is a possibility. You can be sure to make it clear that you and/or a small group of friends can take charge of fundraising and trip details. Sometimes student government associations may have money to support students attending conferences or events like these. Other trip ideas could include the NYSOTA conference, AOTA's Hill Day, or NYSOTA's Advocacy Day.

  • Write an article on something you are passionate about.
    Ask for it to be shared on a social media page for your program, your school, or a community organization. You never know who may be interested in sharing your message!

  • Check out AOTA student resources and pick something to get involved in.
    Share the idea with classmates or SOTA members to get others involved. You might consider promoting an event in your community such as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week or National Backpack Awareness Day.

  • Raise money for a cause that interests you.
    This could be an organization nearby that supports individuals with disabilities or mental health. You could also raise money to support advocacy efforts within professional organizations.


Leadership is having an idea and taking some initiative. If you are unhappy with the lack of opportunity you have had, don't wait for someone else to create that opportunity. Reach out and create it yourself! If you are always looking for an opportunity, you will always find one.

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