One of this year’s student leaders, Ruby Vidgen, has a keen interest in politics and a keener interest in people. She’s Year 13 at Nayland, and yet her skills in coordinating, communicating and leading others surpass many of those much older than her.
Ruby’s a member of the Model UN, Model Heads of Commonwealth, the Nayland Environment Sustainability Team (NEST), and the Circuit Journalism club. She also takes part in several community councils and boards. On top of schooling, this would be a heavy workload for anyone. But Ruby enjoys every minute of it. “Sometimes I leave things to the last minute – but ya know, pressure makes diamonds, that’s my favourite quote,” she joked.
Issues such as gender equity, climate change and mental health especially hit home for the young activist. She spends a lot of her own time trying to bring about change and make her voice heard. “I think I have a very strong sense of justice,” she said. “I have a lot of trouble with just sitting back and saying ‘oh I hate that that’s happening – oh well.’”
Leadership comes naturally to Ruby, but she’s found that leading for the sake of being a leader simply never works. “I feel that the best kind of leadership is the kind where you lead from the inside,” she said. “Where no one even knows that you’re leading. When it’s not about a role you’re playing or a title you’re given, it’s just about progress.”
“So many people do things for a photo in the newspaper, or to be holding the megaphone at a march,” she said. “And you need those people, but it’s important to know that your intentions are in the right place.”
“I’ve figured out that people respect you more if you stick by your beliefs than if you just drop everything and agree with them.”
For Ruby, persistence is her greatest weapon when it comes to creating positive change. “I don’t know that it’s a good thing, that I can’t get told no, but it’s worked for me so far,” she laughed. Building strong relationships is also incredibly important. “I’m definitely a people person,” she said. “I don’t really like sitting down and emailing people, I’d much prefer to go talk to them in person.”
Ruby firmly believes that a simple conversation can go far in mending conflict around tricky topics, and can develop shared understanding in its place. She stays true to her own opinions and ideas, but always strives to make sure she listens to what’s behind the views of other people.
“The minute you start getting caught in your little bubble filled with people who have the same opinion as you, that’s basically your own death – you’re not learning.”
By Student Journalist Maya Jayasena