Five Biggest Factors for a Successful Student-Led  Project

Over the last 5 years, I have spent a countless amount of hours working with some incredibly driven and motivated student leadership teams. Across all corners of the country, I have been amazed at the ideas that prefects, student representative councils and student leadership groups create to make an impact in their school community.

All too often, we at Burn Bright see student leadership teams who don’t achieve what they set out to do. It’s a teacher’s worst nightmare watching their student leaders who were once kicking goals with their ideas, now pretending that they don’t even remember creating them! On the flip side, the student leadership teams that succeed in implementing their projects have five things they do in common. Here they are: the five success factors for a student-led project.

1 – They Have a Common Vision

Vision is one of the most important aspects to ensure the success of any leader, no matter what the context. In a school leadership team, sharing a common vision must be the first place to start. Student leaders have so much capacity to drive change within their school communities but they need to be aligned on what that change will look like. Stephen Covey tells us to begin with the end in mind and that is exactly what I recommend to student leadership teams. The simplest question to ask is what does your school community look like at the successful completion of the vision? A team’s vision shouldn’t necessarily be the project they want to run but the reason as to why they are running it and who they are running it for. It is important with a vision that we get our heads out of the detail for a moment. A vision is a broader step up or a longer-term goal for the year ahead. It is important for the vision to be tangible so leaders can hold it in their head as they progress through their tenure.

2 – Less is More

Students need to understand that often less is more. I’ve heard some wild and crazy ideas and some of them are phenomenal on paper but when implemented, they turn out to be bigger than Ben Hur. It is often the simplest projects that have the biggest impact. Students are already stretched for time balancing exams, homework, extracurricular activities and family commitments. Leadership roles and responsibilities are often the first to drop off. Some of the most impactful and effective projects in a school community that I have seen, have been the simplest ideas on paper. 

3 – Think Through Every Possible Step

A new project or initiative can be very exciting and students can get swept up in the energy that has created. To ensure success, thinking through all the steps that might be involved in actually getting the project off the ground, not only helps with ensuring items are completed but will also help in getting approval for a project to run. 

For example, if a leadership team wants to run a bake sale to raise money for a charity, often the steps we see are 1) bake goods, 2) sell goods in playground 3) donate money to charity. When in fact the steps really need to include, writing a proposal, getting permission from the appropriate person, organising a day, time and location, who will be responsible for what, what will be baked, how do we deal with dietary requirements, where will the float and spare change come from, creating a roster for selling, baking the goods etc… you understand my point. 

Even one of the simpler projects has a lot of steps to go through to ensure success. Thinking through these steps, writing them into an action plan and being aware of who will complete each one before starting will exponentially increase the factors for success.

4 – Allocate Responsibility and Share the Load

Student leadership teams are an incredible opportunity to learn the art of leadership. One of the biggest lessons we can learn as leaders is how to delegate and keep others accountable. 

Once the team has thought through all the steps of the project, allocating people across the team to be accountable to a few of the steps each, allows the team to not only share the load, but also increases the likelihood of success. Together everyone achieves more and the reason we have leadership teams is not for one person to carry the burden but to share it amongst the team. For some students, this will require having to step back and trust the other members of their team and for others, it will require them to step up and understand what playing their part looks like. 

Use regular check-in meetings as an avenue to keep students accountable to the steps they have been allocated within the team.

5 – Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines

Allocating responsibility is one side of the coin and setting hard deadlines is the other. Having deadlines for each step of the project ensures the accountability of the team which I mentioned in Point 4. Every step in an action plan should have a deadline to help the student leadership team work towards the end goal. What has a deadline attached to it gets completed, while those things that don’t, end up just adding to a never-ending to-do list abyss for both students and teachers. 

From the start of the project in the inception and planning phase, ensure every step towards achieving the project has a deadline and has someone allocated to keep the team accountable to those deadlines.

Burn Bright partners with schools and their leadership teams to help them to build positive relationships, create a vision for the future and plan projects that have impact! See for more!


  • Get to know your team – know each others’ names, find common ground, build friendships
  • Communicate clearly
  • Lay the ground rules before you begin 
  • Listen to each other – make sure each person has a chance to voice opinions/thoughts/ideas
  • Allocate roles
  • Set deadlines
  • Be decisive 
  • Be open to new ideas – don’t shut ideas down. Hear them out even if you don’t agree with them
  • Identify strengths of individuals in the team and what they bring to the table 
  • Plan, plan and plan again 

Why projects fail:

  • Lack of a plan
  • A whole lot of vision and a lack of detail
  • When people don’t listen to each other
  • People who dominate the group
  • People don’t understand their role/aren’t allocated a role
  • People aren’t held accountable 
  • Teams don’t understand the personalities in the group – introverts and extrovert



Continue your student’s leadership or wellbeing journey with our digital programs. Specifically designed to be flexibly implemented into your wellbeing or leadership programs, these courses can be completed at any time in any place, providing a self-paced option for students to explore in class or on their own. These modules include individual student logins, a teacher dashboard to track student progress and lesson plans with follow up face to face resources.

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I found Burn Bright in the midst of studying civil engineering at the University of Wollongong, just as I wanted a richer, deeper, more full experience of life.

Through Burn Bright, I have met many students and volunteers who are all seeking to find their place in the world. When we come together at NLC or SLC, no matter our age, we begin on the same page, of wanting to do good for ourselves, our community, and the world. And then we are thrown into a program that brings us closer to each other, our purpose, and how to bring forth this impact. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

Volunteering with Burn Bright stoked a fire in me – It helped me feel comfortable in myself and made me realise life isn’t just about work, study, or productivity, but our relationships and how we connect with others along the way.

I have learned skills in videography, worked for a top-tier corporation in marketing, and most recently published a book called “18 and lost? So were we” 

I have a passion for storytelling, bring loads of energy wherever I go, and am dedicated to helping young people move through the initiation of leaving high school and going into the ‘real world’. 

The best part for me is being able to stay connected to the latest generation growing through high school. To see them grow, expand and express more of themselves is like watching an artwork paint itself. It’s magic.

I am Simon Thurston, a Kiwi based in Perth. I work as an Instructional Designer and in my spare time I enjoy reading, running, and board games.

Since my initial connection to Burn Bright I have been onboard with their mission. Burn Bright’s focus on building the capabilities enables students of all ages to see how they can shape their world through connections with others and their own self discovery.

Seeing others grow, learn, and open up is what keeps me coming back, to help others realise their potential and how they can influence their future and their community is a definite highlight. It’s infectious, the atmosphere when they run a program or camp is welcoming, exciting, emotional, and rewarding all in one.



Hi, friends! I’m Kelsie, a psychologist from central QLD working in private practice. I got involved with Burn Bright officially in 2016, but the journey started long before that. I attended the National Leadership Camp (now hosted annually by Burn Bright) in 2009. It had such a profound impact on me that I returned as a mentor and volunteer. Those connections ultimately lead me to joining the Burn Bright team as an adult.

When I transitioned from facilitating with the Burn Bright team to working as a psychologist, I was so grateful for an incredible foundation of skills (particularly facilitation, communication and interpersonal skills) along with a strong grounding in positive psychology that Burn Bright integrates into their ethos.

I can’t imagine my life without volunteering for Burn Bright. I have met some of my dearest friends through the Burn Bright crew. I’ve found that volunteering for BB is rewarding, humbling, and often brings as much personal growth for the volunteer as it does for the young person.

From a professional perspective, I love that Burn Bright programs/camps support the adolescent individuation process by providing an exciting and supportive environment for teens to explore their own sense of self, personality, identify and values alongside other young people.

Imagine this POV: you’re back at school wanting to figure everything out and fit in – and you find
yourself in a room with amazing music that uplifts you and hooks you in. You meet the team of
dynamic, interesting, caring facilitators whose own friendships inspire you. Their facilitation skills bring about amazing light-bulb moments and lessons that light a fire inside you… It makes me want to feel that for myself again. The next best thing, for me, is volunteering for the team who passes that on to other young people.

My start at Burn Bright is one of the best cases of one door closing and another door opening. After losing my job at a local pub while on uni holidays, I started looking for new opportunities that were different and decided to volunteer. Searching for opportunities, I found working bees, community driving and nursing home visits, but the chance to become a National Leadership Camp intern stood out. Over nearly six months, I worked with the team to pull off Burn Bright’s first National Leadership Camp, and had an absolute blast in the process. After camp, I started working for Burn Bright while studying, doing anything and everything — data analysis, hiring strategy and even picking up furniture.

Finishing up working for Burn Bright in 2019, I am still actively involved with the Burn Bright volunteer community. I’ve found that the emphasis placed on investing in your relationships, understanding your values and making an impact allow you to be accepted for you. This has given me the tools needed to make the difficult decisions that life will inevitably throw at you. Besides all that, I’ve had a ton of fun and formed life-long friendships with people I may have never crossed paths with otherwise. “Get involved — you’ll change your life for the better and make life‑long friends in the process”.

I am a health science student from Perth wanting to get into the mental health realm of occupational therapy. In the meantime, I work as a barista and supervisor at a beachside café. In my spare time, I love to play netball, be around my friends and I have just gotten into crocheting. I went to Perth College where I was lucky enough to go to the first Perth College Leadership Camp in 2018 as a student and absolutely loved it. What really drew me in was the atmosphere that was created, the open conversations, and the lasting relationships formed.

Since then I have been a mentor for the Perth College Leadership Camp in 2019, 2020, and 2021 and had the opportunity to go to the National Leadership Camp in 2019. When Burn Bright comes to Perth I also love helping out at their programs as much as I can.

Volunteering for Burn Bright has given me so much that I could never have imagined. I have learned so much about myself and I have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities that I know I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t exposed to the amazing opportunities volunteering for Burn Bright has given me. Before being involved I would never have seen myself being a mentor, role model, and facilitator to students, but now I can confidently say that I am, and I have made an impact on others that I am proud of. I have also made so many meaningful connections to so many amazing people from all around Australia through Burn Bright. I get asked quite a bit why I keep coming back to my old school to volunteer and it’s simply because I was given this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Burn Bright programs and if I can help facilitate that experience to someone else then why wouldn’t I?

I was born in Perth and moved to Sydney in my early 20’s to continue work as a youth worker and surfboard maker. This was followed by 30 years working in IT as a computer programmer.

Following retirement in 2016 I searched for an organisation that was aligned with my values of servant leadership and service, especially in the youth space. This search led to Burn Bright where I am now volunteering one day a week and mentoring at the National Leadership Camp. Volunteering with Burn Bright gives me a great deal of hope and confidence in the next generation of leaders. It is a pleasure to be a part of the Burn Bright family.

I have been married to Denise for 41 years and we both very much feel part of the Burn Bright team.

When not at Burn Bright you may find me running along Manly beach, riding my mountain bike or indulging in my passion for photography.











Hi! I’m Rosie, a 20-something full-time public servant, part-time Tassie tourism advocate.

I am passionate about seeing young people succeed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching them become the next generation of change-makers.

I have been a champion of the ethos and work of Burn Bright since its inception in 2014, and consider them to be the leading experts in their field. By delivering impactful leadership and wellbeing programs to students across Australia, they offer the knowledge, skills and engagement to invoke lasting positive change in school communities.

The Burn Bright team are dedicated, inclusive and values-driven, which is why I love working with them.