Kontner, who was SGA president last year at St. Andrew’s, said an email about NYU class elections caught her attention. She hesitated to run for office – she said she didn’t want to take on too much her freshman year – but she was drawn to the opportunity.
“Honestly one of the best parts of St. Andrew’s was SGA. I loved student leadership and especially student government,” Kontner said. “I love talking to people, meeting new people, and getting to know people I’ll be studying with. (I said) I’ll go for it.”
She submitted a paragraph about why she wanted to be class president and gave a speech to the current student government officers and club leaders. She ran against two other students and said both girls’ speeches were compelling, so she was surprised when she found out she won.
“I really focused (my campaign) on reaching out to the students and creating a connection with the student body and student government,” Kontner said. “I’m just really happy to be a part of something like this – to know that if I have a real problem or someone I know has a real problem, I can bring it forward and get it changed.”
As freshman class president, Kontner will plan monthly events to help students stay connected. She said St. Andrew’s showed her how to be a leader and build community.
“St. Andrew’s taught me the power of making yourself available to people,” she said. “You shouldn’t be on some high pedestal, not making yourself available to them – all the work you do is for them.”
Kontner was also prepared to lead a diverse co-ed student population because of her time at St. Andrew’s.
“At NYU we do a lot of inclusive leadership activities that I found to be no-brainers coming from a place like St. Andrew’s,” Kontner said. “Being president of the SGA at a diverse school like St. Andrew’s definitely prepared me to lead an even more diverse group of students at NYU.”
These skills and experiences have empowered her as she transitions from a class of 78 students to a school of thousands, she said.
“St. Andrew’s taught me how to make my own community – to seek community wherever I go, to make connections with people, to take to people, to be friends with them,” she added. “St. Andrew’s is so close knit. Having that in high school made me want to make that for myself in college.”
Michelle Serry, Director of College Counseling and the academic dean for the Class of 2017, said she is not surprised Kontner was elected class president.
“(At St. Andrew’s) she could connect with her peers on a very personal level, whether it was her peers in jazz band and or her teammates in cross country,” Serry said. “She just had a way of connecting with different groups, and I think that’s what made her such an effective leader.”
Student Government advisor Dane Smith said Kontner sets an example for her peers by taking initiative and continuing student leadership.
“I think it’s important for the current St. Andrew’s students, whether they’re in student government or not, to know that the work they do here directly teaches them how to be successful at the college level,” he said.
Serry said Kontner models the type of student colleges are looking for - potential members of the school community, not just applicants who meet the admission criteria.
“To see that a student from St. Andrew’s quickly managed to jump into this role shows that our students are willing to be impactful as community members as well, not just to get into a school or a very competitive program,” she said.