Leadership Development, Service

Grow Dat Love for Volunteering

For my spring break this year, I was blessed with the ability to travel down to New Orleans, Louisiana to volunteer at Grow Dat Youth Farm. I was given this opportunity through CMU’s Alternative Breaks program. This program partners with nonprofit organizations to give students the opportunity to spend a week volunteering with an issue that they are passionate about.

About the Farm: This amazing farm grows ~25,000 lbs of fresh produce each year, selling around 70% at a farmer’s market and donating the other 30% to low-income families who don’t have access to fresh foods. This farm teaches leadership lessons through different activities and shows the true meaning of community and the importance of sustainability. Grow Dat practices sustainable farming, eliminating the use of chemical-filled fertilizers and focusing on composting and using cover crops. Grow Dat’s mission is to “nurture a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food.” This farm welcomes in young kids and adults and teaches them communication and leadership skills while working together. Pretty incredible, huh?

About the Trip: We all piled in the vans on Saturday, March 3rd. Not knowing what to expect on this trip, I was excited to head to New Orleans. We took driving shifts in the car, and everyone drove for a few hours. It took around 20 hours to get to our destination after stopping to get snacks and using the bathroom a few times.

Day 1: We got to St. Jude Community Center, the place we would be staying, at around noon. St. Jude is a community center that hosts people and feeds those in need throughout the day. We dropped all of our bags in the dorm rooms and went to the kitchen to meet the people who would be hosting us. Little did I know these two people would be some of the sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met. They told us they would be cooking breakfast and dinner for us every day, and invited us to go to a little festival in the park. We walked to the festival which had live jazz bands, tons of different food vendors, and handmade arts and crafts. It was so awesome to see everyone interacting and learning about the New Orleans traditions. After the festival, we headed to the French Quarter to do some shopping and exploring. After shopping around for a little, we regrouped at St. Jude and headed to bed to rest up for the week to come.

Day 2: Our first official day was a free day, so we decided to wake up early and go to the beach. We went to a park in Mandeville, Louisiana that overlooked Lake Pontchartrain. We walked along the pier and went on a little hike to soak up the warm sun. After exploring the beach and eating lunch, we went back to the French Quarter to do some more exploring. We ate at Cafe Beignet and walked up and down the streets to go into the little shops. We visited Jackson Square to see a magic show and listened to all of the different live music acts that were being played on every corner. After a long day of walking around the city, we headed back to St. Jude.

Day 3: Tuesday was our first official day volunteering at Grow Dat, and we had a late start due to a rain delay. After the storm passed, we drove to the farm and met the amazing people we would be working with all week. After learning a little bit about the farm and what their mission is, we went over to the lettuce crops and spent the afternoon weeding in between each little plant. I had so much fun bonding with the girls on my Alternative Break and learning about their passions and goals.

Day 4: This day consisted of more weeding and cleaning up around the plants. It was interesting to learn different weeding techniques in order to do it efficiently. We helped pull up different sorts of crops, such as collard greens and cabbage to go into the compost, and we were able to work with students from Vanderbilt college and form new friendships. It was so cool to get different perspectives from new friends from a different college, and we were able to get all of the tasks done super quickly while still learning about each other’s majors and extracurriculars.

Day 5: Thursday was my favorite day of volunteering because we got to participate in all sorts of different activities. We started the day off covering the soil beds with black plastic to help the soil from eroding. This was one of my favorite tasks because we were told that it was the “most important job on the farm,” making us feel like we were really helping out. After covering the beds in plastic, we went to the small soil beds and planted little lettuce crops. It was fun to plant seeds together and bond even more with my group. After lunch, we went to the front of the farm where the sign was and pulled out cilantro and mint to go to the compost area. We then cleaned up around the trees and beautified around the sign. We got to work with our Vanderbilt friends again and bond even more than we had the previous day.

Day 6: The last day was spent learning more about the farm and what its mission was, and talking to the fabulous people who volunteer at the farm. We started the day off with a full tour of the farm and then headed over to the blackberries to weed around them and clean them up so they could grow for the summer. We then got to clean up the front area and learn about the plants that were native to New Orleans. The Grow Dat Staff was so sweet and really kept us informed on what was going on on the farm and what we could do to help next. After finishing weeding a few more crops, we were told to leave a little early and take the afternoon off to explore some more before we headed back to school. We went to Hansen’s Sno-Bliz and got a famous “snowball”, (shaved ice in a cup or a cone covered in a syrup). I got a mint chocolate chip one, and it was amazing! After driving around the beautiful Garden District with our treats, we started our journey to school. After driving through the night, we arrived back at school on Saturday morning at around 8am. Despite being sun-poisoned and extremely tired, I headed home for the weekend.

My Experience: Though I was nervous to travel 17 hours to a place I had never been, I had the time of my life. I was able to pursue my passion of nutrition and leadership all in one place, and I learned so many valuable things that I can take with me for years to come. I was also able to form close connections and bonds with girls I had never met, and we became so close in such a short amount of time. I absolutely loved regrouping at the end of the day and chatting in our beds after our debrief of what we did that day. I also loved meeting new girls from different states who were also volunteering and staying at St. Jude. My two amazing sightleaders who lead the break were so genuine and made it one to remember. Learning about New Orleans and everything that the city has been through really opened my eyes and ignited my passion for helping and volunteering. Grow Dat is such an incredible program and the people who work there are some of the most hardworking and genuine people I have ever met. It really gave me the push I needed to get out there and make change in the world, one step at a time. Everyone on the farm welcomed us with open arms and smiles and made it exciting to go back each day. Meeting pals with passions and goals similar to yours is truly one of the coolest things in the world, and I am so thankful that I was able to go on this Alternative Break. Thank you to everyone who donated and helped me go on this break! Fire Up for Farming!

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Service

Servant Leadership

In LDR200L, we focused our learning on many types of leadership. My favorite theory to learn about was servant leadership. Servant leadership is the theory of bettering the lives of other people by serving them, and making sure you’re always putting yourself first before everyone else. The description of the theory (provided by the servant leadership workshop) is a “philosophy where a leader with strong values places others above their own self-interests and emphasizes the growth of their followers.” As a part of the LAS protocol, we are required to serve 30 hours of volunteer service per year. Volunteering is a very important part of LAS, and these hours can be served in many different ways.

I found myself experiencing the servant leadership theory during the LAS in the D service trip and during Relay For Life. On the trip, we traveled to Detroit for the weekend to help out the community and learn more about Detroit. On the last day of the trip, my cohort and I visited Cass Community Social Services to serve the community. We were split into groups, and I went to the green warehouse to sort cardboard and shred papers. I was so excited to work with people in my cohort to clean up the warehouse and help out the members of the community by taking some of the work off of their hands.

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Servant leadership was also portrayed during  Relay For Life when my LEAD team was required to stay at the Leadership Institute table and explain what we were selling. We volunteered for several hours and had so much fun doing it. I also participated in the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center during the semester. I helped out with the Safer Sex Patrol by promoting safe sex with a group of other volunteers at the local bars, and I made paracord bracelets for the soldiers overseas. These bracelets are worn by soldiers and can be used when they are in emergency situations.

Now that I have experienced servant leadership firsthand, I realize that it is my favorite leadership theory, while also being the most important leadership theory. I have learned that it is so essential to put others before yourself and help out others in any way possible. I am making it a goal to make sure that I put everyone before myself and serve the community, while also being selfless. I want to encourage others to promote self growth by putting people before themselves and leading in the best way they can.

Community

RSO

An RSO is a Registered Student Organization on CMU’s campus. These organizations are clubs with scheduled meetings, and there are many options to choose from. I joined FAMD (Fashion Association of Merchandising and Design) first semester. This RSO focuses on fashion and the fashion industry. At the meetings, speakers from different parts of the fashion world come in and speak. Some of the speakers included managers from many different stores including Buckle and Kohls. Personally, my favorite speaker was Kathryn Konarska from Kathryn Ann Bridal. Kathryn came in with her husband and explained her entire journey as an intern in the fashion industry. She moved multiple times and was interning in New York City before deciding to move back to Michigan. She later created her own brand of wedding dresses and veils and has boutiques all across Michigan.

FAMD also dedicates a lot of time focusing on the campus-wide fashion show, Threads. Threads is a student-run fashion show held on April 22, 2017. Different designers get to show off their work and gain experience in designing, marketing, and fashion production. Threads is a big deal for people majoring in Fashion Merchandising and Design, and many of CMU’s students are able to model the clothing designed for the fashion show. Each year, Threads is focused on a different theme. Students dedicate so much time into the fashion show, and they are able to learn all about proper walks, stage lighting, makeup, and more.

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Allie and I at the FAMD banquet

 

Another RSO I was involved with was Barnes and Robinson Hall Council. Meetings were every Monday, and we discussed upcoming events in the Barnes and Robinson community. Each week had a different theme, and if you dressed like the theme, you would earn points for your floor. Each week, I would learn about new activities that were going on that I could attend. Members could also have a say in any problems or issues that would go on in the halls, and I liked being able to meet different people from the Robinson community or people on the floors I didn’t live on. Hall Council helped inform me and make me aware of events happening and allowed me to learn more about the North Campus community.

Leadership Development

Yes or No?

Does leadership come from a “yes” or a “no”? 

When I first read this question, I had to take a step back and reflect on what I was really being asked. After analyzing the question, I came up with what it meant to me: “Do leaders say “yes” or “no”? My first thought: it’s “no”. Why would you say yes to everything? Wouldn’t that just get you in trouble? What if something bad happens? What if the task is too hard or too much to handle? My second thought: it’s “yes”. It’s 100%, absolutely, most definitely “yes”. 

Saying “yes” opens doors, creates new opportunities, and encourages growth. Being a leader means trying new things, growing, and helping others. It also means listening, learning, overcoming barriers, and being the bigger person.

“Do you want to go volunteer?” “Yes.”

“Do you want to join a new club?” “Yep.”

“Do you want to go skydiving?” “Definitely.”

Saying “no” means you’re turning down new experiences, new friends, new lessons, and new stories. I believing in living life to its maximum potential, and making every day better than the one before it. Living life to its fullest means striving to be the best version of you, making every day count, being completely open to trying new things, and pushing yourself to get better at what you do.

Now What? Start saying yes- I promise you won’t regret it. Ordinary people do extraordinary things, and saying yes is just the beginning. New opportunities and experiences come from saying yes, and learning comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone- another thing to say yes to.

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Leadership Development, Leadership Education, Leadership Training

Igniting the Spark

As a requirement for our LAS Scholarship, our 2016 cohort needed to attend the Spark Leadership conference. Not knowing what exactly this conference would entail, I was pretty excited for it.

I walked into the ballroom in the LI, picked up my name tag, and sat at a table with a few people from my LAS cohort and a few others that I hadn’t met before. Also sitting at the table was a staff member of Spark, otherwise known as a team leader. After being called up and introduced to all of the people participating in Spark, the team leaders switched tables, and my table got the pleasure of working with Connor Haskins.

The first activity on the agenda was finding out our own personal leadership styles- something I was very interested in. The four different types of leaders were Systematic, Spirited, Considerate, and Direct. After ranking a series of activities from 1 to 5, I found out that I was a Spirited leader.

After learning about what type of leader we all were, we broke into different groups pertaining to our own leadership styles. I went into the Spirited group, and we all discussed why we were categorized into Spirited leaders and what characteristics we all exemplified. Some of these characteristics were that we were all super positive, very outgoing, we encouraged others, and we like to be outside of our comfort zones. After going back to our tables, we chose what leadership style we wanted to improve on. I chose Systematic, because I’d like to be more organized and want to step back and think about things more before going ahead and doing them.

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Photo by the Leadership Institute

Later, we were separated into different classrooms and were put into two groups: Alphas and Betas. I was an Alpha, and we were required to participate in a game. The rules of the Alpha culture were that we had to embrace in a hug or pat someone on the back before speaking to someone, we had to ask about the men in that person’s life, and we were then able to participate in a card game. The Betas would come over to our Alpha classroom to observe our behavior, and we would always kick them out.

After debriefing our activity, we learned that everyone gets treated differently and sometimes you have to take a step back and realize that we aren’t all the same. You could be saying or doing something offensive without even noticing, and we need to realize that everyone is different.

Now What? I got a lot out of Spark, and-despite having strep throat and wanting to be curled up in bed- I really enjoyed the conference. I learned that I am a Spirited leader, and I now know how to help out when it comes to leadership activities and now know what to contribute. I am excited to take the steps towards becoming a more Systematic leader by organizing all of my things into folders, color coding my notes that I take in class, thinking about and analyzing my actions before taking them, and participating in many more leadership conferences.

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Leadership Development

Leadership Lecture: The Dirty Dozen

As shown in a previous post, I attended a conference at Great Wolf Lodge with my LAS Cohort and some amazing staff members. This conference was the 2016 Connections conference, and it exposed us to many ideas, taught us useful skills that we could bring back to CMU, and helped us make new friends.

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One of the sessions I attended at Connections was titled, “The Dirty Dozen.” This was an interactive lecture presented by the lovely Erin Smith-Gaken. In this session, Erin told us all about the twelve ways we justify our bad behavior. She gave us remotes to use during the session, and she put up a powerpoint and had us enter in our answers to the questions she was asking us. For example, Erin asked the question, “If you went into a grocery store and realized-as you were unloading the cart into your car-that you forgot to ring up a Vitamin Water, would you go back inside and tell someone?” We all entered our answers into the powerpoint, and she showed us the results. Most people said that they would not go back in and would just continue unloading the cart, while a small percentage of people said that they would go back in the grocery store and pay for the Vitamin Water.

Now What? This survey made me really stop and think about things. First off, not paying for the drink is stealing- but we would justify the fact that we “stole” the Vitamin Water by saying that we already left the store, and that it is too much of a hassle to go back inside. Second, I realized that our minds try to get us to rationalize anything that we do with logical reasons so we don’t feel bad about what we’ve done. Erin told us the top twelve ways that we rationalize our mistakes, and it was crazy that almost everyone could relate to most, if not all of them. It made me realize that sometimes I need to take a step back and understand that it is okay to make mistakes, because everyone is human. Heck, making mistakes makes us human, and we need to learn to accept them rather than try to justify them so we don’t look bad. I really connected with this session, and I even find myself (to this day) thinking about The Dirty Dozen.

Leadership Development, Leadership Education

Start With Why

“Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.” – Simon Sinek

In LDR 100, we were required to complete a book project for the end of the year. The project was to create a 20 minute presentation about a novel we were assigned in class. Each book had to do with leadership, and we were put into groups to work with.

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I was assigned the novel Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Start With Why is a book about a way of communicating that gives leaders the ability to inspire those around them. This novel was made into a well-known Ted Talk and has gotten over twenty nine million views since it was released. I attached a shortened version of the video below!

First, we started our presentation off with the “Why?” aspect of the book. We asked the class who their role models were, and told them to think about why this person inspires them. We then moved on to the “Golden Circle”, which includes three major parts. These parts are, “Why?” (what your purpose/beliefs are), “How?” (how something is different or better), and “What?” (what you do). We then moved on to the major themes of the book. The themes we mentioned were as follows: Inspiration, Passion, and Personal Leadership. We focused the Inspiration theme on the fact that the people we see as leaders are usually the ones who have inspired us. We then spoke about how we tend to find our “Why?” from the things we are passionate about. Lastly, we infused leadership with our own experiences and spoke about how  you have to be inspired in order to inspire others.

Now What? Simon Sinek taught me to find my own “Why?” statement and take a step back to really dig deep into things and topics that I usually wouldn’t think twice about. I can now rationalize my thinking, and am now able to explain why I feel the way I feel about a certain topic. This project was a fun one to create, and was even more fun to present!

Check out the video I made for our presentation below!