Leadership Development, Leadership Training

LEAD Team: Competition Day

As a part of my LAS protocol, I was required to serve on a LEAD team. I was placed on the Competition Day team, and I was really excited to be chosen for it. Competition Day is an event where all of the high school seniors who were chosen to come and compete for the Leader Advancement Scholarship come to CMU and participate in a series of different activities and interviews.

Because I was able to attend Competition Day last year and meet all of the  now-freshmen, I knew exactly how nervous they were to come compete. It’s scary- driving up to the school you might be attending in a few short months to show off your best qualities while working with tons of other kids who all want the same thing. All of the students there were incredibly deserving of the scholarship, and it was rewarding to get the privilege to chat with them as they made their way onto CMU’s campus and into the Leadership Institute.

My role on this LEAD team was to welcome the students in and show them where to go, where to sign in, and to explain what they would be doing that day. The day started off with a tour around campus, and then a presentation was held by the one and only Dan Gaken. Dan explained the scholarship protocol and answered all of the questions the students had about LAS. He then dismissed all of the competitors to go to their assigned rooms and participate in group facilitations, activities, and interviews. The students later got to mingle with one another and ask any other questions they had regarding CMU or the LAS program itself.

I enjoyed being on this LEAD team and working with other people in other cohorts to welcome the incoming freshmen to the Leadership Institute family. The energy in the Powers Ballroom was so high, and I can’t wait to meet all of the incoming Leader Advancement Scholars. Fire up!

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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!

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.

Leadership Training

Mentee to Mentor

As a member of LAS, each person receives a “mentor.” This person guides you through your first year of college, answers any questions you have, and is basically just a shoulder to lean on when you need one. I received a mentor when I got to CMU, and I was so excited to have someone to support me through my first year at college.

Now, going into sophomore year, I am ecstatic to receive a “mentee” of my own. As a tradition in LAS, it is a normal thing to keep yourself hidden until you plan a big reveal to your new mentee. I am so excited to reveal myself to my mentee and form a close relationship with her. Helping people is one of my passions, and I am so incredibly ready to do whatever it takes to make sure my mentee feels at home during the course of her freshman year!

In our LDR200L class, the TA’s prepared a workshop demonstrating how to be the best possible mentor we can be to the incoming LAS cohort. We were put into groups and received sheets of paper in which we were instructed to write down ten things we wish we would have known coming into college. After writing them, we discussed our answers and reflected back on the year. Some of the things I wish I knew before coming to Central were:

  • Not everyone will be your best friend, so don’t force relationships
  • Skipping class is never a good idea
  • Bring lots of storage containers to keep things organized in your dorm
  • Your planner will become your best friend
  • Only do things that benefit you- if they bring you down, don’t continue doing them

After reflecting back on the mentor workshop, I have many things that I want to accomplish as mentor. I want to be there for my mentee whenever she needs me, even if I am busy doing something. I also want to make sure that I keep in contact with her and make sure that I am not distant- especially when she is starting a complete new chapter of her life! Lastly, I want to make sure that I can be the best mentor I can be to my new pal, and I want to make sure she knows that she can come to me whenever she needs anything.

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Mentor/Mentee retreat
Leadership Education

LDR200L Reflection

As a requirement for the LAS scholarship, everyone in the cohort is required to take LDR200L. This course met on Wednesday afternoons from 4-7. This course taught us about different leadership theories, how to create a useful powerpoint presentation, and how to facilitate a workshop.

Some of the assignments required for the class included writing a paper about our own personal leadership philosophy. I loved this assignment because I was able to explain my own philosophy and tell why I do the things I do. Another assignment was leading a Leadership Initiative. We were put into groups of three and had to lead a learning activity that taught a concept of leadership to one half of the class. The Leadership Workshop was my favorite task. While working in a group, a few members of my cohort and I were required to facilitate a workshop that explained a leadership theory. The workshop had to include an activity and a powerpoint and it lasted around a half hour long. This was my favorite task because I learn best with hands-on-activities, and it made it easier to memorize the different leadership theories.

My favorite part of this class was gaining experience and knowledge on how to facilitate activities and workshops. I was able to interact with my fellow LAS members while getting help from the awesome TA’s. Now that I have participated in LDR200L, I am ready to sign my minor in Leadership and experience new courses in the future. I learned how to give a presentation that got straight to the point while being organized and clean. Because of this class, I feel more confident in public speaking and talking in front of a large group of people. I became a better listener and learned how to properly communicate with someone else and give feedback that helps them. I can’t wait to pursue my minor of Leadership and I am ready for the next LDR class!

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Leadership Development, Leadership Training

Relay For Life: LEAD Team

Being a part of an LAS LEAD team is one of the things required for the protocol, and I had the pleasure of working on the Relay For Life team. Over the course of the semester, we had a few meetings to discuss fundraisers and events that we would plan leading up to Relay. This LEAD team was my number one choice and I was super excited to get involved with the event.

Relay For Life took place on March 25th from noon until midnight. As a part of the Leadership Institute’s Relay team, we worked the table for the majority of the day. We set up a table with LI apparel and cookies and set a suggested donation amount of $5.00 for t-shirts and $1.00 for cookies. We also had a “Pie the LI” event where you could donate $2.00 and smash a plateful of whipped cream onto the face of one of the members of our team. This raised some extra money for our team and everyone got a good laugh out of it. Relay For Life was so much fun and I got to walk around the track and hear stories from the incredible survivors.

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Now that I have participated in Relay, I can easily say it is something that I’m looking forward to doing every year. Relay inspired me to appreciate my family members as much as I can and never take anything for granted. I lost my grandma to breast cancer, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her. Relay For Life is an amazing event that I highly encourage everyone to be a part of. Our LI team raised over $1,700 to donate to research. The event was so much fun and I can’t wait to participate in Relay next year!

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Community, Leadership Development, Service

LAS in the D: My Experience

Going into this trip, I was excited. I knew it would be an awesome weekend, and I knew I would gain so much from it. Little did I know I would be experiencing one of the coolest, most influential trips I have ever been on.

Visiting Jalen Rose Leadership Academy was the first stop on the trip. We arrived at the school and got separated into groups with the leadership students. We played a few icebreakers with our new friends, and we wrote down things that we wanted to accomplish while we were there for the day. Some of the things we put on our list included using teamwork, being respectful, and communicating with one another. The students opened up really quickly, and I was super excited to continue on with our day.

After splitting up into separate classrooms with our groups, we did an activity that required us to figure out a pre-made pattern to get across the “lava” to the other side of the volcano (the other side of the room). Every time someone made a wrong step, we had to restart and go back to the starting line. It was really awesome to see the students take charge and try to figure out the pattern, and we worked together to discover the correct sequence to get across.

Next, we moved into a different room to take on another activity. This activity involved a ball on a circle of plastic with many strings tied around the plastic. To complete this activity, we had to pick up the ball by using the strings and carry it to the other side of room to place it on top of a pole. If we dropped the ball, we had to go back to the starting line to try again. This activity was very trial-and-error oriented, and we tested many different strategies before completing it. Our winning tactic was to slide the ball over to the pole and then get as close as we could to the center, while still holding the strings. We pulled the ball up and got it on top of the pole, and everyone was super excited that we were able to complete the challenge. After the activities were over, we debriefed for a little bit. We talked about what strategies worked and which ones didn’t work, how we used communication and teamwork, and how we stepped outside of our comfort zones to take on something. One of the students asked us when we were coming back, and when we told him we’d be back in a year, he said to “please hurry.” It was so inspiring to see how much the students at Jalen Rose loved the activities, and it made me really think about the impact you can make on someone without even knowing.

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After leaving Jalen Rose, we headed over to Quicken Loans to go on a tour of the building and to eat dinner. We all sat down and ate, and we were later shown a presentation about Quicken Loans and all of the opportunities and internships the company offers. John Fikany spoke to us for a while, and seeing his passion towards the company really made me think about applying for a summer internship. We then were split into groups and were shown around the building. The Quicken Loans building was amazing- it was so colorful and all of the workers were super friendly. I loved exploring around the company and seeing all of the different branches in the building.

The Quicken Loans tour soon ended, and we headed over to the Detroit Institute of Arts. I was super excited for this part, because the DIA is one of my favorite places. There’s just something about going to an art museum and exploring around and admiring the art that makes me so happy. I got to walk around the museum with my roommates, and we were able to check out all of the different pieces and rooms before going to the little cafe inside.

At around 9:00 P.M., we all went to the Outdoor Adventure Center to debrief the day and get some rest. After exploring the waterfall and nature inside the building, we met with our groups and talked about everything we did on the trip thus far. It was awesome to reflect back on the day and talk about how inspired and excited we were about the activities and workshops. The discussion ended at around 10:30 P.M., and we all went to get ready for bed. Instead of going to sleep, we decided to circle up and share our passions and talk about our lives. It was really cool learning about everyone, and (in my opinion), I think it brought us even closer than we already were. When it got pretty late, I curled up in my sleeping bag next to my roommates and went to sleep.

We started the next day off bright and early. After eating breakfast, we got on the bus and traveled to Cass Community Social Services. Cass is an agency in Detroit that provides food, shelter, and jobs to members of the community. We were split up into groups when we arrived, and each group had the opportunity to do something different. My group walked over to the green warehouse, and we took on the job of breaking down tons of cardboard boxes and shredding papers to get the warehouse cleaned up for spring. This building was awesome because it was powered by spinning bikes. Whenever we wanted to take a break from shredding, we would ride the spinning bikes to give the warehouse energy. Our group leader, Mark, was super outgoing and played awesome music while we broke down the boxes. I loved this part of the trip because I got to work with my cohort and gain new experiences while helping out the community.

We got on the bus to head to Great Lakes Crossing for lunch at around 11:00 A.M. This was the last part of the trip, and we all settled on the bus to head back to CMU in the afternoon. Most of us fell asleep immediately after sitting down, but some us jammed out to old songs and sang for a little bit.

Now What? This trip was one of the most amazing opportunities I’ve been able to be a part of. It’s crazy how much of an impact you can make on someone/something, and going on this trip opened my eyes to the issues around me and inspired me to want to get out there and do something to help my community. Detroit is an amazing city, and it doesn’t deserve the reputation and stereotypes it receives. This trip gave me the initiative to want to reach out and help the wonderful city. I absolutely loved volunteering at Cass Community Social Services because I was able to work with others and clean up the warehouse for the upcoming spring and summer and create energy by riding the spinning bikes. The Quicken Loans tour gave me inspiration to go out and do whatever I wanted to do because I am a leader and I am capable of achieving wonderful things. This trip  was so inspiring and was one of my favorite activities of the entire year. I am so grateful to be a part of LAS and I will never forget the amazing experiences, memories, and opportunities I’ve gained from this trip.