Leadership Development

Project UNIFY

Normally I try to come up with some creative blog title, but in this case I decided to be direct Project Unify is an outstanding program and I want to get its name out there! If you haven’t worked with Special Olympics AT LEAST ONCE, you’re missing out. 14732402_10208542498693537_6141825387487114860_n

I’m a junior in college and for the past 3 years, every fall, I participate in Project Unify. Project Unify is a program through Special Olympics Michigan. My involvement in this program is as a facilitator. I, along with 20 or so other college students, volunteered a few nights a week for a few weeks to prep for this program. The event itself is one day and was hosted at a hotel conference center right here in Mt.Pleasant. The day consisted of leadership challenges, problem-solving, team-work, games, crafts, dancing, and FUN. Project UNIFY is directed toward students both with and without different abilities.

I had the honor of facilitating team PLUTO PURPLE! My team was very involved in all the activities and always had something to say when questions were asked. It always tough to have a group that doesn’t actively participate and thus I was ecstatic that my group was so involved in what we were doing.

One of my favorite activities had to do with communication. There was a group of sports balls in a pile in the middle of the room. Around the pile of balls were the students standing in a circle.  Each student was given a number. The goal was to find the ball with the matching number. We did this 2 or 3 times. However, each time there were different rules. The first time, everyone was able to talk. The second time, no one was able to talk, and the third time, only 3 or 4 people were able to talk. These different scenarios helped to teach the students that in different, situations different types of communication may be the most suitable; sometimes it is important to actively communicate, and sometimes it is best to sit back and let others speak.

Being a part of this program is always a pleasure. The students show so much passion. The desire to take what they learned at the workshop and bring it back to their own school is amazing to see! Each year I see familiar faces from the year before and that has to be one of my favorite things, knowing that these students want to keep coming back.

“It’s a requirement”

As a college student, I hear professors and advisors often say “It’s a r-e-q-u-i-r-e-m-e-n-t. You must do it.” Sometimes these requuiemtns are things that I dread. For  example, having to take Organic Chemistry and Physics next semester. But hey, orgo can’t be as bad as it’s portrayed in the movies right?  IMG_2518 (1)

One of the main  reasons I chose Central Michigan University was because of an amazing opportunity I was offered. I was offered the opportunity to compete in the  Leader Advancement Scholar Competition  Day. The LAS scholarship is an honor and I was lucky enough to be selected along with 4o other students out of a pool of over 2000 applicants to be offered the schoarship. The scholarship  is based off of character, leadership, community and school involvement. My LAS cohort has become my family here at Central. The schoalrhsip reward applies to all four year of my undergraduate years here at CMU. In order to ensure that I continue to recieve the scholarhsip reward there are, yes I’m sure you know what I am going to say, requirements. The requirements are nothing crazy! I have to maintain a good GPA, (being a nerd, this isn’t a problem lol), along with completing certain classes, leadership experiences and volunteer hours.

I’m going to talk about the volunteer hours specifically because I feel like people often feel  that volunteering isn’t fun and think of it more as a chore than a good way to spend their time. I personally LOVE volunteering. Throughout highschool I volunteered at least 3-5 hours a week. When I got to college, this number dereased. But I thank LAS for making it a reuirements  because it forced me to find the time to fit volunteering into my schedule And like I mentioned earlier, I LOVE it.

This year however, I’ve been slacking. To be completly honest, I kind of forgot that I had to do required hours for LAS until a fellow LASer mentioned in class that our volunteer reflection was due April 1st. So here I am, writing this reflection  with only half of my voluntter hours done. BUT, on April 9th I will be completing these hours by volunteering and participating in Relay For Life. I am very excited for this because Relay For Life is a big event at CMU and in many other places and I have never been able to participate. Despite  all the great things I have heard from people about Relay, I have never actually volunteered at it and this year will be  my first time. I was lucy enough to get this opportunity by being apart of the CMU Pre-PT Club. Through them I chose to be apaprt of the planning commitee and help to plan what out RSO will be doing for the event.

My other hours came from volunteering in the Special Olympics Lead Team in the spring. This was a great opporunity and volunteering with SOMI is something I always look  forward to. Today, I actually signed up to volunteer at the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games that CMU hosts every June.

Project Unify: I AM ABLE

As part of being a Leader Advancement Scholar, I am required to partake in  community service. Despite the fact that it’s required, I enjoy staying involved in my community. One of my favorite experiences has been volunteering at Special Olympics. Special Olympics is an organization I learned to love during the past two years at Central Michigan University. For those of you who do not know, Special Olympics makes it possible for those who are differently abled to participate in competitive sports with other  state and national Special Olympic athletes. 10007426_10205852400682768_4982940145970982804_n

In addition to sports competition opportunities, this year I was able to be apart of the first Special Olympics Michigan Project Unify. Project Unify is an aspect of Special  Olympics that brings together Special Olympics athletes with non-Special Olympics athletes from high schools all over the state and gives them the opportunity to participate in leadership activities and facilitations. Project Unify focuses on teaching these students how to utilize skills that they have in order to become leaders in their schools and communities. Being able to facilitate these leadership sessions to these students is nothing short of amazing. It’s such an awesome sight being  able to not only watch them grow as leaders but to activity be a part of their growth. I loved every moment of facilitating and encouraging these students. They all ave such potential, and it seeing them realize that was something I will NEVER forget.

The pictue below is a special one. I created a special  bond with this wonderful gal. Most students were there with their teachers, however, her teacher was unable to spend time with her due to the needs of one of her classmates. Due to her teacher not being there, I felt it necessary to giver her slightly more attention. We clicked immediately. After only a few hours of knowing each other,she opened up to me and told me what most would consider to be her life story. She was adopted from Africa after watching her parents be killed. She said she doesn’t tell many people her story because “then they feel bad for me and treat me differently but I know you will still treat me like a normal person.” The moment she said this my heart melted. Throughout the day, I became her go-to. She opened up and participated in all activities. Watching her step outside of her comfort zone was a big step for her, and I’m so thankful she allowed me to be a part of that.

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If you have never volunteered at Special  Olympics, I HIGHLY recommend that you do. Special Olympics has one of the most positive and supportive atmospheres you will ever experience. You will make friendships that will last a lifetime. VOLUNTEER. You won’t regret it.

THATS MY MENTEE

IMG_1401Being a mentor has been a great experience. However, it is a lot harder than I had expected. My mentor and I are very close, we hang out every week, and make dinner for each other all the time, he is more of a brother to me than a friend. My mentee and I however, are not as close.

Going into this experience I had a goal to not be a mentor who never talked to their mentee, and I believe I have accomplished that goal. But frankly, I do wish that I would have spent more time with my mentee during his freshmen year at college. I know how important and helpful it was to have my mentor there for me whenever I needed him, and looking back, I do  have regrets about feeling like I did not make it clear to my mentee that I was there for  him.

Being busy is not an excuse. EVERYONE IS BUSY. It is  important to make time for those you  care about. Being an LAS scholar, I have a responsibility to help those younger than me. I know for a fact I would not be where I was today if it weren’t for other LASers helping me over the course  of the last two years. IMG_1397

Being a mentor has taught me that although being there for someone 24/7 is not easy, it sure it worth it. It means a lot to that person to have someone to  go to whenever they may have a question. I know Harrison is going to be a great mentor and I cannot wait to meet the new addition  to the LAS Platinum Fam! He has accomplished many great things thus far, and I couldnt be more proud of him for how much he has grown!

 

Camp Sunshine: The Happiest Place On Earth

This past week I was able to be a counselor at Camp Sunshine. Camp Sunshine is a camp for anyone with cognitive or physical disabilities. Camper/Counselor partnerships are one on one. Each camper has their own individual gift and talent and therefore throughout the week we lived by the statement, “Label me able” and got rid of the words disabled and handicapped all together.

 

Throughout the week, I created an unbreakable bond with my camper. She was one of the sweetest, sassiest, and most funny people I know. By the end of the week my camper had opened up to me and told me about all the negative names and words people call her at work and how it makes her feel. This immediately broke my heart. Following her opening up to me, we sat down and had a long conversation about how wonderful she is. A sentence that she said stuck with her that I said was, “God made you and God doesn’t make mistakes.” The rest of the night she repeated this sentence I would say, hundreds of times.

Also by the end of the week we had learned to tell time and to say our alphabet. Seeing how happy this made her warmed my heart.

 

Going into camp all the counselors always talk about how we cant wait to make a difference in our campers life. However, by the end of the first day, we realize that the Camper/Counselor partnership is so much more. Over the course of the week Lori taught me way more than could ever have taught her. This experience was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

 

When working with the population of people who have unique needs, please remember to be respectful.

Theory Application

Leadership Theory: Servant Leadership

What is Servant Leadership: “When leaders place the good of followers over their own self interests and emphasize follower development” (Hale & Fields, 2007)Servant Leadership is classified by 10 characteristics, 3 antecedent conditions, and 7 behaviors.

Characteristics

  1. Listening– Communicate by listening first, validate followers perspectives
  2. Empathy– putting yourself in their shoes; understand what followers are thinking and feeling, confirms and validates the follower making them feel unique
  3. Healing– cares about the personal well being of followers, support followers by helping them overcome personal problems (two way street)
  4. Awareness- attuned and receptive to the their physical social and political environments; understanding oneself and the impact one has on others, awareness for the whole picture
  5. Persuasion- clear and persistent communication that convinces others to change, creates change through the use of gentle non judgemental argument
  6. Conceptualization- an individual’s ability to be a visionary for an organization, equips servant leaders to respond to complex organizational problems in creative ways
  7. Foresight- a servants ability to know the future, ability to predict what is going to come based on what has happened and is happening in the present
  8. Stewardship- taking responsibility in the leadership roles in trusted to the leader, hold the organization in trust for the greater good of society
  9. Commitment to the growth of people- treating each follower as a unique person with intrinsic value; committed to helping each person in the organization to grow personally and professionally (examples: providing followers with opportunity for career development, helping them develop new work skills, taking a personal interest in their ideas, involving them in decision making
  10. Building community- allows followers to identify with something greater than themselves that they value; build community to provide a place where people can feel safe and connected with others but are still allowed to express their own individuality

Antecedent Conditions

  1. Context and culture – the nature of the setting affects the way in which servant leadership is carried out.
  2. Leader attributes – different traits interact with their ability to engage in servant leadership
  3. Follower receptivity – concerns the question, “Do all employees show a desire for servant leadership?” Research suggests no.

Behaviors

  1. Conceptualizing- Refers to the servant leader’s thorough understanding of the organization — it’s purposes, complexities and mission..
  2. Emotional healing- Involves being sensitive to the personal concerns and wellbeing of others; makes themselves available to others, standing by them and providing them with support.
  3. Putting followers first- Using actions and words that clearly demonstrate to followers that they are a priority
  4. Helping followers grow and succeed- Knowing followers’ professional and personal goals and helping them to accomplish those aspirations
  5. Behaving ethically- Doing the right thing in the right way
  6. Empowering- Refers to allowing followers the freedom to be independent, make decisions on their own, and be self sufficient.
  7. Creating value for the community- By continuously and intentionally giving back to the community.

LAS Protocol: LDR 200 Service Trip to Detroit


As part of our LAS protocol we have to take Leadership 200. When students are asked what their favorite part of LDR 200 is they will more than likely say the service trip to Detroit. Prior to the service trip I learned about what Servant Leadership is. As soon as I learned that servant leadership was more than just volunteering, and that it was more of a sate of mine, I knew I wanted to strive to be a servant leader.

The service trip to Detroit was a perfect example of Servant Leadership. Throughout this trip, the people we were serving were always put first. The service trip to Detroit was a great experience. A specific example of servant leadership during the trip was my experience at Blight Busters. Before going out and actually volunteering, the owners/founders of the company gave us a presentation about how they came up with the idea of starting Blight Busters. The owner had said he originally came up with the idea after cleaning up the yard of an abandoned house next to his. His other neighbors showed great appreciation that he was cleaning up with neighborhood. They felt that by him cleaning up the rubble in the neighborhood, the neighbor hood would become safer for their children. This eventually expanded and he as well as others began to clean up other areas of Detroit.  A small action turned into a business that has been a part of helping Detroit back on its feet. The owner said that the goal of the business is just that, to help the City of Detroit and by cleaning up and getting rid of the run down appearance that many people tie to Detroit is the first step to changing the overall opinions of Detroit. When serving with Blight Busters, many of the LASers noticed that there was a little girl volunteering with us. Turns out this little girl volunteers with the Blight Busters every Saturday morning. Blight Busters don’t know where she lies or who her parent are they just know that they can count of this little girl to volunteer every Saturday. This little girl is a perfect example of a servant leader. She was not volunteering because of the recognition or reward she would receive. She volunteered because she knew that it would help the city o Detroit.

Every day I strive to apply this theory to my life. To accomplish this theory, one must dedicate their life to it. Being a servant leader is ore than volunteering, it’s a state of mind.