Leadership Education

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.

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The Bone Song is Wrong

WATCH THE VIDEO….

This is a song many children learn in their elementary ed gym class. You probably learned it at one point in your education too, am I right?  But sorry to break it to all you intellectuals out there, but you’ve been taught wrong. Very wrong. 

For the last year, I have volunteered around 32 hours in the Anatomy Lab. I am a Teaching Assistant for the Anatomy Cadaver Lab here at Central Michigan University. A lot of my friends ask why I volunteer my time to go teach freshman anatomy every Monday and Wednesday from 9:30 am to 10:45 am. And here’s the answer….

  1. It’s helped to expand my knowledge of the human body immensely as well as keep the info fresh in my brain. This is important for many reasons. In June, I will start applying to Physical Therapy graduate programs. Knowing the structure and function of the body and being able to recall that info without much thought it important for success as a Physical Therapist. Thus, keeping my anatomy knowledge fresh as well as expanding on it is benefitting my future.
  2. I think it’s freaking awesome to be able to see an actual heart, brain, lungs, etc. Then again that is what makes me the person I am.
  3. Connections and friendships. I worked with two outstanding Graduate Assistants that have provided me with so much knowledge and advice. I’ve also been able to  work closely with Professor Salt who has helped me in so many ways on my way  to reach my Grad School goals. Also, making friends with similar interests and are enrolled in some of the same classes is always nice too.
  4. I like to help others learn. Anatomy is an important class for anyone going into the health field. Understanding the structure and function of the human body is key. It is something that must be understood for success in almost any career in the health and/or medical field. Being able to help students achieve this understanding is something I enjoy. 

In fact, today I interviewed to become an official Anatomy Lab Teaching Assistant rather than a volunteer one. 

Destination Haiti: Round 2 of many

Growing up we are always told to do something we love when we grow up.I loved helping people and I was going to help people by becoming a Physical IMG_0999Therapist. That was my plan and that is what I was going to. It was not until  last summer however that discovered what really makes me happy, my purpose in life.

I discovered Haiti.

I could go on and on about how the negative connotations that come along with Haiti are SO far from the truth (that’s a story for another day). Haiti is a place full of love and community. The people are noIMG_1147thing but welcoming. Last summer, the day I arrived in Haiti happened to by my birthday. Meeting the people I would be staying with for the first time, I never would have expected in my wildest dreams that they would have thrown me  a birthday party. OH WAS I WRONG. TiCarme, the major leader in the village, somehow, I am still unsure how, found out that it was my birthday and planned a party and made me a birthday cake. I instantly fell in love with the country. How often do you see a complete stranger throw someone they don’t know one bit a birthday party? Pretty much never. The next 5 days were nothing short of life changing. I experienced so much while in Haiti. I, my faith, and my passion for helping others grew immensely.

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When it came to leave, I sat on the plane and cried. I did not want to leave. Although the friends I made there said they knew I would be back, God was telling them I would be, I honestly was unsure if I would ever be back and that broke my heart. How could I never return to the country and to the people that changed my life? I couldn’t. It was then that my cousin and I, with the help of our old church Pastor and his wife started to brainstorm. It was here that Help The Youth, a Haitian non-profit grew. Help The Youth i

Help The Youth is non-profit organization that is American funded and Haitian run. Money is raised to help pay the student’s annual school tuition fee. Being able to go to school in Haiti is considered an honor because not many families can afford the $250 fee. In addition to funding for tuition, we collect and donate school and health supplies to the local schooIMG_0943l and clinic in Neply Haiti and surrounding villages. Students from 4-5 villages often go to the same school.

We fundraise year around. A few weeks ago we had out first community fundraiser in my hometown of Holland, Michigan. It was a success. If you are interested in donating to Help The Youth, click here (Be sure to select Haiti in the drop down menu. Every sent donated goes directed to Haiti. No percentage of the donations are used to pay employees. We are also a tax exempt organization in Haiti, which means the organization

SIDE NOTE*****No percentage of the donations are used to pay organization employees. We are also a tax exempt organization in Haiti, which means the organization receives all of the money donated. No percentage goes to their government.

IMG_1041A few months following my trip to Haiti, I was asked to be a part of the Board of Directors for Help The Youth. The country that changed my life was now becoming a huge aspect of my life. A few weeks after that I found out I would be able to return to Haiti the following summer and mostly likely every summer following. At age 19, I was now a co-founder and member of the BOD of an international non-profit organization. Sometimes, the things  that you never consider or never expect become the things that hIMG_1012elp you find your purpose.

Unlike most college students, I am not just a part of a club, the club is a part of me. Haiti and Help The Youth hold a special place in my heart. I am beyond blessed that God lead me to Haiti. If you feel lost, do not worry. God will show you the way to a place where you will discover yourself.

 

 

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!

 

#LeadChat

The CMU Leadership Insititue twitter runs something called a Lead Chat. A Lead Chat is when the CMU LI twitter will tweet a questions regarding leadership and then anyone has the chance to contribute to the conversation by replying to the tweet with their answer to the question.

Prior to receiving out mentees, there was a Lead Chat on the mentee/mentor relationship. The questions that were asked got me thinking. I really liked participating in this group chat because it allowed me to see what others thought about what a mentee/mentor relationship should be about. It was also very cool that some of the future LASers, our mentees, participated in the Lead Chat.


    

I’M A MENTOR

Approximately a year ago today I received my mentor. At that point I really wasn’t sure what a mentor would really do for me other than answer my question. However a year later words cannot explain how much Trino has done for me. Over the past year Trino has become one of my best friends. Due to the wonderful mentee/mentor relationship I am determined to create just as good of a relationship with my mentee as I had with my mentor.


Prior to the mentee work shop I hadn’t thought much about being a mentor. All I knew was that I was excited to be a mentor. The mentor workshop addresses many questions that I hadn’t considered. These question addressed what should you do if you do to help make you mentor feel more comfortable during their first week of college, what should you do to if you mentee comes to you with a serious problem, what should you do to try and form a better relationship and more. When we went around and answered these question my fellow LASers had many great answers and also brought up many other good points that I hadn’t considered. During this conversation, one of the most memorable things said was by the one and only Dan Gaken. He said, “You are holding your mentee’s freshman year in your hands.” Although this statement may seem slightly exaggerated, it is true. The main purpose of a mentor is support. The help and support I offer my mentee will either in my opinion make or break his freshman year or college.

The thing I am most excited for when being mentor is the mentee/mentor relationship. I am going to do my best to make sure that my mentee has a positive first year and that he knows that I am here for him when he needs anything. My mentor and I have such a close relationship that we are road tripping to Florida this summer. I want this quality of a relationship with my mentee. Although a creating a quality relationship is a two way street, I will make sure to do my part in the relationship.

To be an effective mentor I will be sure to contact my mentee often to make sure that he is doing well, if he has any questions or if they want to meet up for lunch or dinner. I will be sure to visit Barnes (the LAS dorm) often.

A week after the mentor workshop was when the mentee draft occurred. My mentee is Harrison Watts. I am beyond excited to meet Harrison and be a part of his freshman year. I can’t wait to share my love for CMU.