Leadership Training

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.

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!

 

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.

Year in Review

I can’t believe that my Freshman year of college is over. It seems like just yesterday I was wondering around campus not knowing where I was going looking like a typical Freshman. On move in day I never would have thought that I would become the person I am today. Like many teenagers I thought I knew it all. When moving in I was positive that I would be just fine living on own. Little did I know, I was completely wrong. My transition to college was extremely hard. This was a surprise to me because I have never been a home body. The firs three months of college were all I wanted was to go home. I felt alone. I hadn’t found a place where I thought I belonged.  I would constantly call my older brother crying because I wanted to go home so bad. Unfortunately, I also did  not have a good relationship with my roommates. From the beginning there was constant conflict. Although things with my roommates did not improve over the year, I did still gain many things from living with them.


It wasn’t until close too the end of the semester that I found where I belonged. The student organization that I am involved in traveled to Cedar Point for a fundraiser. It was here that I would met Bailey and Amy. Over the next few months I began to grow closer and closer with them. Now, we are inseparable. Prior to coming to college my parents always told me that I will meet my life long friends in college. I never believed this until now. Bailey and Amy are now my best friends. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for them I don’t know if I would have stated at Central.


Coming out of the first semester I knew I wanted to become more involved second semester. I did just that. During second semester I joined a sorority. Although I ALWAYS said I would never join Greek Life, now I’m very glad I did. It has allowed me to meet many new people. But most importantly it has gotten me more involved not only on campus but off campus as well. Joining Alpha Gama Delta has also provided me with any opportunities to take a leadership role in the chapter. I can say I successful accomplished my goal of being more involved second semester.


Over the course of the last 8 or 9 months I have grown as not only person but as a leader. My collaboration and work ethic are the two skills that have improved the most. Both of these skills are important to possess as a leader. Collaboration assists one in being open minded when brainstorming ideas for a task, a solution to a problem or simply just getting along with a group of people. My work ethic has also greatly improved this year. I have always been a hard worker. However, this year, my academic schedule required a whole new level of work ethic. Quality work ethic is important of leader because it assists them in the completion of tasks.

My first year at CMU has been full of ups and downs. I’ve learned life lessons and I’ve made life long friends. Although it took 5 months to feel at home, I can now say that I love CMU. The relationships I have made with the people here are relationships that will last a lifetime. I cant imagine my life without the friends I made during my Freshman year of college.

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.

Does Leadership start with a “yes” or a “no”?

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Leadership is about growing and one cannot grow if they are not open to new experiences. One cannot experience new things if they say “no” when offered a new opportunity. Therefore leadership starts with a “YES.”

Saying yes to one new opportunity has to potential to open to door to many other opportunities. I believe it to be as simple as that. If one does not say “yes” they will not have as many chances to participate in new experiences or opportunities that will help them to grow as leaders. Saying “yes” to the Leader Advancement Scholarship has opened up countless doors for me during my first year at CMU. If I would have turned down the offer, I would not be the leader I am today. Saying “yes” was one of the best decision I made for myself as a leader.

Because I believe that Leadership starts with a “yes” I always try to say “yes” to new opportunities when I am offered one. I will encourage others to do the same as well. One can always say yes and then later decide that that opportunity was not for them with is better than saying “no” and never knowing what may have come from the opportunity.

I challenge you to say “yes” to the next opportunity you are offered as a leader. Step outside of your comfort zone and experience something new.

Alpha Leadership

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As part of our Leader Advancement Scholar protocol, we are required to participate in Alpha Leadership. Alpha is a 6 week long free leadership development program available to any and all CMU students. It is directed and vacillated by trained student volunteers.

During Alpha, students participate in activities that cover team building, problem solving as well as simulation activities that open up your eyes to everyday problems. The two main simulation activities put light on the both treatment of students with cognitive and physical disabilities through having students participate in an activity ran by the David Garcia Project and a group activity relating to acceptance of people who are different than you. I really loved participating in these two specific activities. They were greatly beneficial to me and really opened my eyes.

When I signed up for Alpha, I really only did it because it was required. However, after the first two sessions, I found that I was starting to look forward to 6pm every Thursday which is when Alpha was. Alpha ended up being extremely more fun and beneficial to me than I had originally anticipated. I would greatly recommend it to anyone. It was great meeting students who were not directly involved with the Leadership Institute but held leadership positions all over campus as well as who shared a love for leadership.

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Following Alpha Leadership, I will take the benefits I gained from the two simulation activities and apply them to every day life. I won’t be quick to judge when people are different than I. I will listen to their perspectives, offer to help and not be quick to judge. I plan on continue to participate in more program such as Alpha in order to help develop my leadership skills.