Sense of Belonging

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

Lead Team: Special Olympics Fall Games

Working with Special Olympics was one of the most beneficial experiences I have had. The athletes are  and inspiration. If I had one recommendation it would be for every person to volunteer at Special Olympics at some point in their life time. For those who don’t know, Special Olympics is an organization that puts on events/sporting events for persons with intellectual and physical disabilities. These events span across the United States.


In any normal competition, it is unlikely that each side will encourage each other. However, the atmosphere at Special Olympics is completely different. The atmosphere is one of most positive and encouraging environments that I have ever been in. Every athlete has a constant smile on his or her face. When awards are handed out, they cheer, congratulate and hug each other. When their friend gets an award they are just happy as if it were them. One of my favorite parts about volunteering at Special Olympics was the quality relationships that I created with the athletes.The biggest lesson they taught me was that encouragement is the key.


Volunteering at Special Olympics motivates me to keep a positive attitude Special Olympics taught me that everyone has something they can teach others. Keeping this in mind will help me to become a better leader because it will allow me to successfully collaborate with my followers. Considering all ideas and learning from others is very important when you are a leader. The athletes taught me that no matter what its always better to keep a smile on my face no matter the situation. This has helped me to become a better leader because positively motivates and a leader who does not motivate will have a hard time connecting with their followers.

I along with a group of my sorority sister’s will be volunteering at the Special Olympic Summer games in May.


On a side note…this past fall while at the Special Olympics I also got to meet two of my favorite people on this planet, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Olympic Gold pairs skaters.

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.

LAS Competition Day: I spy future mentees

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A few weeks ago was LAS Competition Day. As an LAS Freshmen I was beyond excited to meet potential incoming LAS freshman. Competition Day was like Christmas for me. I was beyond excited to see what the day would hold.

Being on the other side of Competition Day was a beneficial experience. As current LAS we are excited to meet the students. However, it was important for us to remember that they are extremely nervous, and that they were here competing for their future.

At the end of the day a student’s parents approached me and personally thanked me for all that I had done for them throughout the day. They had mentioned that the conversation I had with their son at lunch made him feel extremely welcomed and more excited than nervous to be competing for the Leader Advancement Scholar. This was a great feeling. I had no idea that a simple conversation could help some so immensely.

I cannot wait to meet the LAS Class of 2015 and welcome them into the LAS family.

Don’t feed the Trolls.

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Seth Godin’s blog post titled The Trolls Inside interested me.

He talked about how there are negative people all over. They are mean internet comments and anonymous critics. But the worst troll is the troll is in your head. I believe this to be completely true. One can learn to brush off the mean comments of others, but brushing off the negative thoughts you have about yourself are the hardest to conquer. These trolls in your head unfortunately have the ability to greatly affects ones success,

Every time that the troll in my head tells me I can’t do something I think back to Seth Godin’s post.

“Do not feed the troll. Do not reason with the troll.Do not argue with the troll.”

The trolls in my head will not tell me I can’t. They will not tear me down. They will not affect my ability to succeed.

I can and I will succeed.

Interested in Seth Godin’s blog? Click HERE.

1000 to 1: Cory Weissman

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Cory Weissman is an inspiration to many and is also someone who gained my respect. Weissman was one of the main players on his high school basketball team by finishing high school with 1000 career points.In 2009, Cory, a freshman who wen on to play basketball on the Gettysburg College basketball team had a stoke leaving the entire left side of his body paralyzed. The next three years of his life he fought his way back. Throughout the long three years of recovery he never gave up. Basketball was his motivation. Basketball was Weissman’s life and he knew that the only thing that would make him happy is if he could get back on the court for a game. Cory’s finally was rewarded for all his hard work his senior year of college. His coach let him play. Not only was Cory back on the court but he also made his first ever college career point.

A inspiring movie was made showing the struggles and achievements of Cory’s experience. The movie is called 1000 to 1.

Cory is a leader for many reasons. People look up to him. Cory fought death and overcame challenges that the doctors told him were never possible. This is why others are motivated by Cory. He did what he was told was impossible. He did this by never losing hope even when others lost hope in him. I admire that Cory never gave up. Three years is a very long time to keep pursuing a dream that may not even be possible. Now, Cory is 24 and continues to play basketball for fun. Cory is passing on his love and dedication of the sport to his fellow players. Cory’s leadership has affected me because I can personally relate. My 8th grade year I fractured my L5 while at Figure Skating Practice. I had 4 long years of recovery. I personally know how hard it can be to overcome something that crushed your dreams. But Cory did it and I did it. He is an inspiration to many and continues to be an inspiration as he resides in Los Angeles as a Personal Trainer.

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Mentor…More like brother.

I have the best mentor an LAS student could ask for. Not only is Trino someone I can go to with questions, he is also someone I can go to when I freaking out over an exam or when I just feel like talking about my day. He has helped me immensely so far.

Over the summer and prior to the start of the fall semester, Trino had put in a significant amount of effort to make sure I knew that he was there to help me with my transition to college. He let me know that he was there for support any time I needed it.

MentorIn addition to having a great mentor, I also have a great mentor family who I continue to become closer and closer with as time goes on.

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Annually, the freshmen LAS and their mentors take a weekend off and go to Eagle Village for the LAS mentee/mentor retreat. This is a two day retreat that put the mentee/mentor pairs through tasks that help them to further their mentee/mentor relationship. Many of the challenges that we were put though were group challenges. One of the most beneficial challenges to my mentor and I was the high ropes course.

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Sadly, Trino was unable to attend day one of the two day retreat. Although, this upset me at first, I eventually learned that Trino not being there was beneficial to me. Because my mentor was not their, many other of the mentors offered to take me under their wing that day. This allowed me to get closer to many of the other mentors. However, the second day Trino was able to be there. He drove through the night in order to make sure that he was there in time for breakfast. That day, Trino and I participated in the outdoor high ropes course. Heights are something that do not scare me one bit, but they are something that scare Trino. When I got up therefore Trino left it to me to do whatever obstacles I wanted even if he didn’t want to. Trino pushed himself out of his comfort zone on the high ropes course.  This taught me that the mentee/mentor relationship isn’t only to help benefit us, but that it is also to help benefit our mentors. We learn and grow from the mentee/mentor relationship just as just as the mentors grow from the mentor/mentee relationship.

The mentee/mentor bonding was definitely great. However, the most beneficial aspect of the retreat to me was the bonfire Saturday night. At the bonfire, many of the mentors stood up and told us how important LAS was to them and how much it has impacted their lives since there were in our shoes a year previously. This is when I came to realize how blessed I actually was to have received the Leader Advancement Scholarship. This night I learned that LAS is one BIG family that is always their for each other through thick and thin.

Because I personally found that having a good mentee/mentor relationship has made me feel more at home at Central, I will go that extra mile to make sure that I do what I can for my mentee to make sure that they get the most out of our mentee/mentor relationship.

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