Leadership Safari is an event that Central Michigan University organizes for incoming freshmen to participate in the week before classes actually begin. It is a week for new CMU students to come together and learn life changing leadership skills. The week is filled with activities, speakers, and leadership experiences. It is a time for students to make new friends, and connect on a dipper personal level. The Leadership Safari of 2014 had the largest numbers of participants yet, and I was grateful to be apart of it.
My Leadership Safari experience was truly amazing. Everyone in safari was placed into a group; my group was Team Meerkat. I remember the first night when we first met our team members, I was scared out of my mind. No one wanted to talk or participate in the activities. I remember thinking that I was here for a reason, not just to pass up this opportunity. By the third day of safari my group was finally started opening up, and our lives were changing together. I remember three moments specifically that made our group closer and stronger as individuals.
First moment: Fairness Lunch
The fairness lunch was an activity designed to teach us how our society and peers are really effected by starvation. When it was time for lunch everyone got separated into two different lines. One group received a full lunch with a sandwich, cookies, fruits, and a drink. The second group received a small lunch with crackers and a water. My team member Jacob and I received the small lunch. We thought the whole thing was a joke. Once we opened our lunch bags to see what we had, we turned around to complain we didn’t get enough. Instead of giving us more food, they sent us back to our group. Jacob and I were the only ones in our group that did not get a lunch.
Once we got back to the group everyone was eating their huge lunch. Jacob and I sort of made a scene because we were mad at the time, and instead of the others sharing they were cruel about it. Jacob had an extra bag of chips in his backpack that he brought and shared them with me. The funny thing I noticed was that the two suffering were the ones sharing. The others just watched and ate their sandwiches. Soon our team leader sat us down and explained what was going on. She read us facts of how many people are under the poverty line and can not afford food. So many students at CMU can’t even afford their food. The point of the activity was to realize how lucky we are if we can afford food and water. Also by Jacob and I experiencing the fairness lunch together we bonded on a closer personal level. It is something I will never forget. It impacted me more then I expected. I grew up struggling financially, so this hit close to home. An activity so simple showed us how lucky we truly can be. Never take for granted what you have, and respect others around you.
Second Moment: Story Activity
One activity the group participated in was a scenario activity. Each team member received a piece of paper that stated something you had to pretend was true about your life. Mine said, “You have a little brother with down-syndrome.” Then one member from our team read the story out loud to the group. The story was a story full of put downs and rude stereotypes. The story repetitively used the word retarded. Along with other words and phases such as, “Go kill yourself”, “fat ass”, “gay”, and “stupid”. Each member of my group was affected by the words being said in this story. It taught us those put downs and phrases should never be said. By choosing to use the term retarded, you are referring to someone with downs-syndrome. If you choose the phrase go kill yourself, the person actually might take it literally. Our choice of every day terms can and will affect the others around us. We need to be aware of other’s feelings, and that story taught my team that. A lot of my members of my team were from close minded communities, and this was a very hard activity for them. This activity was the most impacting to our group. It brought up topics of conversation that hurt everyone’s feelings in some way. This activity made our group closer every step of the way.
Third Moment: Saying Goodbye
Our last day of Leadership Safari was hard. Every single member of the Meerkat Team bonded and connected in some way. On the very last day we stood in a circle and swayed back and forth. As we did that our team leader (Mama Meerkat) instructed us to tell each other positive things about the week we experienced together. By the end every single one of us were in tears. We could not help it but cry when we said goodbye. It is crazy to think by the end of one week you can be so close to so many people. One gentlemen named Matt (also known as mango Matt) inspired me the most at the end. He spoke words that made those tears stream down my face. He told us how much our group changed his life for the better, and how much we mean to him. Matt was someone that was soft spoken, but once he spoke it was truly empowering. He told us personal items about his life that I will not share on this post due to confidentiality, but what he told us changed my life forever. It was proof that any experience can change your life, and that you need to be willing to change at any moment if that moment will make you a better person; a person you always strive to be.
Leadership Safari was an opportunity I was so happy to be apart of, and will never forget. I made relationships in the group that will always stay strong. Our Mama Meerkat is still a mentor to me this day that I am so grateful for her. Also I met my best friend Kirsten there, who told me that after that week passed she told her mom right away she met a girl that she knows will be in her wedding; and that girl is me.
Leadership Safari also taught me leadership lessons in a new personal setting that I really enjoyed. Leadership Safari is something I recommend to every incoming freshmen at Central Michigan University.
If you would like to read more information about Central Michigan University Leadership Safari please visit this link: