SOMI Lead Team

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Again this year I got the privilege of being the the Co-chair with Hannah Rickers for the SOMI Lead Team (Special Olympics of Michigan). Working with Hannah is absolutely amazing, as she teaches me so much about being an advocate and better leader for people with different abilities. I learn more and more from her every year I work with her.

The point of the SOMI Lead team is to participate in the Leadership Launch. This brings a group of unified students together (with and without disabilities) to learn how to be leaders in their community and schools. The group of students from CMU come together to make this event successful and meaningful for all in attendance. Watching the LEAD team members participate and interact with the student was quiet awesome to see as they truly care about this community. The Leadership Launch is about acceptance of all, which was easily visible during this year’s launch. Though we had some hiccups, since it’s such a time crunch to plan, it ended up being a great event with hundred of students from Michigan in attendance.
LL1Myself, and my teammates for the day, Jorydn and Garrett, facilitated an activity that focused on successful communication. In the center of the room there was a group of sport balls that included basketballs, tennis balls, golf balls, and more. Each ball was labeled with a number. Each participant received a number, and when we said GO they had to try their corresponding ball to their number. There was three rounds: round one included no talking, round three including every talking, and round three only assigned two people could talk. Then after all the separate rounds we discussed how to use effectual communication skills, and what communication skill hinder performance.

The Leadership Launch is such a fun filled packed day with important discussion and learning how to make this world a more accepting place. People with different abilities truly touch my heart, and I am so thankful I could be such a big part during an important day like this one. It’s something that has taught me a lot during my past three years at CMU.

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Connections that Count

Connections that Count is a very unqiue and fun organization at CMU that I am so glad I joined this year. It’s a program where students come together with individuals that have different abilities and their families. It provides a positive environment for everyone to come together for a fun two hours a week. Every Tuesday from 5 to 7 pm I volunteer with connections. Each week we eat dinner and do something fun in the SAC! We have dance parties, bowl, swim, and more. My favorite thing to do is swim with everyone. It seems to be the fan favorite event. Last time we swam my fav little girl and I swam around with goggles, it was a blast that I will never forget! I am building bonds with so many amazing people, I look forward going to Connections that Count every week. It is my stress reliever of the week, since I get to hang out with such inspiring people.

Future Child Advocates

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Future Child Advocates has been a dream come true this year. As it’s a new and growing RSO on campus, I was nervous to take the role as president this academic year. Though with passionate members, it became really easy.

Future Child Advocates is a group that brings awareness to the issue of child abuse and neglect. Our mission statement is to provide education and opportunities to students and members of the community to become more aware of issues involving abuse, neglect, and bullying of children, especially those who are more vulnerable and left without a voice.
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Looking back at this year, FCA had many great accomplishments. To start the year on a great success, our secretary Maddie Karcher made our summer Backpack Project a huge success. Collecting donations of supplies, backpacks, and donations to fill nearly 100 backpacks full of supplies. These backpacks were donated to local schools and the local foster closet!

Also every year we provide the community with a  Truck-or-Treat event to give children a safe environment to show off their costume and have fun with their families. FCA invites other organizations on campus to be represented at this event to help us pass out candy and make the event bigger and better! Over 120 children blog12participated, which was great for our 3rd annual event. I loved seeing all the little ones dressed up in cute costumes. It was also a great bonding experience for our members to all come together.

Then every winter break FCA collects socks for our toasty tootsies fundraiser! This year we collected over 600 pairs of socks and donated them to the Mount Pleasant rotating homeless shelter. One thing people don’t realize is that socks are the number one item low income/homeless families lack is socks during the winter — therefore, I was so proud of all the members dedication to this fundraiser.

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Finally, the number one thing I am most pleased about this year is the members in attendance all year round. We have meetings bi-weekly, and every meeting we have over 20 members in attendance. Each member is dedicated and passionate about making a difference in children’s lives. The thing is that many students in FCA have many different majors that just don’t include education and child development. It’s important to remember many careers effect children’s lives and it’s so cool to see many to come together to support the welfare of kids. Each meeting we discuss an education component that helps us become better advocate for all children that are effected by many different things.

I love being a part of Future Child Advocate because child abuse is an issue close to my heart. It honestly empowers me more to see other students also passionate about the welfare of children. It’s such an easy group to talk to and get close with since we are all there for the same reason – helping little kiddos.

Much love Future Child Advocates, Thanks for an amazing year.

LEAD TEAM: SOMI

This year I had the honors of serving as the CO-Chair with Hannah Rickers for the Special Olympics Michigan LEAD team. It has been my favorite and most rewarding leadership position at CMU so far. Hannah and I took a group to the 2015 SOMI Fall games, and facilitated an unified group together at the first ever Leadership Launch. The SOMI Lead Team was organized a little different this year due to the new event of Leadership Launch, and having such a time crunch from the start of the school year to the weekend of the fall games, but it ended up all working out perfectly.

The 2015 SOMI Fall Games: 

The fall games took place from September 25th – 27th located in Ypsilanti, MI. Hannah and I had trouble planning who was coming with us to the event, since only the Leadership Launch was required for our LEAD Team. The weekend also landed on a busy weekend with sorority recruitment weekend and the Michigan State VS. CMU football game at state. We tried to make sure our LEAD Team members understood the importance of this weekend, and many did end up coming with but we found more LAS members to take the place of students that could not attend. Even with last minute planning and cramming I really saw the weekend as a success. Every volunteer there was full of enthusiasm, passion, and professionalism; I was very proud of the group that came along. They showed me they truly cared about Special Olympics, and made such a difference at the games. I had a smile on my face the entire weekend because of the athletes I interacted with, as well as the outstanding personalities of our volunteers.

I was lucky enough to be one of the individuals that arrived before the games started to be a part of the Young Athlete program, which is my absolute favorite part of the fall games. The year before at Young Athletes I met a beautiful young girl named Abi who I feel in love with, and now I am still lucky enough to be in contact with her and her mother. Her mom could not attend the fall games with her this year, so we communicated to make sure I could spend the day with her at the program, since she was a very shy little girl. I was honored and excited to take care of her. We arrived a little late, but once I saw Abi we both ran to hug each other. All the teachers of her school knew I was coming, and welcomed me to hang out with Abi and her classmates. It was amazing to see the difference in Abi from a year before, she grew into a brave little girl who put a lot of trust in me. We got to play a ton of fun activities together, and her favorite was still soccer. Between each game they played music to move to the next station, and Abi and I loved to dance. Her laugh and smile was so beautiful to see, and I could not believe how much she has grown. Abi is truly an inspiration that I will never go a day without thinking about. She has inspired me to work with children, and continue to help young one’s growth and develop. I am so thankful Special Olympics has brought me to her. 

Then later that day it was Opening Ceremonies for the games, and my group of CMU students jobs were to welcome the athletes with happy and smiling facing. Many of us cheered and danced, and gave the athletes high fives as they walked into the room. It let me know that this weekend was going to be a great one. I was proud that everyone was showing so much energy and happiness, and most importantly acceptance.

Then the next day our LEAD Team was advised to volunteer with golf! Most of us were put into pairs then assigned golfers to drive around on golf carts and cheer them on as they played their round of golf. The golf course was HUGE, and beautiful, but very easy to get lost. I was placed with a female golfer named Ruth, and my volunteer pair was my mentee, Maddie. We had such a fun day getting to know Ruth. The day was full of laughter when I drove the golf cart to the wrong hole, or when we had to squeeze our three butts into a cart made for two people. We were lucky enough to let Dan Gaken capture a photo of us when we get stuck on a curb, Ruth laughed at me so hard. Ruth was also an amazing golfer, she ended up taking first place that day! Maddie and I were both so proud of her, and it was an amazing experience being a part of her day.

Then after our day volunteering with golf we got to be a part of the closing ceremonies, that was followed by a dance after that. Let me tell you, these athletes LOVE to dance. Being at the dance is way too much fun to describe. It’s a room full of so many smiles. It’s a room full of boys hitting on girls and asking them to dance, it’s just a hoot. I was lucky enough to even receive a few surprise kisses on the cheek from some athletes. I also never had an opportunity to be dancing alone, because everyone always has a part and everyone is always welcomed on the dance floor.                                   

The SOMI Fall Games is an opportunity that is hard to explain, and something you need to experience for yourself to understand. It’s a place where I found myself, and it’s a place where you are 100% accepted for who you are, and what you can do; not what you cant’t do. It’s a place where everyone loves everyone, and no one is left behind. It’s a weekend full of laughter and happiness, and I never want it to end. I volunteered with SOMI my first time freshmen year at the first ever fall games and I fell in love. I now continue to volunteer with the Special Olympics, because it’s the happiest thing to be a part of. Make volunteering with SOMI on your bucket list, you won’t regret the experience.

The 2015 Leadership Launch: 

The Leadership Launch was a new program that was created by a wonderful women named Kim Sampson. She created this event with the lovely Jesi Parker, that was accepted for approval at the SoGenUIn Summit at the World Special Olympics Games located in LA! Thanks to Kim and Jesi, Hannah and I got a be a big part of this new and improved created event. Kim envisioned an event where youth are activating youth to make a change. The Leadership Launch taught a group of unified (group with and without intellectual disabilities) students about leadership. Everyone was broken up into four different groups who went through four different group activities involving the topics of respect, inclusion, inspiration, and empowerment. 

Hannah and I facilitated the inclusion activity throughout the day, we did the (y)-knot activity. The group got into a circle, and was given a ball of yarn. The person with the yarn would have to say something about themselves, for example “I like to swim”, and then someone that likes that that too would say, “Me too!” Then you would pass the yarn to someone who had the same thing in common with you, while still holding onto a piece of yarn. In the end a huge web was created to show community and inclusion. The point was for everyone to understand we are all connected in someway. This was very cool for some students, especially for the students that tend to always feel left out. 

The thing I got out most of that day was seeing how empowered all the students were to make a change in their high school. So many of those students are left without a voice in their school and community, but still want to make a difference. When a group of students with and without intellectual disabilities comes together really creates significant change and it was just very amazing and inspiring to see. It was outstanding to see students help other students convey their thoughts and opinions, and to accept everyone’s ideas. All the students came from Michigan high schools who wanted to make a change, they want everyone to feel accepted and that’s truly life changing. A main thing we discussed throughout the day is that our generation is most accepting to people with disabilities, and that is HUGE! That is so important and so amazing, because this is the generation making the change for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. It’s truly amazing to be a part of that accepting movement.

I am so thankful and grateful for being a part of this LEAD Team and being involved with SOMI, I can’t thank the Leadership Institute and CMU for these amazing opportunities. 

Mentorship or Best Friend?

The Leader Advancement Scholarship here at CMU has brought me to very many great opportunities, and has helped me thrive as a leader — Though, I am most grateful for LAS giving me the chance to be a mentor to an outstanding individual, Maddie Karcher.

I remember over a year ago my cohort was just deciding and choosing who our mentees were going to be. People were nervous for the responsibility but looking forward to build that relationship. Some of us were taking it seriously and wanted to provide all the knowledge we had to this individual, but I remember thinking I am looking forward to making a new friend. Being a mentor is such a special experience that is hard to explain, it’s just such a wonderful feeling.

My mentee Maddie and I have different majors, with different end dreams but we still share common passions; we both always worry about others’ well-beings over own. We
are passionate about making society more accepting and loving, and that’s a special bond to have. Maddie and I first really bonded when we volunteered at the Michigan Special Olympics together, it was amazing to stand next to my mentee and share the same love for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The weekend at the SOMI games we shared many laughs, and it was so cool to see her step up and be a leader in a such an important community. She is really making this world a better and happier place.

I want to make a clear note that our signature picture is for me to go on her shoulders; that’s because she is the one that always seems to hold me up through everything. Maddie is such a strong, brave, passionate, and inspiring individual. She has a such a caring and hard working personality; it’s contagious. I always feel like she is the one giving me advice, or giving up something for me. The first weekend we spent together was at our LAS retreat weekend at Eagle Village. Over 80 of us had to sleep on cots on the floor or in bunk beds, but by the time we could claim our bed all the cots were gone. When it was time to go to bed we found one cot, but Maddie insisted I slept on it and wouldn’t take no for an answer. This story may seem silly, but it’s a story that exemplifies her personality. She is ALWAYS willing to give, her heart is huge and it’s so amazing to see and learn from. 

Also at Eagle Village it was such a cool experience to see Maddie put so much trust into my after such a little amount of time getting to know each other. At Eagle Village, each mentor and mentee pair goes up into a ropes course together, and it’s a little scary at first. I wasn’t nervous, but excited, but Maddie was on the more nervous side. Regardless of how nervous she was, she did it. She went up there with me and trusted me to guide her through all the scary moments. It was such a fun time, and I really think it showed us how our relationship was going to be. We needed each other, I am her mentor just as much as she is mine.

This mentorship has been so easy because she is my best friend. We compliment each other. We love and support each other, and to me that’s all that really matters. I know I am that person Maddie will go if she needs anything, and I know she is that exact same person for me. CMU and LAS has brought me to her, and that is what I am most grateful for. She is an individual I want standing in my wedding party someday, because she has changed my life so much. Becoming a mentor is a spectacular feeling, but it’s an even better feeling when that mentorship develops into a meaningful friendship.

Besides, how can I not lover her? She loves Hilary Duff just like I do (Well probably not as much as me :))

Service Learning Reflection

Service leadership and service learning is the most important thing we can do as leaders. It is important to learn by serving others, and I think the most important leadership is when you can give back to others. You can learn personally so much by volunteering for others, making a difference that way is so important.

I have fulfilled my volunteer hours by volunteering at the Leadership Launch, SOMI Fall Games, and the Polar Plunge. I am currently on the wait list as well for Young Athletes to start volunteering with them as well. You can read about this experiences on my previous blog posts.

Also look forward to reading my volunteer experience in Flint, MI next weekend.

Future Volunteer Bucket list: 
Volunteer at local Rainbow House this summer in my hometown community
Young Athletes with SOMI
Women’s Shelter in Mount Pleasant, MI
Alternative Break

 

Polar Plunge 2016

The Polar Plunge: the jump into freezing cold to spread awareness of the Michigan Special Olympics. This year on February 20th, was my first time every doing the Polar Plunge in Mount Pleasant, MI. I did the Polar Plunge in my hometown about six years ago to raise money for our local community pool and swim team, but I swore I would never do it again — but …  Michigan Special Olympics is something worth breaking that oath for.

As a CMU student, I was hand chosen to be on the Student Polar Plunge Committee, which was created to help promote and advertise the plunge. Thanks to all of our committee’s work, Mount Pleasant had the biggest plunge statewide.  Mount Pleasant raised over $70,000 for SOMI (Special Olympics Michigan).

I was on the Leadership Institute team, who raised the most money as a CMU group with $7,220 raised. As an individual I raised $1,205, which I tied with Hannah Rickers for the most money individually raised by a CMU student! I was honored to share this title with Hannah because she is a role model of mine that I always look up too, especially when it comes to being passion about and involved with SOMI.

The day of the plunge we expected over 490 plungers, and that is over 490 people that are advocating for people with and without intellectual disabilities; that’s truly impact. It’s not just about raising money to take a brave jump into freezing cold water, it’s about raising money for the happiest people on this earth. People with physical and intellectual disabilities are outstanding individuals that are worth getting to know, and that’s why I participated in the plunge.

The plunge donations were collected through firstgiving.com, or you could also receive cash/check donations. My site is called http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/megan-nemetz/MtPleasant16. Where people donated and read my story about how I am involved with SOMI.

Special Olympics Michigan is close to my heart, and I am so proud of this community for standing up for this cause. Also I want to thank my friends, family, and my community members for supporting me and helping make it possible for me to raise over 1,000 dollars. My first goal was set at $300, and I was lucky enough to set that goal to $1,000 thanks to all the tremendous amount of support. It was incredible to see family members, old teachers, and old friends donate to my page. I even had strangers donate to my page thanks to spreading awareness by the word oft mouth. I can not thank everyone enough for supporting me with my passion, but more importantly supporting the Special Olympics Michigan.