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 :))

Detroit. A place where dreams are created.

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When I think of Detroit I will think of the place where my dreams were created. Detroit inspired me so much that words can’t fully describe. Some people think of a city of lost hope, but those people just don’t know where to look for the hope. When I went to Detroit, Michigan this weekend I found hope in the people I met, I found hope in the places I went, and Detroit just gave myself so much more hope and dreams for myself.

This weekend I went to a Detroit service trip in Detroit, Michigan with my LAS (Leader Advancement Scholar) cohort. Going into the weekend I did not really know what to exactly expect. (Look at my Pre-Detroit trip blog to find out more) I knew the usual stereotype of Detroit, but I really went into the trip open-minded to fully take in ever ounce of Detroit I could. Let me tell you, it’s a beautiful place. People may say it’s broken, but just because something is broken does that make it not beautiful anymore? Or does that make it not fixable anymore? Detroit is a city full of beauty and hope, and people need to realize that.

My favorite and first thing the LAS group did on this Detroit service trip was volunteer with students at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. We went there to serve and help others, but those people in that school really helped me. They truly inspired me. The students in that school and in those classes are just too amazing to describe. They are so optimistic, so happy go lucky, and just so great I could not tell anything about them past their beautiful smiles. We were told that the students of Jalen Rose Leadership Academy located in Detroit mostly come from a broken down neighborhood with not the best home lives. But the thing is, I would of not of been able to tell that from those students if I wasn’t told otherwise. They were so passionate about everything and so happy to be there it was just so wonderful to see. Those kids have a rough life, but that doesn’t stop them. They don’t care if they are put into the stereotypical statuses of Detroit, it is their home. The students at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy really were big leaders to their peers and community in my eyes. I really loved being in the atmosphere of that school. That school has so much hope and so much love. Their love may be a in a different form then “regular” people are use to, but love is love; and love is a powerful thing. What really inspired me at Jalen Rose was how big of the impact the teachers and staff make a difference in their students lives. Writing that last sentence just gave me chills thinking about it. The teachers and staff of Jalen Rose Leadership Academy have HUGE hearts and are just such empowering role models, especially After a couple hours in their school and classrooms we later had dinner where we had the chance to talk to the teachers of the school. I asked them if they could receive outside help from volunteers what would they wish to get help with? One talked about how any help in the classroom from other outside resources is a huge help just by being an extra set of hands in the classroom to give attention to the students, or to even help the teacher with grading papers when they are swamped with stuff to do. The teacher’s at this school have to be really and fully committed to those students 100% of the time, not just there to help them with papers. They are there to help them with anything, and that is just so amazing to me. Another teacher answered my questions too, and his answer really impacted me a lot. He talked about just being another person there to be their role model would make a huge difference to them. He said that these students at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy have a range of role models from 0-2, where when we are asked who our role models are we can state a long list of people in our life that make a difference. These students in this school can not, what children need are just more role models in their lives. It just caught me off guard a little bit when the teacher stated that they don’t have role models to look up to. Those teachers of that school are their role models, and they put so much into those kids it is just inspirational. This trip made my decision to work with children for the rest of my life. My major is psychology and I have been undecided what field I want to go into, but after this experience I know there is a demand for role models in children’s lives. Jalen Rose Leadership Academy has transformed my dream into working with children for the rest of my life.

The second day of the Detroit service trip we worked with Detroit Blight Blusters, where we helped them spread mulch in a large area of land that they plan to fix up and turn into an apple orchard, or something to help the city of Detroit. Blight Blusters’ goal is just to better Detroit in different areas one step at a time. We were originally going to fix up a vacant house, but they could not get trash bins to be rented that day. The goal, dream, and hope of Blight Blusters is amazing and inspiring. My favorite part of the day working for them is when I met a little girl named Samiya (Spelling may be wrong). She was an eight year old girl, and was absolutely gorgeous. She talked to me and told me her dad works for Blight Blusters and she volunteers with him when she can. She also told me she is the king of Blight Blusters. She was the cutest thing and I just loved hearing her story. She knew what she was doing more than I did! I just really find so much inspiration, hope, and beauty in the children/teenagers I met in Detroit this weekend. The impact they are making is truly amazing.

This whole weekend was just really about servant leadership. It was a time for the Leader Advancement Scholar Cohort class of 2018 to come together as a whole and be servant leaders in the city of Detroit. We provided and cared for the others around us and stop focusing on ourselves for once. Our attention was to help students of the Jalen Rose Academy become better leaders in their city, state, community, and school; and also to help Blight Blusters continue their movement of helping Detroit becoming a better city one step at a time. It was an experience of servant leadership we should never forget.

Not only did the two service trips impact me this weekend, but just also the people I was surrounded with during them did too. We had a big sleep over with all the members of LAS in the CMU’s location in the heart of Detroit. The weekend was full of meaningful conversations during the sleepover, tour of the Lion’s stadium, during meals, and even on the bus. I bonded with so many on very deep levels. I will have memories from this weekend forever. During our last meal together at the Great Lake Crossing Mall’s food court, my leadership adviser’s (the one and only Dan Gaken) wife, Erin Smith Gaken, introduced me into the idea of having a minor of sign language. I was always fascinated by the idea of sign language but I guess I really never thought of myself actually majoring in it. The little conversation sparked a big interest in me. That’s why I think people are so important. Every around us is changing our lives in a small or big way. Conversations are important, and trips like this are also so so so important. This trip opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I appreciated all of it.

I didn’t go into this trip thinking it would change my dream or change my life that significantly but it did. I realized how important role models are. I finally set my goal of becoming a child psychologist, and decided to minor in sign language. I found a lot of myself in this service trip. We go into service trips thinking we are there to help and inspire the ones we are serving, but in the end the experience is actually life changing for us. A lot of people didn’t find this trip as amazing as I did because they have already did such a thing, or they live in or near Detroit; but all of this was new to me. All of this was new and eye opening for me. Going some place new or different can really change your mind set, and for me it did. Detroit opened my heart and mind to a new dream and to a new future. Detroit is a place full of hopes and dreams that should be accomplished. Detroit is something I’ll never forget.

The biggest question we are being asked when we came back from this service trip in Detroit is now what? Now what can we do with what we learned or experienced during our Detroit service trip?

Now I want to create a difference in the youth where ever I go.
Detroit really made me finally realize that the youth is where I want to put my focus on for the rest of my life. I want to continue my education in a career path of Psychology but have my focus be children. I want to find ways to impact the youth in Mount Pleasant, and in my hometown of Menominee Michigan. Blight Blusters said by making your own community a better place, you are making the world a better place. So many children and teenagers are without role models, and that is not okay. I will now find ways to be role models to the youth.

Now I want to find a way to fund raise for the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy for next year’s annual Detroit service trip. The staff of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy give so much to their students, and they deserve something in return. A lot of their student’s supplies comes out of their pocket, and I believe by having a school supplies fundraisers for them would be a great way to appreciate and say thank you to the staff of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. A little appreciation really goes a long way, and I know by supplying their classrooms would be a big help.

Now I see Detroit as a beautiful city. Detroit deserves more recognition then it receives. Detroit made me realize we get too caught up in the small things and forget to appreciate the little things. The big fuss on social media lately is the new update on snap chat, the celebrity roast on Justin Bieber, and the Duke vs. Wisconsin basketball game. Why are we worrying about that when people can’t even afford to own a phone, or even a house to live in? Some people can’t afford to put their children through education or even put food on the table. Detroit just made me realize stop complaining about the small stuff in life. We need to realize the big picture. Detroit just shows that people aren’t concerned about the big world problems unless they are directly effected by it. A good example of this is when we were waiting for our bus to arrive a bunch of people were waving money and shouting out the casino window. As they were doing that a homeless man was playing instruments on the street to raise his living, but people in the casino was not even affected by that or aware of it! There is so much we could be doing to help fix big world problems but instead we are too caught up in not having the iPhone 6. Detroit is a place full of hope and dreams, and real problems. Real problems they should be recognized, and now I really do recognize what we could be doing to make this world a better place.

Be open minded to change, different backgrounds, and different ways of life. No one’s life is the same and people seem to forget that. Detroit is a place of beauty and if people were more opened minded they would realize that.

Exit of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy
Exit of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy

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Yes or No?

Does leadership come from a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’?

In my leadership class we were presented with the question, “Does leadership come from a ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” I believe that leadership doesn’t come from a yes or no, I believe leadership comes from a yes and a no. I guess that some people think as a leader you can’t say no to people. But has a leader you need to know when to say yes and when to say no. Every circumstance is different, but you should do what you think would set a good example for others. I strongly believe in leaders need to lead by what they strongly believe in, and lead by setting the example they want to set for others. So if you want to say no to a certain request because it goes against your belief, then you need to say no. If others are saying no to a certain task, you are most definitely  allowed to stand up and say yes! Don’t let someone define you, you always need to define yourself. If you view yourself as a leader, you answer yes and no when YOU think is right. It is up to you to decide how you want to lead, and live your life. As a leader you should not feel pressured to say yes or no, you say what you want to say. You say what you believe is best. Leaders are not defined if they say yes or no, leaders are defined by why they say yes or no. Now the real question is are you a true leader? Yes or no?

Be fearless like T-swift  
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Say no if you should’ve said no..
Say yes if you should’ve said yes..

Special Olympics Basketball Tournament

This weekend I volunteered for a Special Olympic basketball tournament ran by district seven. This is the second Special Olympic event I volunteered for, and I just can’t get enough of it. These athletes are some of the most inspiring people I have ever met. They have such a positive attitude and determined mind set. The tournament was at Shepard middle school and high school. Each court was divided into different skill set level to make the teams far. I got to keep stats for multiple games through the day. I was happy to spend my Saturday at this tournament. Taking stats is usually a boring job but I really enjoyed seeing all the Special Olympic Athletes try there best for their time.  Not only did I bond with the athletes, I met new people at also attend CMU. I brought my roommate along this time to share the wonderful experience with me. I loved seeing her face during this new opportunity for her.  Also the head of district seven invited us to stay involved with these particular district of athletes, which I am really looking forward to. Special Olympics will always have a place in my heart. I can’t describes these events in words really well. I highly suggest to try to be apart of such an amazing program. They are truly amazing people.

Michigan Fall Special Olympics

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I got an amazing opportunity to be apart of the Michigan Fall Special Olympics. I was apart of a committee that organized activities for project unify and the Special Olympics. The group from CMU got to run a leadership session for project unify, help young athletes participate in events, and help run the golf section of the Michigan Fall Special Olympics. Every opportunity was so amazing. Not only did I bond with athletes, I also bonded with other students at CMU. One girl named Jen and I became really close friends by the end of the weekend. IMG_7355You always need to cherish every opportunity or experience you are given because you can never expect the outcome that you will receive. I made many lasting friendships and memories that weekend. My favorite part of the weekend was the two hour period we got to play with the young athletes in an arrange of different activities. There’s where I met a little girl named Abi. There isn’t words for how perfect of a little girl Abi is. She is just so precious I could not be help but to fall in love with a such a cute little girl. After this wonderful experience I wrote a paper on Abi. She changed my life more than she will ever realize, but spending that time with her was honestly the best memory I have of my entire life. And I would like to share this experience that I always remember…

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I will never forget the sparkle in her eyes that reminded me of myself when I was a child. Her excitement and happiness was astonishing, but yet, sometimes still hidden by her shyness. I will always be able to replay the moment in my mind when she ran up and hugged me as tight as she possibly could. That instant I knew she accepted me into her life, and I felt the impact of change in my own life. On Friday, September 16th, I met a little girl named Abi, during the 2014 Special Olympic Fall Games of Michigan. There was a connection built between us in little over than an hour that would last for the rest of our lives. Abi made me change my attitude and outlook on life within a small period of time.
During the Michigan Special Olympic Fall Games we received about two hours to spend time and socialize with young special Olympic athletes. That’s where I met Abi. Abi is a really young girl, no older than five. She had two curly brown hair pig tails that brushed her face, and deep pretty brown eyes, just like my own. She was almost a mirrored image of myself when I was that age. I could not help but notice her curiosity and wisdom across the room. In this room there were set up sport stations for the young athletes to participate in. One of the first stations I helped Abi participate in was the golf station. At first she was a little hesitant with me helping her, but she soon learned I was there for pure encouragement and support. Little did she realize that I was actually learning more from her than she was form me.
Shortly after the golfing station, Abi and I got a chance to briefly talk. Even though she didn’t say much, I could still understand by reading her body language and facial expressions. At the time we were waiting to move to our next station, which was the soccer station. I asked her if she liked soccer, and she shook her head with excitement. She kept whispering, “Bubba.” Soon I found out, by talking to her mother, that Bubba is her brother who plays soccer. Abi likes to kick the ball around at home with him, and she soon showed me that she can kick the ball pretty far for how tiny she is. Then the next station we got to participate in was the bowling station. This is where she put a lot of trust in me and let me help her guide and push the bowling ball down the lane. After we got done bowling she jumped into my arms with eyes full of joy, and that’s when I felt the power of change come across me. With so little time, a young girl as herself, had so much confidence in me. In that embrace, we felt a connection that could never be broken.
Then Abi and I moved onto the football throwing station.IMG_7425 This is where I really saw Abi’s true colors. She would repetitively pick up the football with so much confidence and hit the target every time. She was a strong little girl inside and out. I would continue to give her a smile and a cheer with every accomplishment she kept making. Then once at that football station she hit the target, looked back up at me and gave me the biggest smile back. I felt a complete rush of acceptance fill my body. I was also pretty sure the feeling was mutual. Abi starting holding my hand as we would go from station to station. As we walked towards the flag football station she pulled back with hesitation and would not let go of my hand. The object of the station was to chase the runner and pull off the flags, but since I was not the runner she would be chasing she did not want to participate. The runner was a stranger that she wanted nothing to do with. Then I decided to put on the flag belt so she would still participate. She ran across that room chasing me with a full smile painted on her face. IMG_7426I never heard so much laughter come out of a little girl’s mouth. That was the last event we got to participate in, but it was the best one. I got to see her whole personality come out just in a few minutes of playing. She trusted me and only me. We had so much fun together. I felt like I was a little kid in spirit. I felt the mutual feeling of being ourselves, because we weren’t scared to be whoever we wanted to be around each other.
Then the last thing we got to do together was the awards ceremony. Abi led me in a crowd of other athletes to sit down with her for the awards ceremony. During it she used my pompom to cheer on other young athletes, which was a proud moment in my life. By watching me cheer her on throughout the day she learned to cheer others on to make them happy. Our positive attitudes were rubbing off on each other. Then it was finally her turn to receive her medal from competing that day. She stood up with so much pride and confidence, but at the same time really modest about it. I got to see Abi blossom, just like a flower does from a simple seed. She started off so shy and distant from me, but showed her true colors by the end.
Abi showed me more in life than just having a fun time. She showed me how to be true to yourself, and how to stay positive with whatever life throws at you. During that whole two hours our relationship became so strong, but during those two hours I did not notice Abi’s disability. To me she was just a normal little girl that became my little sister, not a girl with autism. She made me realize that you need to enjoy life at every moment and opportunity that you have. Simple things like cheering people on made the experience so much more beneficial for the both of us. I set the best example I could for Abi, but really she became my new role model in life. She taught me to look at life in a whole new perspective. Instead of worrying about failing or having obstacles placed in your way, just live your life. Be yourself in every way possible. Abi has so much will power she could accomplish anything she puts her mind to. In my eyes, Abi is a superhero that changed my life.

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Fred Factor Project

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In leadership class we received a book Fred Factor. The whole book was based off an idea of being a Fred, which was based off a mailman named Fred. Fred is an average guy who works for the postal service, but he goes out of his way to make this world a better place no matter the circumstances. Fred always goes the extra mile, and if a mailman can make a difference in the world, that means everyone in this world can make an impact no matter what you are doing. There are four principles of being a Fred: 1. Everyone makes a difference, 2. Everything is built on relationships, 3. You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny, and 4. You can reinvent yourself regularly. Then after we learned what being a Fred meant, we were challenged to spread the idea of being a Fred in some way or form. My Fred Factor group decided to do this project on a personal level. We decided to read the book ourselves, then pass it down to someone that is a Fred in our lives. My group felt strongly about #2. Relationships are important to build, and you can always continue to make a relationship stronger. So I choose to give my book to my father. My dad is someone very important in my life, and I view him as a Fred. He has always been a Fred in my life, and continues to be an inspiring human being. I am not just saying that because he is my dad. My dad continues to make sacrifices for others and does make a difference in a lot of people’s lives. And my dad actually relates to this book very well, he too is a mailman. Which I believe he does outstanding at his job. He never settles for less than perfect, and always lends a helping hand. When I read the book every sentence and example made me think of my dad. When I presented my Fred Factor project to my class I stated that my dad is my Fred and told a personal story behind it. I sent the book to my dad through mail with a letter stating what he means to me and that I challenge him to be a Fred.
My dad wrote back an email stating this:

                The Fred Factor really gave me lot to think about, while also inspiring me to challenge myself to do more.  When I began reading this book, it was obviously very relatable, since I am  also a mailman.  But it was also nice to consider ways this book could influence all working people, especially whose work is in customer service.  Really, I feel the most important point or aspect of this book is how success is built from relationships.   And I feel everything is built off that point.  So that’s my first thing I need to build on and grow in my daily work.  I have already done that on a smaller level.  I gave one of my customers, a jewelry store owner, and my personal cell number.  It was simply because of the importance of some of the packages she receives on a regular basis.  Wedding rings for example, and it gave her the chance to contact me personally if she was looking for such a package.   But she was so appreciative of this seemingly small gesture.   It makes me want to expand on this, with all my customers.  I won’t necessarily give my number out to the city.  But, trying to build a personal relationship with them whenever possible.   Doing the small things, knowing there schedules, there typical delivery patterns, and always looking for the opportunity to help.  That alone should hopefully be the beginning of a rewarding relationship of all parties involved. 

            I’m passing this book on to a fellow letter carrier who works in my office.  He is rural carrier, and somewhat new to the postal service.    But I believe he possess the same desire to improve customer service.  And I’m excited to see what he does with the lessons within this book.  I’m sure he will pass the book on to someone else in the office.  And maybe, in the future, we will have an office full of “Fred’s”. 

My dad and I even built a stronger relationship over this activity, and I can feel our relationship to continue to grow stronger. My dads and I relationship will always be a strong bond and I am truly thankful for that. My dad is my Fred.

Leadership Connections Conference

The Connection Conference is a conference designed for leaders across Central Michigan University Campus to come together to participate in different leadership workshops. This particular conference is to make connections by meeting different leaders from all around campus. The conference was held at the Great Wolf Lodge water park and hotel in Traverse City, Michigan. During the conference one workshop that stuck out to me personally was the leadership personality test workshop. Every person in the room had to take a test to determine their personality. After taking the test the instructors of the group separated the people with different personality traits into a large box sectioned off. The first separation was introverts on one side of the box and extroverts on the other side. Then we were separated into three more sections of personality. When it got to the end of it I found out that a member of my cohort of my Leadership Advancement Scholarship program had the exact same personality traits as me. That was a really important for me to see, especially since we are both introverts it’s nice to bond with the other introverts of the group you are working in. I don’t remember what our personality trait was exactly called, but we are more concerned for the people around us, and more on the quiet thinking side of things. When the day was over full of other workshops of speakers talking about being a leader, being creative, being proud, and much more; we got to spend the night at the water park with all the new people we met during the conference. My favorite part of the conference was to see all the connections we could make just at CMU. The girl that I sit next to in my biology class ended up being there ans that was great for us to connect outside of the classroom. Connections is a great way to meet new people, and make connections as corny as that sounds. You learn a lot about your self, learn a lot about your campus, and learn a lot about the people that make up your campus community. Which I believe that is truly important.

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