I believe in Magic.

Image may contain: night and outdoor

2016 has let me experience the true feelings of love, hard work, loss, compassion, happiness, fear, anxiety, excitement, and the most important — Magic.

This December I got the privilege to volunteer at Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, FL.  The reason I got to experience such a life changing trip is due to CMU’s awesome Alternative Breaks program. What I truly admire Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoorabout this program is that students interested in volunteering during one of our school year breaks (weekends, winter, spring, or summer) sign up for a social justice issue they are interested in serving, instead of signing up for a place to attend. Therefore, I got to go on a week long service trip this winter break with 11 amazing women that were also passionate about uplifting families and children.

Volunteering at Give Kids the world for four days truly has made my believe in magic again. When people think of magic we often refer to Harry Potter and fairy tales, but the smiles on the children’s faces showed me the true meaning of magic. Give Kids the World Village is happiest place on earth – it’s a place where children with life threatening illnesses and their families get to experience a week long all paid vacation full of food, fun, and even tickets to all the Disney Parks. 

Though my role during the week seem pretty minimal, I know it made a big difference since this village runs on volunteers. For this amazing place to operate it needs over 2,000 hours of volunteer service, and my group soon realized after arriving how important this service was to the children and families.

Our first dayImage may contain: 1 person, outdoor of service I got to be two roles within the village, “Lori’s Magical Flight Gate Keeper” and one of my favorites, a worker at the Ice Cream Palace. As the Gate Keeper, I learned how to operate a ride where the kids get to ride butterflies, and that is where I met one little girl I will never forget. The details of my experiences with the children are private for respect of the families, but this little one instantly showed me so much love and happiness. Her smile on the rides was truly contagious. Then that night myself and 3 other girls (Lauren, Liz, and Payton:)) worked at the Ice Cream Palace, where we absolutely had so much fun. Starting the night we didn’t know how much fun serving free ice cream to the kids and families would be, but after we made countless of banana splits, sundaes, and shakes we soon learned the true joys of scooping ice cream to all the excited kids. It was such a busy night, since many families were out at the Halloween party, which allowed us to interact with so Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and indoormany new smiling faces. Every family and children we interacted with during our week of service, and especially at the Ice Cream Palace, were so extremely nice and appreciative. Everyone and anyone that came in could order any crazy request of ice cream, and it was so fun to give a simple joy to the families. One little girl really touched my heart when she told us how volunteering with kids with special needs was a huge part of our life. She told us many stories that truly inspired us. Also one of my favorite moments of the night is when another little girl gave Liz a mask she made at the Halloween party, and then we preceded to make Liz wear it while scoping ice cream. The smile on the little girls face was so memorable.

Our second day of service was the one that impacted my heart the most. Not only was the day of service incredible, the group of strangers I came with from CMU became significantly closer by the second day. That day I worked in the Nancy’s Kitchen as a server in the morning, and at night I helped kids carry their trays while they looked all over the kitchen for yummy food to select. Working in the kitchen I met this family that I will never forget. The patience and love the father had for his daughter overwhelmed me with joy. The conversations I had throughout the week with this family is something I can’t explain. At these times it felt like nothing else mattered, because the conversations I was having seemed so magical and the most important thing happening in the room. It was awesome to listen to the girls stories about visiting the Disney Parks and what she wanted for Christmas. Just thinking about her and her family while typing this puts a smile on my face.

Also on our second day of service I learned about the most magical place within the village (and maybe on earth) – the Castle. The castle is where every wish child gets to create a star, and these stars are way more beautiful than the ones in the real sky. Each wish child gets to decorate their star, and the star fairy Stella willImage may contain: indoor take them up at night and place them on the ceiling of the castle. Then families can return and locate their star made in the past. As I walked into the castle for the first time, I got to see the ceiling glisten with thousands of stars, which made my heart pretty heavy. Give Kids the World Village has been opened for 30 years, and the castle has over 140,000 stars placed on the ceiling by Stella. Though the reality of that is heartbreaking, it is also a happy No automatic alt text available.realization because that’s over 140,000 families that were given magic during undesirable times in their lives. While I was in the castle, a girl was proud to show me around and show me all the magic placed around the castle. After playing for a while I asked if she made a star, and she looks at me with a glow in her face and says, “my sister is the special one, so she got to make a star.” The castle is
the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Up above was full of stars colored differently, some not as happy as others, but the castle shows no matter what you are not alone; the castle ceiling full of stars shows acceptance.

Our last two days of service I worked in the kitchen again both days. Though that doesn’t sound like the most glamorous job I really enjoyed it. Volunteering at Give Kids the World is more about the bigger picture, which is making every aspect of this vacation for these families stress free and full of fun. I actually really enjoyed carrying trays for kids and talking to them one on one! I found light in every single child I interacted with, and I wouldn’t trade it with anything. One little girl ran around the kitchen stamping kissy faces on our hands. So so so many smiles that I will never forget.

Image may contain: 12 people, people smiling

Volunteering at Give Kids the World is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It’s honestly so hard to describe the experience in words, but one thing I know is that it has touched my heart forever. While volunteering, I interacted with many children, and even though I knew the common factor of why the families were there, I never knew why the child was actually there. Looking at the children, I saw normal, happy children, and I think that speaks volumes. Some of these children were experiencing the worst, and most unpredictable situations, though they still continued to play, love, and laugh hard. A word I used a lot in this post was smile, because the amount of smiles I saw was unbelievable. I can’t imagine the fear and unknown the families we interacted with had, but one thing I know it was so inspiring to see their optimism. Seeing the happiness of the children showed me the true meaning of life, but in my eyes it was even more amazing to see how truly patient, caring, and supportive the parents and siblings were. The love that spread throughout the village was truly incredible to see and experience.

Give Kids the World Village motto is something I will forever live by after this amazing volunteer opportunity …  “where happiness inspires hope”. This will forever remind me that no matter what happens in life, no matter the situations, no matter the heartache life brings you, remember whenever you give happiness hope will be created. I am easily fearful of the littlest things, but after this week at Give Kids the World, I will never take anything for granted again. I learned the true meaning of love, support, and happiness at the village. I can honestly say the children, families, volunteers, and workers at Give Kids the World Village have changed my life

Thank you Give Kids the World Village for reminding me how important happiness, love, and hope in life truly is — and more importantly, thank you for showing me the real meaning of magic.

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

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 :))

2014-2015 SCHOOL YEAR IN REVIEW

  BLOG2

What I stated I wanted in the year of 2015 . . .


As a leader what do you really want in
2015?
In 2015 I want to find who I really am. I am currently going in all different direction and hope to find the path I want to follow for the rest of my life. I want to find what I am truly passionate about and spend my time wisely. In 2015 I want to be me. Also I want to live by my mission statement: Live by helping others.

What will you succeed at in 2015?
I’ll succeed in being myself in 2015. I spent my life always too worried about what others think. But this year I want to improve on myself, and do things for me. I will succeed in being myself and embracing who I am. 2015 is going to be a good year for me, and I promise myself that.

I think so far in this school year and even in the year of 2015 I have really grown as a person and am starting to find where I belong. I finally decided to minor in Child Development with my major of Psychology to work with children for my career. I also learned I want to learn sign language and decided I also want to major in that as well. I am just really finding out a lot of different things about myself that I never knew before. I am also really focusing on me. I realized that college is an important time to do you and not let others hold you back. I am not letting anyone holding me back from my dreams and passions. I believe I am developing into the person I always dreamed to be. I am stepping out of my comfort zone into the unknown and I am loving it. I have started speaking my mind more frequently in places where it is important to me and my followers. For example, when people use the word retarded as a derogatory term I speak and state that is not okay. I am passionate accepting difference, and it is not okay to be using that word because it is offensive to so many. I also learned to stand up about all my other passions, and I think that is a big step for me. I was never not passionate about the things I am passionate about today, I was just always to afraid of confrontation to stand up for anything. My opinions might not be the most popular thing, but they are important. I am starting to strongly believe in myself and I am proud of that. I love the person I am learning to become. CMU has really taught me to take pride in my passions and not be as fearful.

This year in general has just been amazing. I was always excited to come to college because I was never popular in high school, but I would never think it would have helped me grow this much. I love that I am learning to open up and be myself. I also love that I am finding friends and people that accept me for me, and support myBLOG passion and dreams. I was always scared to be myself and I am so grateful for college showing me how to be myself. I am truly learning so much about myself and it’s an amazing feeling. I have grown over the years a lot, but this year I really found out who I am and who I want to be.

As a leader, I think it is really important to be true to yourself. I strongly believe in leading by example. If you don’t believe in a behavior or belief don’t promote or express that you do. This year I found my passion working with children, I figured out my major and minors, and I am finding where I want to spend my time. As a leader I am finding what I want to promote as my beliefs, and that is important to my followers. I am growing and learning where I want to make a difference and who I want to make a difference with. I will succeed with my mission statement of live by helping others, and my why statement of Inspire others to break their unwanted definitions of the past to find their full potential of the future.

I am growing as a leader, follower, friend, and person.

Servant Leadership: Theory Application

detroit.13

A theory I learned this year in my Leadership class was the Servant Leadership theory, and I strongly believe in this theory. Servant Leadership is a strong focus on your followers. By being a servant leader you need to have behaviors of conceptualizing, emotional healing, putting followers first, helping followers grow and succeed, behaving ethically, empowering, and creating value for the community. I believe strongly in these behaviors. I am the person that always put others before myself and that’s why I think I am so passionate about servant leadership. Servant leadership is all about the wants, needs, and desire of your followers, or people you are serving. It is a time to put away your personally needs and beliefs and focus on the goals of the ones you are serving.

This year my leadership class took a service drip to Detroit, Michigan. For details of this trip please see my recent blog post on this trip. This trip was a prime example of the servant leadership since our whole weekend in Detroit was about serving the people of Detroit and helping them with their dream of making Detroit a better place. During the Detroit trip we put all our problems and difference aside and served the people of Detroit. We listened to the students at Jalen Rose Leadership Academydetroit.3 and just helped them develop as leaders in Detroit. That was the biggest part of servant leadership during Detroit, we really put those students in our hands. We put our follower first and that is so important.

I don’t think servant leadership is just seen in service or volunteer trips, it can also be seen in leaders in just their every day lives. I believe Dan Gaken and Jesi Parker Ekonen are perfect examples of servant leaders. They work in the Leadership Institute here at Central Michigan University and all they do is serve students here on campus. They focus and listen to their followers and help guide them into chasing their dreams. All they do is focus on creating better leaders here at CMU. They never think of themselves, and that is huge in servant leadership. They believe it is important to serve others, and I know that my cohort can not thank them enough for all their service they put into us.

Servant Leadership is the biggest leadership theory that I follow. I want to make it clear that I did not choose this theory because it was the easiest, it’s because it means the most to me. I am a servant leader and hope to continue that into my career like Dan and Jesi. My definition of leadership is helping and inspiring others. I just strongly believe in making this world a better place one person at a time. I never want to miss an opportunity where I can help others. My passion is helping others at all times and that is what servant leadership is all about.

LEAD TEAM Reflection

IMG_7420
A lead team is a committee that Leader Advancement Scholar recipients are placed on for the school year. My Lead Team was the Michigan Fall Special Olympics. I explained my experience at the Michigan Fall Special Olympics in a previously blog post that you can click here to read.

My Lead Team moved pretty fast paced since our event of the Michigan Fall Special Olympics was a weekend in September. So our team meetings were just pretty much informational meetings about what our position was at the Olympic Games. It all happened so face and was very exciting.

I am actually so happy that I got placed on the Special Olympics Lead Team because it created a passion for me that I never knew I had.IMG_7415 It opened my eyes to a lot. I got to meet so many amazing athletes and roles models that weekend that truly inspired me. At one point we got to play with young athletes and that’s where I found my inspiration to decide to follow a career path of working with children. I met a little girl named Abi (relationship also explained in previous blog) that changed my life. I just can’t describe my feelings of that day, I loved every second of it.

That weekend gave me the opportunity to find a passion I did not know of it. Now I am trying to start an RSO on campus that just volunteers with children at local Mount Pleasant School Districts. It has also made me realize that I want to work with children for the rest of my life. My major is Psychology with minors of Sign Language and Child Development. My experience at Michigan Fall Special Olympics just really developed me into the person I want to be. It inspired me to live every day happier. It taught me so much in just one little weekend. It taught me to embrace differences. It should be how important child are in our lives. The Special Olympics was just an amazing opportunity I will never forget.

And I didn’t stop there. I volunteered at Special Olympic basketball tournaments and also play unified kick ball. This summer I am planning to go to LA to volunteer at the Special Olympic World Games.

Special Olympics is just an experience you can’t understand unless you experience it yourself. I will never forget that weekend.

Detroit. A place where dreams are created.

detroit.10
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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.