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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My Mentor

I remember the day I found out Hannah McGoldrick announced to me that she is my mentor. A mentor is someone that takes you under their wing to mentor you through the new transitions in life, including being a freshmen at Central Michigan University. In my Leadership Advancement Scholar program, each sophomore of LAS picks a new incoming freshmen to be their mentee. I was lucky enough to instantly connect with my mentor.

My senior year in high school I was in my leadership class at the time. The classroom received a call over the inner-com telling me that I need to pick something up in the office. I left to go to the office right away. When I entered office I saw a bouquet of flowers with my name on it. When I opened the card it was a warm welcome into LAS, and introducing me to my mentor Hannah. I ran back to my classroom to tell my class the good news. That day we had our first conversation on facebook introducing ourselves. Hannah told me she picked me as a mentee because of all our common interests. We are both huge packer fans, which is hard to find at a university down state. (All those dang lions fans) Over the next few months before I came to CMU, Hannah and I stayed in touch. We easily got along and grew a strong bond instantly. I felt ready and comfortable to start my next chapter in life because of my mentor! It was nice going to college knowing I had someone there to help and support me!

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Then about two weeks into school the Leadership Advancement Scholars of the 2014 cohort and the 2013 cohort got to go on an LAS retreat for a weekend. The LAS retreat is designed to give you a weekend to bond with your mentor. The two cohorts of mentors and mentees got sent to a camp called Eagle Village, which is full of activities you get to experience with your mentor or mentee. As a mentee this whole experience was new to me. One of the main activities of the LAS retreat was the high ropes course. The high ropes course is an obstacle course high in the air. You got strapped onto the course by a harness for safety. I was pretty nervous to participate in the high ropes course but I tried to stay brave to not embarrass myself in front of my mentor. Then when we both got up to on the high ropes course we both became a little nervous. The first obstacle we faced on the course was the rock climbing wall, you had to climb horizontally across to reach the other plat form. Hannah and I both struggled with this obstacle but continued to laugh and encourage each other. It was such a nerve racking time, but it was an amazing experience I will never forget. Hannah and I cheered each other on during the whole course, and had a great time. It brought out the best in both of us, and I couldn’t of imagined experiencing it with anyone else.  Also at the end of the day Hannah and I decided to rock climb tied together. The whole way up the rock wall we laughed and laughed. Well actually the whole weekend we laughed and laughed. It was a weekend I will never forget. The LAS retreat at Eagle Village was a great opportunity to have time to get to know your mentor on a more personal level. To end the wonderful weekend we got to have a campfire where others spoke about their experience and what they are grateful for. I was grateful for all the friends I already made in my first two weeks of college, and I was even more grateful for that experience I had with my mentor Hannah. Also I’ll never forget our fist fitting perfectly together. Now that tells you how close we actually are. That fist bump shows how connected we are, and that our mentee-mentor was meant to be. 😉
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Now a semester into college Hannah and I are still really close. I could not ask for someone better in my life to guide me through all the obstacles I will face over the next few years. Hannah is someone I know I will stay close with and contact with years after we graduate college. Without my mentor I would of not been as confident coming to CMU. Hannah is not just a mentor to me, she is also a role model and a close friend. She is an inspiring person and I look up to her everyday. She a very important person in her community, on campus, and in my heart. How active she is on campus is crazy to me. I don’t how she does it, but I really look up to her in everything she does. She is a hard working young lady and has a very bright future. She is also just a loving and caring person. I know I always can count on her, and we still continue to have meaningful conversations that really mean a lot to me. She makes the world a better place. I am truly blessed to have Hannah in my life. She is the best mentor I could ask for.

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