Special Olympics College: Senior Year

Throughout my four years at Central Michigan University, one of my biggest involvements and some of my proudest moments have come as a member of Special Olympics College. My Freshman year when I became involved with Special Olympics College I had some experience with the Special Olympics but I never would have imagined how involved I would get. Since then I have served on the Executive Board for three years as the Student Government Association Representative, President, and as the Vice President. Special Olympics College has helped me to grow as a person and a leader.

When I took over as President my Junior year I was overwhelmed and underprepared. Although I gave it a great effort, I was not prepared for the amount of work and stress that I would be put under. This was my first time taking on a true leadership role where I was in charge. Throughout the year I struggled to make concrete decisions, often fearing people in the organization disapproving of the decisions or not agreeing with them. As a result, I often tried to hold votes or asked people’s opinions about decisions that I could have made on my own. This caused the processes to take longer than they should have and, as a result, we missed out on some opportunities and were not as effective, as an organization, as we could have been. One other aspect of leadership that I struggled with was allocating work effectively. As a result I often felt overwhelmed and frustrated and as though I had to do all the work on my own, when I could have given it to This experience, although it did not always feel like it at the time, was a great experience, helped me grow, and taught me that I have a lot to learn as a leader.

As the Vice President Senior year, my role looked a bit different but I was still able to play a large part in the organization and the decision making. I learned from my experience and my mistakes from Junior year and was able to be more confident and decisive in my role. Although I was no longer President, I feel as though I was able to take an even bigger role in the organization by taking leadership roles and responsibility for projects including creating and coaching a team to compete in the Unified Basketball Division at regionals and nationals, as well as leading the Spread the Word, Inclusion committee which tabled all over campus advocating for inclusive language, especially regarding those with intellectual disabilities. Being able to take a leadership role in these projects has been extremely rewarding and has helped me develop as a leader.

This experience of not necessarily being the leader OF the organization, but rather taking leadership positions within it has been an eyeopening and extremely beneficial experience. Being a part of Special Olympics College throughout the last four years is something that will stick out as a huge part of my college experience and one that has helped me grow as a leader and as a person.

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Leadership Launch, Pt. 3

For my Junior year we, as always, had the opportunity of being a part of a “LEAD” Team. LEAD Teams are part of the Leader Advancement Scholarship protocol where LAS Scholars get the opportunity to be a part of an intercohort team that works to put together a volunteer event. Our LEAD Team was in charge of putting on the Leadership Launch event. Leadership Launch is an event that brings in high school students, with and without intellectual disabilites, from all over Michigan together as an event to emphasize the impact they have and the importance of inclusion.

Previous years, I was the leader of one of the groups and my job was to lead the group from breakout session to breakout session and have meaningful discussions with them about the discussions. However, this year I took on a new role and was able to facilitate the Vison breakout session with my mentor, James Barber.  James and I have had a great relationship since high school and have maintained it through our time at Central, so being able to facilitate with him worked out great.

For our breakout session, vision, our goal was to have students learn about the importance of empathy by acknowledging how every person may view the same situation from different perspectives and see the situation differently. Our breakout session was called “Zoom”  and began by everyone receiving the same photo but zoomed in a different amount. What we told the students was that the photos they had were all a part of a story and their job was to place the photos in order. The story would begin with a picture of a rooster and became so zoomed out by the end that you could see the entire globe.

Some groups were able to realize the photos were zoomed and solved it quickly and easily while others we had to give hints to. However, the substance of the activity came from the debrief that followed. James and I focused on how this activity related to other peoples’ perspectives and how the students could implement what they learned into their school.

The opportunity to debrief and facilitate was a great experience for me, for a couple of reasons. The first is, as a future educator, having the chance to speak to different groups, explain the excercise, and just facilitate in general was great practice for me. The second reason that this was especially beneficial for me was being able to listen to everybody’s input to the activity and hear what they had to learn helped me think about how I could do a better job of being empathetic and looking at others’ point of view more in depth.  Leadership Launch, for the third year in a row, was not only a blast, but helped me learn to be a more inclusive and considerate individual in everything I do.

 

 

Being a Mentor

As part of the Leader Advancement Scholarship, each Sophomore chooses an incoming Freshman to mentor. As a result, during competition day all the soon-to-be mentors flocked into the Powers Ballroom to scope out the incoming freshman, but more importantly, potential mentees. I don’t remember a lot of details from that day but I do remember meeting Thomas. He was introduced to me by a friend that gave him a tour. When he was introduced to me, my friend said later that he thought Thomas was a good potential mentee for me. So, after competition day, I did a little research and sure enough, Thomas seemed like a more athletic, better-looking replica of me. AKA, the perfect mentee.

So needless to say, I was ecstatic when I officially became Thomas’ mentor. As I got to know Thomas I quickly realized what a great guy he is. Thomas is extremely focused and goal-oriented. I know that when Thomas sets his mind to something there is not much that is going to stop him. I knew when I received Thomas as a mentee that he was a special guy. And sure enough, right off the bat, Thomas and I had a great relationship and our relationship became more of a friendship than a mentorship. Due to our interests being so similar, and Thomas being a naturally outgoing, happy-go-lucky guy, it didn’t take long for us to develop a strong relationship.

One point of mentorship that was emphasized to us prior to picking our mentees is that you don’t have to be best friends with them, just be there to support them and help them transition to college. Although not every mentor-mentee relationship results in a great friendship, I got lucky with Thomas and am looking forward to the amazing things he’s going to accomplish.

PHL118L

Central Michigan graduates ethical leaders. This is what I was told when I toured Central, when I competed for the Leader Advancement Scholarship, and repeatedly since I got here. I was always a bit skeptical, however. It’s easy to say that Central graduates ethical leaders but what will Central provide me that will make me a more ethical leader than graduates from other universities?

My answer came in the form of PHL118L, Intro to Philosophy, with Gary Fuller. So often we view ethics as cut and dried decisions. Often, when I use to think about ethics, I viewed it as a simple decision: do the easy thing or the right thing. Do the thing that will make you more money, or the right thing. However, it did not take long in Professor Fuller’s course for me to realize that when it comes to a majority of decisions, especially those decisions that leaders face, it is not this cut and dried.

Throughout the semester we examined many topics including abortion, war, torture, euthanasia, and more. A majority of the class was examining the pros and cons of these topics and making a decision. One of the biggest things I took away from this course is that often there is not ‘right’ choice. Nonetheless, being in a leadership position we are going to have to make a choice. It is our responsibility to look at it from all sides, weigh the options, and justify our decision. This course was one that I enjoyed going to and truly helped me develop as an ethical leader.

Adding a Spark to Leadership

During my first semester on campus I had the privilege of partaking in the Spark Leadership Series. Spark is a four week program put on by the Leadership Institute that takes leaders from all over campus and enhances their leadership abilities and acts as a “leadership development workshop.” During these four weeks I was able to participate in a lot of leadership building activities that helped me grow as a leader and a person.

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Me and my Spark group!

Prior to Spark I was expecting just your basic leadership building exercises along with some speakers. Despite Spark fulfilling these expectations pretty well I took away more than I expected from Spark and had a blast while doing it.

The biggest thing I took away from Spark was how to use my leadership style to my advantage. During the second session we took a test that gave us one of the four leadership styles including direct, spirited, considerate, and systematic. The result of the test told me that I was a direct leader. We then received a paper highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of our style. The direct leader can be counted on to be efficient and quickly accomplish assignments but may become to competitive and prevent teamwork and burn out others.

Perhaps even more important than learning about our own leadership styles we learned how to work well with other leadership styles and use everyone to the best of their ability. Overall, Spark was a great series that offered me another opportunity to work on my leadership and interact with my my fellow Chippewas.