SOMI LEAD Team!

As part of our LAS protocol, we participate in a LEAD Team our freshman year. I had the privilege of being a part of the Special Olympics LEAD Team. As a part of the Special Olympics LEAD Team our main project was the Leadership Launch, however, we also participated in the Fall Games. Participating in the Special Olympics was always something I loved to do, but being apart of the LEAD Team took this love to a whole new level.

The first event as a part of the SOMI LEAD Team was the Fall Special Olympics held in Ypsilanti. At the Fall Games I was able to help out with Golf for the majority of the time I was there. At the beginning I was stationed on a specific hole to help the athletes find their balls and encourage them. I enjoyed this because I was able to meet so many different athletes and have quality conversations with them. Meeting so many different athletes and personalities made sure there was never a dull moment. After, another volunteer and I were paired with an athlete. We drove the athlete from hole to hole and accompanied them during their game.

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There were two athletes and four volunteers per group. This experience was particularly enjoyable because I was able to form a strong relationship with the athletes and the other volunteers throughout the 9-hole game. Then, of course, there was the dance. One of the best parts, if not the best part, of the Special Olympics, is the athlete-volunteer dances after closing ceremony. Here, the athletes get to go wild and just have a blast with the volunteers while jamming out to their favorite songs. The athlete-volunteer dance is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been a part of.

The second part of the SOMI LEAD Team, and the main event, was the 2015 Leadership Launch. Here, the Leadership Institute brought in students, with and without intellectual disabilities, to participate in Project UNIFY. Project UNIFY emphasizes respect and unity for everyone, especially those with intellectual disabilities. During Leadership Launch a fellow LAS scholar, Sam, and I had the privilege of being a facilitator of the Green Anaconda group.

As a group we were able to first get to know each other through multiple icebreakers, then partake in some activities to emphasize inclusion and acceptance. One activity that stuck out to me was called “RESPECT-Houston, we have a problem.”During this activity each participant was given a flashlight and pointed the shining flashlight towards the ceiling. The flashlights represented joy and acceptance in the community. Then one facilitator gave a number of insults and after each one a flashlight turned off. Eventually, all the lights were turned off and the facilitator took a second to explain that the dark room represented an exclusive school or community in which there was no respect for each other. But then, the facilitator began saying compliments. One by one the flashlights began turning back on and soon the room was lit back up. The facilitator highlighted the importance of being respectful and inclusive to keep the room lit up. This stood out to me because so often we see people not being inclusive and seeing the room go darker and darker. As a leader it is my responsibility to be inclusive and make sure everyone else is being respectful and inclusive and throughout the day we tried to instill this same belief in everyone at Leadership Launch.

Being a part of the SOMI LEAD Team was easily one of the highlights of my Freshman year thus far. Being a part of this group was truly a privilege. I learned a ton about inclusion, respect, and about myself throughout my time on this LEAD Team. Between the Fall Games and Leadership Launch I can’t think of a better LEAD Team to be a part of.

Connecting the Leaders

As part of the LAS protocol we are given the opportunity to attend a leadership conference at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City called Connections Conference. Connections Conference offers a weekend getaway for 150 Central Michigan students to go to the Great Wolf Lodge to meet new people, work on our leadership, and, of course, play in the waterpark.

Connections started off by splitting us into predetermined groups. I was a part of the Coles Institute. My group emphasized being aware of and utilizing the myriad of assets that Central has to offer. These include the countless registered student organizations, the Leadership Institute, the library, student activity center, and so many more.

After we broke out of our original groups we proceeded to attend four speeches emphasizing leadership. This time we were given the choice as to which ones we wanted to attend. The first session I chose to attend was the session “Need more Personal Movement and Balance? Maybe it’s time to look at your D.A.M.M.” This session highlighted effective ways to manage your time. We examined how we spend our time and more efficient ways we could potentially spend our time. I found this session to be very interesting and enlightening, showing me just how much time I actually waste and how to manage my time which is arguably the toughest thing to do efficiently in college.

The second session I attended was “Polishing your leadership image.” This session discussed the importance of first impressions, the image we portray, and how to maintain a healthy, attractive leadership image. This included things along the lines of what we post on social media, how we introduce ourselves, and tricks for more efficient personal interactions. This session provided a healthy reflection of the type of image I portray everyday. It was definitely a good thing to take a step back and examine the things I need to work on as well as the things I do well because our leadership image is so crucial.

The third session I attended was “The Authentic Leader: Promoting Self-Awareness in Leadership Development.” This session took a different approach to the other sessions I attended. Instead of teaching us a new concept or reminding us of important ones this session focused on self-reflection. For a majority of the sessions we were examining our themes. We did this by taking an online quiz which gave us our five top themes. My themes included restorative, adaptability, achiever, includer, and belief. To see what my themes are gives me the ability to consciously
use the abilities and incorporate them in my leadership styles.

The final session I attended was “Don’t Get Caught in the Mouse Trap of Communication.” This was easily the most hands on of all of the sessions. To begin the session we were paired up with a fellow student. One student closed their eyes while the other verbally guided them to disarm a mouse trap. After practicing this for a couple minutes and overcoming the original fear the guide explained how essential communication is especially for leaders.

Perhaps the best part of Connections was the opportunity to network with our fellow Chippewas in a form of speed dating. Being able to meet so many Chippewas that I don’t

Connections Conference

Some friends and I taking advantage of the waterpark.

normally get to see and getting to know them was a nice change-up. Enjoying the water park was a great networking opportunity but there was also plenty of other opportunities over the weekend including speed dating. Speed dating was set up to help us get to know people that we normally don’t see around campus. The only rule was we couldn’t talk to someone we already know. This helped to introduce me to a ton of new people I had never seen on campus, let alone meet.

Connections was not only a blast but also a great opportunity to grow as a leader while forming bonds with my fellow Chippewas. The lessons I learned from Connections I still take with me and I often find myself reflecting on what I learned during the time I spent there.

 

Mentor/Mentee Retreat

One of the most significant benefits of being a part of LAS is all the Sophomores adopt a Freshman and become their mentor. One of the first weekend of the semester, all the Freshman and Sophomores in LAS take a weekend trip to Eagle Village to get to know their mentors/mentees as well as their fellow Leader Advancement Scholars. I had the pleasure of being paired with James

James and Kyle eagle village

James and I on the high ropes course.

James and Kyle

Messing around in the cafeteria. 

Barber. James and I were already friends prior to him being my mentor but our relationship soon became much stronger. The retreat gives all the new members the opportunity to bond with their mentors, as well as all the fellow LAS members. Prior to the retreat I had heard bits about what to expect but it didn’t quite prepare me. However, it didn’t take me long to realize how much fun and how great of an experience the retreat was going to be.

At the retreat we participated in numerous team building activities, primarily with our mentors, including wall climbing, a high ropes course, as well as multiple blindfolded exercises. These activities proved to be a great way to strengthen our bonds with our mentors, help us get to know other members of LAS, and improve our leadership skills. Throughout the retreat our Leadership guides emphasized an inclusive environment and communication and how essential they are to be an effective leader.

For example, every mentor-mentee combo took part in the high ropes course. The high ropes included a ton of obstacles varying in difficulty. Additionally, the Eagle Village guide provided potential ways to make the obstacles more difficult to assure everyone was challenged. For some this was just getting up on the course; for others this meant taking on some obstacles blindfolded. No matter what difficulty you went with you were guaranteed to step out of, and expand, your comfort zone as well as bond with your mentor. Here is a video of my experiences at Eagle Village made by my classmate Riley Bussell!

Being able to participate in these exercises and hearing our guide connect them back to being an effective leader really strengthened my leadership ability. Having the opportunity to attend the Eagle Village retreat helped for me to grow as a person, a leader, and develop a bond with my fellow LASers

Leadership Safari

During my first week on Central Michigan’s campus I had the privilege of participating in Leadership Safari. Leadership Safari is an opportunity for 2,000 incoming freshman and transfer students to move onto campus a week early and go through daily activities that emphasized leadership, involvement, and developing relationships with our fellow Chippewas.Having the privilege to listen to all the different speakers, participate in all the activities, and just get to know all the new people made it the perfect way to begin my college experience.

Prior to Leadership Safari when I talked to students that had gone through it already and asked them about their experience their responses were always similar: it’s all about attitude. Despite these conversations I still had no idea what to expect. This resulted in a myriad of nerves and excitement.

Leadership Safari was an experience different than any I’ve ever had. The constant energy and optimism made it such an unforgettable one. Having the privilege of listening to all the speakers (including Eric Thomas, The Asia Project, David Coleman, Michael Miller, as well as a few others) varied from humbling to motivating. Despite the varying effects of these speakers the impact was always positive. Pairing this with the enlightening and flat-out fun activities is what makes Safari so special.

leadership safari

One of the most symbolic pictures of Safari: everybody working together to represent Central. 

My experience during Safari was far from what I imagined. I stepped out of my comfort zone more than I ever expected to and am glad I did. This allowed me to get the full experience from Safari and learn a ton. One example was the Fairness Lunch (which you can learn more about here). When I returned to my group with my pink bag with nothing more than some crackers I was confused to say the least. Then, as I began to see other members of my group with more food this confusion only grew. Why is my bag empty? What am I going to eat? Although, I was confused and worried at first my group soon assured me and shared their food as we all ate enough. Even though I ate more than enough, thanks to my kind group members, it was such an eyeopening experience about how fortunate I really am and the everyday struggles others experience.

Being more knowledgeable about all these topics allows me to be a much more efficient leader and overall considerate person. The speakers and activities at Safari taught me about how crucial it is to be considerate as well as the importance of stepping up to do what’s right even when it’s outside your comfort zone. Additionally, it helped for me to develop relationships with my fellow Chippewas. Overall, the Leadership Safari was a great experience and helped for me to grow as a person and transition to college.