#LASintheD

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Friday, March 22nd a group of over 40 staff and students traveled down to Detroit, MI from Mount Pleasant, MI. Some people left with hesitations and others were excited to back by home. For some this was their first time going to Detroit while others could get us around the city without any hassle. I fall in between the two categories.

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Day 1

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Friday afternoon we went to the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. The academy was founded in 2011. Their 10th graders are the first class to have been accepted. The children come to JRLA with a below average reading level and are behind in many subjects. The teachers try to catch the children up by cramming two years of learning into one. They can accomplish this by extending the school days and year. The kids start school at 9 am and go until 4:30 in the evening. The students attend a leadership class and many of their studies focus on how to better their skills.

Our assignment was to facilitate leadership activities with their 9th and 10th grade class. It was an eye opener for some people. My dad’s school has similar demographics to the academy. Even though I’ve grown up being around a majority of inner city kids, it can get overwhelming at times. There was definitely a difference between how these kids acted compared to my high school class. Something that shocked me was the amount of male students. As I go through my leadership programs there is usually a majority of girls in them. It excited me to know that these boy’s families wanted to see them as strong leaders in the future. The personal development of boys in urban communities usually gets over looked. My group struggled to keep control of the students. They were obviously excited and all had overpowering personalities.

If I got the chance I would go back to the academy to help out. I think these groups would have benefited from being separated into small groups and then put into individual classrooms with the facilitators. That way the students had fewer distractions and the facilitators could have connected better with them.

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Day 2

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Saturday we finally got our hands dirty. Well when we left our hands, clothes, faces, hair and lungs were covered in the remains of a house. My group worked on the Georgia Street Community Collective. Two local men decided to make a difference. They’re locals of the street and are sick of having run down houses in their neighborhood. They turned a warehouse into a computer lab and hang out spot of other locals. The computer lab program grew so much that they wanted to expand it across the street. The house needed some serious TLC. We ripped down all of they drywall on the first floor and stairs. There was easily over a ton of debris hauled from the house including drywall, metal scraps and remains from fire damage. Our group worked for just a little over two hours. In that time we put their project ahead of schedule by an entire month. It’s an amazing feeling to know we did so much. A group of about twenty helped a project take a giant step forward.

What do I want to do now? I want to go back. As I was writing this post I looked on their Facebook page. They have an Easter egg hunt this weekend that I would be interested in volunteering at with my family. I’m going to run the idea by my dad and see what happens.

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One of the biggest things I’m going to take away from the trip is gratefulness. I’m grateful for the blessed life I’ve been given. Some families have to save up for months to buy the $80 blazer while I bought rain boots that cost more. I’m also grateful for the experiences I’ve gone through. I live in a culturally diverse area. I’ve been able to travel; to go to big cities along with small ones. I have to thank my parents for giving me experiences that broaden my outlook on life.

Student Leadership Challenge

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  • Model the way
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the process
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart

There are a series of questions asked to not only the leader but also a group that they can send an email to. This allows them to see how they look at themselves and how others view them.

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I was very pleased with my LPI results. I tend to grade myself pretty high and am hard on myself but people who see me in leadership positions didn’t agree when I ranked myself low. I was also extremely happy to see all 5’s with “Treat others with respect and dignity.” I strive to treat others with respect. A surprising part of my report was the feedback from observer #4. They’ve either only seen me in bad situations or were extremely angry with me when they graded me. In several places I had several 5’s and they gave me 1 or 3 points. I wish I knew who they were so they could elaborate a little more.

Where I Excelled

  • Model the way
  • Enable others to act

I see myself as a leader that really does model what we should do. I don’t always speak up or over people. I allow them to bicker because I don’t see it going anywhere. I hold myself at a high standard for how I act and speak. I’m glad that others see it that way.

Where I need work

  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the process

I expected to be lower in these categories. I’m terrible at speaking my mind unless it’s really provoked. I also tend to be so neutral and flexible that I go with the process more than challenge it. I need to always remind myself that my voice should be heard also.

Marlee Matlin

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Marlee Matlin is an award winning actress from Illinois who just happens to be deaf. Marlee first stepped on the scene in 1986 with a major role in Children of a Lesser God. Since then she has appeared in several movies and shows, including ABC Family’s ground breaking TV drama Switched at Birth.

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 Matlin spoke on Central’s campus. Not only did those involved in the ASL programs learn a lot, but also the regular students and community members that attended increased their awareness of deaf culture. I learned so much from her speech. I was able to critically think about deaf culture and experience another point of view. My hearing friends who aren’t involved in the ASL program also attended her speech. They left her speech interested in deaf culture and full of questions to ask. I believe her appearance on campus brought a lot of awareness to interacting with deaf culture.

She was such an inspiring woman. My favorite part of her speech was her short story towards the end. She shared a story about a king who owned the most perfect diamond. He loved it so much that he treated it like a child. One night while cradling it in his sleep he accidently dropped it. The fall left a blemish on his beautiful diamond. A long thin spindling crack extended from the bottom of the diamond to the top. He was heart broken. Someone told the king they had the ability to fix his precious treasure. A week later the servant brought back the diamond. Upon inspecting his prize, the king noticed the diamond was still cracked. The servant showed the king the bottom of the diamond. At that spot the servant had carved a beautiful rose. He then said to the king “Now the most beautiful diamond has the most beautiful rose on it.” I loved being reminded to take what you are given and make it even more wonderful. We make the world we live in either wonderful or a living nightmare.

Matlin truly is the loudest person in the room. She gives off energy of pure joy and excitement. She obviously loves life. Matlin never let her “disability” (a word she doesn’t like to use) stand in the way of her dreams. She also hated being treated differently but her family always had an answer for everything. The sign in her neighborhood about the deaf kids was because she was special; no one else had their own sign. If someone picked on her voice, it was because she had the accent of her super secret spy parents. One of Matlin’s biggest inspirations is Henry Winkler. He stood behind her in all of her endeavors. He told her that “You can be whatever you want to be” at a conference when she was a young child.

During the evening Q&A portion a mother asked a question that stumped Matlin. She wondered about what advice she gave her daughters as they were growing up. Matlin gave some great advice for present and future mothers. She supports the idea of loving yourself. Matlin is truly an inspiration. She inspires other to accept themselves, “disabilities” and all. She is a very personable woman. The evening session wasn’t quite as personal as the afternoon session. I also attended the Q&A during the afternoon. That’s when we learned personal stories and she joked around more. During that session we also got to learn a little about Jack, her interpreter. They work well together and are obviously best friends. That’s where I learned she is still working to improve herself. She answered a question saying, “I still don’t know what I want to be.” She told the audience to never stop tasting new things. Life is about new experiences. I would’ve loved to sit down with her and talk about life. She is incredibly open-minded and independent, two things I really admire.

During the afternoon session Matlin asked the audience a question. She wondered if using her male interpreter Jack was weird. Jack interpreting for her gives Matlin a male voice to the hearing community, which to some may seem strange. I think it gives her situation uniqueness. I personally think it’s funny and represents how unique she truly is.