LAS… It’s more than just a program to me. It has become my support system, my rock, my best friends and so much more. We have cliques and sometimes we set that aside. We argue but then we laugh about it. Sometimes we’re crabby and take it out on our peppy friends but we love each other in the end. Through this program I’ve really begun to grown and prosper. This scholarship is more about the program and the blessing it brings to me. Entering as a freshman we’re paired with a “mentor” through a draft process. Then at the end of our freshmen year we use the same process to select a “mentee”. A mentor’s job is to hang out, answer questions and help them with the transition. Some people go above and beyond that and get close. A mentee’s job is survive their freshman year, strive and get involved. Some pairs are lucky enough to become real friends.
This program beats anything I’ve seen before. It gave me the upper hand coming into college. I was once reserved, scared and easily intimidated. I still struggle but through this wonderful program, the support of my cohort and family I’ve broken out of my shell. All the credit goes to the wonder staff of Central Michigan University’s Leadership Insitute. One man and two women are behind the scenes with several students from the program. Dan Gaken, the director of the institute, is our father figure. He keeps up with us, jokes around with us and reminds us why we’re a part of this program. Jesi Parker, the Assistant Director, is that aunt that we all wish we had. She’s quirky, personable and loves each of us as much as she loves her cat. Caity Sweet, the Leadership Institute’s Administrative Secretary, keeps us in line. She gets out there with us, she carried the most rubble in wheel barrels during our service project and always has a smile on her face. CMU did a fantastic job selecting these amazing people. They represent what Central is really about: kind, caring, compassionate, personable people making a difference through leadership.
(Left to right: Dan Gaken, Director of the Leadership Institute; Jesi Parker, Assistant Director of the Leadership Institute; Erin Smith-Gaken, Dan’s wife; Caity Sweet, Administrative Secretary of the Leadership Institute)