Character Counts Week

October 20th kicked off Character Counts Week 2014. This is a program more recently adopted by Tri Sigma. My plan for this program was to “blow up social media.” I planned a competition within my sorority so that if we educated ourselves first, we could prepare to educate others in the future. I worked with a committee of six to collect the pictures and data from each day.

Point break down

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 9.56.02 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 9.56.22 PM I believe this week was meaningful. Yes it was a competition, but it got everyone involved. We reached over 100 pictures tagged with #SigmaPayItForwardCMU on Instragram and even more between Twitter and Facebook. Everyone in my committee was given a word and then planned a picture or post that went along with it. This helped to disperse work amongst us. They came up with ideas and pitched it which I believe helped to get the entire chapter involved. Day 1 focused on responsibility. We had everyone focus on their future because we are responsible for it. We also incorporated responsible role models. On Day 2 the focus was on the Golden Rule and/or respect. People posted about friends, family, etc. who they believe live by the Golden Rule or pictures that they felt were examples of it. The focus for Day 3 was trustworthiness. We all gathered at the house for “Sigma Time” our usual Wednesday night get together to do a trust activity. Kelsey facilitated a partner activity where your partner had to describe to you a drawing while you drew it without seeing the picture. Day 4 we incorporated the Sigma Pay It Forward Cards. Sisters had to pass them out and take a picture as the cards went around campus. Other people on campus posted pictures which was really cool.  Day 5‘s focus was caring. Sisters called, emailed, sent a text message, etc. to someone they care about then posted it to social media. On Day 6 people posted about citizenship whether it be volunteering, voting, or their first time for jury duty.

I look forward to next year’s Character Counts Week because I believe we will be able to spread this to the Greek community and possibly the CMU community.

Below are some pictures from our chapter using #SigmaPayItForwardCMU.

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Why Happiness is the Hardest

Every morning I wake up and make a choice.

Every morning I am forced to make a decision that dictates the rest of my day. Some mornings it is an obvious choice. I can get out of bed and I know that no matter what is thrown at me during the day, I will conquer it. I know that on that day I will smile wider, laugh harder and genuinely enjoy the highs and lows that are in my near future. Other mornings don’t come as easy to me. I wake up harder and roll around more. I press snooze a few more times and resent the light coming in through the window. Those morning I check the time and do the mental math of how long I can continue to lay there. Each and every morning I make the toughest choice of the day. I choose to be happy. I choose to see the light at the end of the day and the silver lining, even if it will suck all of the energy out of me.

Why is happiness the toughest feeling to feel? I like the phrase “defaulting to sad.” Defaulting to sad is the idea that instead of having a resting bitch face, you have a resting emotion. Sometimes it is just easier to let the world win. It’s easier to not fight for your right to happiness because the world can be a mean place. Floating around our lives are millions of negative thoughts, words and people and their poisonous attitudes. That negativity collects in your life and sucks out any energy you have. We all know that person who, after you’re no longer around, you can take a deep breath because their negativity is draining. Not only are you drained by them but you’re also now tainted by negativity. Negativity is a poison that infects your whole body. It weakens you mentally, emotionally, physically and socially. It causes happy, confident, go lucky people to do the worst thing on this planet: doubt themselves.

I myself have recently successfully made the journey back from the saddest place I’ve ever known. Every morning that I woke up sad, I would do nothing to change it. I would lay in bed extra long and didn’t have much to say. I was a shell of the former Hannah I once was. I smiled with my lips instead of toothy thing I flash now. I forced myself to laugh because being questioned was the worst thing that could happen to me. I was passionless, hopeless and helpless to the infective negativity that ravished my body. I lived each day wondering why I was stuck like this? Why was I so alone? I hated everything about myself. Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) swarmed my swampy brain. (Ted Talk explains ANTS.) When they say that you are your own worst nightmare, they were right. I could do nothing correctly, I was never smart enough, I was too fat, too awkward, too friendly, not friendly enough, ugly, average, boring but mainly I was lonely. I was all alone in a group of wonderful people because my foggy brain kept me secluded from everyone.

I would be lying if I said this only lasted for a little bit. In all honestly, I think I’ve had to fight to be happy longer than when it came naturally to me. Maybe I only think that because for some reason we’re equipped with a brain that remembers the bad before the good. I could blame a lot of things but I think it was because no one ever told me it’s ok to be sad, it’s what you do with it that is the problem. Sadness has its place in your life. Sometimes the world sucks and you’re allowed to feel it. You’re allowed to dread the day but when you begin to hate more than you love, you’ve been caught in the default mood. When you finally find out sadness is the easiest of the emotions but don’t pick to push yourself to be happy, that’s when it becomes a problem. I’ve had to fight most of my life to put a smile on my face but it has always been worth it.

How did I beat the fog?

I fell in love with who I am and who I can become.

One day something clicked. Maybe it was two days. (Sorry nothing is definitive because I don’t know when it exactly hit me. It has only recently set in that I’ve made, maybe not a 360 but at least a 180 and I’m headed in the right direction.) I do know that a program I participated in called Leadershape changed my life for the better. Spending a week with 60 outwardly positive people really has a way of soaking into your tough shell, enriching your soul and expelling all of the negativity. It filled up the outwardly confident, daring and passionate woman I seemed to be with actual energy. It gave me that realization that I had succumb to sadness and used it as my default emotion. It took me all summer to start this fall (2014) stronger than ever before. I still have days where I lay there longer and struggle to move out of bed but I make sure to catch myself before ANTS start to swarm my brain again. I remind myself of how lucky I am. I start big and work my way in. I’m at an university, I have a job, I am an ‘able body’ individual, I have the ability to lay in my bed… I have a bed. I think about the littlest things I have. I have polish on my toenails, my pillowcases match my sheets, I have both shampoo and conditioner waiting for me in the shower. I remind myself every morning to be thankful because I have the dumb little things that people go without. Each and everyday I give myself something to look forward to. Wether it be the act of getting ready or cooking dinner that night, I make sure to reward myself with something small. Everyone deserves a treat. If I have a day that can be filled with other activities, I do that. I love on people, do things for someone else, watch Netflix, drink a coffee while sitting down. It’s the little things, but those are the things that saved me from remaining lost.

Keep your head up because in the end, you need yourself before you need anyone else.

Deaf Awareness

“Deaf awareness”
One Monday morning at 7:30 am I clicked the link to attend the Deaf Awareness Alternative Winter Break. Deaf Awareness is such a broad topic so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there are Deaf and deaf people in the world. I knew some American Sign Language but I didn’t know what I was in for. Our break left December 13th for Washington D.C. We were told that for the first half of our day we would work with Deaf REACH. Service: UNKNOWN. The second half of our day would be spent at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School on Galludet University’s campus. Service: Working with children. General enough.

So what did we end up doing?

During the first service we worked together to 1. Pack over 600 Safe Sex Kits, 2. File paperwork, 3. Shred years of papers 4. Design information business cards, 4×6 cards, T-shirts and, 5. Decorate office door displays. This service was one of the most rewarding jobs because we could see our work getting done. We were able to see progress through out the week. What does this have to do with Deaf Awareness? Well, half of the staff is Deaf and uses American Sign Language as their primary language. The week was spent pushing ourselves to learn new signs, sentence structure and practice communicating with people within the Deaf community. Instead of the staff giving us “volunteer work” which usually breaks down to just filing and cleaning, they took us on as ‘staff.’ They gave us real projects. They made our time feel meaningful because we were giving them real work.

At Kendall Demonstration School we worked in two separate groups. Half of the group spent time with the Kindergarten and younger kids while my group worked with 1st-4th grade. This was another amazing time for us to learn signs we’ve never used before.

I can’t wait to take these signs back to my classes as I finish my American Sign Language minor. I find myself causally throwing signs into my daily life. I hope that in my future I will be able to find friends who are also interested in American Sign Language. It is so helpful when you’re far away from someone or in a loud area. In the last few years I have noticed a slow decline in my hearing and I hope that in my future I will be able it to communicate more clearly.

A few moments from our trip…

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The final day with all of our Safe Sex Kits.

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We learned about safe sex.

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Our grow outside of Deaf REACH.

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Leadershape 2014

What is Leadershape?

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A few months ago I signed up for a program called “Leadershape.” Everything I had ever heard about this program was “I can’t explain it, but it changes your life.” That isn’t very descriptive… Going into this ‘life changing program’ I didn’t know what to expect. I assumed it would be an awesome experience but I under estimated the impact the program would have on me. Being the skeptic that I am, I was hesitant to dive right into the program. I found myself sitting back and watching. That was my biggest regret of the week. This week I surrounded myself with some of the most kind hearted and impactful people I have ever experienced. Leadershape opened my eyes to myself. It showed me that I have the ability to stand up for what I believe in, stick to my core values and do something amazing in the world.

My sophomore year of college was extremely difficult. It put me in a bad place. This school year forced me to second guess myself. I felt lost. I felt dumb. It drained me of the enthusiasm for life I once had. This week rejuvenated me. I feel enabled, confident and that I have a million options again.

Leadershape is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. Everyone should experience this program. It is amazing how much of a change I felt and saw not just in myself but the entire group.

Now I plan on being an active citizen to conquering my dreams. In my perfect world children would never spend anytime waiting in the foster care/adoption system. Every person/couple seeking to create a family would choose to adopt instead of having a biological child. A family is a family, whether it’s biological or not.

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Mari Ann Callais

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Of all of the speakers I saw this year, Dr. Mari Ann Callais was by far the most inspiration one. I was lucky enough to see her this April at the Dunham Women of Character Institute. Dr. Mari Ann Callais is funny, inspiring and extremely down to Earth. She started off her session by pulling out a guitar and getting the group to sing along with her. I believe by breaking down the awkwardness of a new group right from the beginning she was able to capture our attention better.

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My main take aways were:

  • I am woman
  • Hear me roar
  • Stop commercializing being in a sorority and actually be one
  • Anyone can put my letters on, only the elite can wear my badge
  • Take charge and do big things

She inspired me to think about what I’m doing in my sorority. Am I trying to portray what Pintrest has made of sororities or am I being me? She also inspired me to start reading my ritual and learning it fully through.

 

Homelessness LEAD team chair

I was the co-chair then chair of the Homelessness Awareness LEAD team. Our job was to help with homelessness in the community. We were a group of about 10 people. If we were dedicated to helping the community homelessness or not is still yet to be determined. We focused on adopting a child from the local church for Christmas and a few mobile food pantries. This group was extremely difficult for me to work with. I found there was not a lot of participation, drive or accessibility. Many of the people in my group didn’t want to put in a lot of work for this group. It was very discouraging. This group taught me that you can’t always control a group. I struggled and lost confidence in leading this group. From now I approach groups differently.

Alternative Break

The Alternative Break program is one of the most awarding programs I have been blessed to be a piece of. I was lucky enough to click on ‘Youth Advocacy’ at  7:30 am back in October of 2013. The break didn’t set sail until March of 2014. Not only did I pick a topic that interested me, I also met 11 other amazing CMU students. During the week we worked at the Charleston Youth Development Center. The CYDC is an emergency shelter that takes in children who need a place to stay. Children are then either returned to their families through social service intervention or are able to stay at the shelter. We spent a week organizing their storage center while the children were at school. When the children came home was when the real fun started. We tutored the students until dinner time. Tutoring usually consisted of racing to finish homework so we could hang out. We sat around laughing, learning about them and just enjoying the children’s company. If you have the opportunity to give back to the world, I suggest you do it.

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Eagle Village: Mentor Status

Eagle Village was successful yet again. Last year I went as a mentee, now I’m a mentor. I’ve been through all of my firsts so now it was time to watch my mentee’s leadership style. We climbed high ropes courses, challenged ourselves, built relationships and had an amazing weekend. We worked closely with members of the 2012 and 2013 cohort. Now I get to watch my mentee grow, build relationships, get involved and be a leader. I’m extremely excited to watch their cohort. I have good vibes about them.

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Cheers to a new year. With my 2012 LAS cohort and the brand new 2013 cohort.1237033_10151691796179075_1996948639_nCheers to my wonderful mentee. He challenged me, spoke up in the group and stepped up for challenges. I’m extremely excited to see where he goes with not only a broadcasting major, his time at Central but, most importantly running his own magic company: The Magic of Trino. I can’t wait to watch my baby mentee blossom.

Sophomore LAS

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.

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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.

971285_10151692046854075_1309441257_n(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)

 

Well that’s a wrap

My freshman year of college is over, now what? Well 5 more years of schooling to hopefully be placed into a high paying job at some bleached hospital. I can’t wait. Until then I’m just along for the ride. What did I learn this year? Besides the differences between phonemes and morphemes, well let’s recap…

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Make wishes because they’re free and always come true if you challenge yourself to make it happen.

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If you’re an animal person, make sure you find time to be around them. They’ll lower your stress faster than a massage will.

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College is a new world. If you think Ann Arbor, MI is weird just wait until you’re on a campus.

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Go to football games whether you’re a fan or not.

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Do dumb things and laugh at yourself.

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Don’t get 8 hours of sleep, take naps.

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Wear cheetah print and be fierce.

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Don’t forget about your best friends at other colleges.

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Continue to make memories with your high school friends.

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Be a diva.

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Visit new schools.

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Love on your family.

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Support your friends.

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Actually have fun.

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Make a new family.

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A little duck face never hurt anyone.

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Support charities.

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Decide on how to pick your LAS mentee.

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Get involved.

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See your college friends in real life.

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Hug the life out of people.

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Be tired. Be challenged. Be connected.

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Meet others who are just as fabulous as yourself.

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Try new things.

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Be an unstoppable trio.

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Explore.

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Laptop cameras are the best study break.

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Own ridiculous things.

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Chase boys–only while in a shark suit.

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Meet some of the coolest people on Earth.

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My first year of college is something I couldn’t have done at home. I’ve grown and developed way more than I ever thought possible. I can’t wait to see what will happen in the next few years.