Pulling into Washington D.C. at 7:30 a.m., two hours earlier than we had expected something hit me. It wasn’t the stale car smell from being in the car since 10 p.m. It wasn’t everyone commenting on the amount of seafood restaurants, which is odd. What hit me was the fact that I was a site leader for this break. My co-site leader and I had the power to, in theory, make or break this break. Looking back, I realize how dramatic I was but at the time I could feel the pressure. During my 2015 spring break, I spent my time leading along side another amazing Central Michigan University student (she’s the princess of CMU). We traveled down to Washington D.C. with a group of 9 students. The mission of our week was to work along side the Beacon House staff.
The Beacon House is a nonprofit, community-based organization that provides tutoring, mentoring, cultural, athletic, recreation, and nutrition programs to at-risk, low-income children, ages 5-18, who reside in and around the Edgewood Commons community in Ward 5 of Washington, D.C. This mission is to assist at-risk youth to identify and pursue educational objectives that culminate in college or vocational training, and, more generally, to prepare them for productive involvement in their community and society. Since 1991, when Beacon House was founded, their goal has always been to lift as many children as possible up and out of their often difficult circumstances.
During the first half of the day we helped clean and organized the facility in preparation for their Black History Month celebration. The Black History Month celebration had been postponed due to weather. The second half of the day we spent with the kids. We did homework, read and hung out. These were some of the sweetest and most interesting students I have ever met.
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…
The final day with all of our Safe Sex Kits.
We learned about safe sex.
Our grow outside of Deaf REACH.
We traveled by Metro.
What is Leadershape?
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.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
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.
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.
Cheers to a new year. With my 2012 LAS cohort and the brand new 2013 cohort.Cheers 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.
Brian Pruitt is a CMU alumni. He is a former all-American athlete, author and entrepreneur. Pruitt is also the founder of The Power of Dad. A program dedicated to turning fatherless inner city boys into men. His team is devoted to teaching boys 21 essential skills from tying a tie to hygiene and dating. Over a 9 month period the boys learn to forgive their fathers and are then able to graduate from the program as men. Pruitt grew up fatherless. Not until he was 22 years old did he learn that a clip on tie was unacceptable.
I can apply his story to my life. 7th grade was the last time I saw my mother. She didn’t walk out on me, I walked out on her. That year I decided my mother didn’t deserve to have me in her life because of the poor choices she was making. My mom, time and time again, choose one of my two stepfathers over her own children. Many times I told her “You forgot babies came with umbilical cords.” Even before then my mother wasn’t much of an influence in my life. After she divorced my father she put my sister and I on the back burner. I grew up without a motherly influence. Luckily I’ve always had our amazing family friend Gail, but she’s still not my biological mom. Without my mother there for me my dad had to try to fill in for her. He has always tried to be Mr. Mom but cannot teach me certain things. I learned how to put on makeup from a friend. Everything I learned about developing was from research and uncomfortably asking around. During my first period, though my dad continues to deny it, he told me that a period is a beautiful thing. In many cultures they send the women away from the village to have her period but we respect it here. Let’s just say my early years were equivalent to a bad episode of Full House staring Jim Long as Danny Tanner, my sister Madeline as Stephanie and myself as D.J. I wouldn’t trade the relationship I have with my dad for anything but it was a struggle sometimes.
Pruitt lost the parent he is supposed to look up to. His mission is to give struggling boys the influence of a man in their early years. His program is unbelievably respectable and I hope that it can grow. It even sparked a little interest in my heart for another passion.
Layout for the day:
1.) Wake up late.
2.) Realize you don’t have enough time in the day.
3.) Get clothing on-ish.
4.) Pull a prank on your neighbor.
5.) Get ready.
6.) Finish the posters you neglected all weekend.
7.) Prepare for the concert.
8.) Awkwardly force people to take paper from your hand.
9.) Realize you helped an amazing charity.
April 9, 2013 my LEAD team threw on a concert in the student lobby of the UC. My LEAD team’s focus is homelessness awareness. The concert brought out local performers such as Domino LAE and Hannah Beale. The goal of our concert was to raise awareness that Mount Pleasant doesn’t have a homeless shelter. Pastor Robert Griffus is on a mission to start a shelter in the community. Just this year he was able to turn his program “Open Arms Ministry into a nonprofit organization and find a site for his mission. Our concert also helped bring awareness to the community meeting for the following day.
If one thing was accomplished, it was that we informed students about what we want to do. We got the word out there and that’s just the start. I know that next year’s homelessness awareness LEAD team will be able to get an even bigger event going. The group now has the layout and connections we needed to grow.