“So Who’s Your Mentee?”

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In 2012 I attended my very first Mentor/Mentee retreat. This retreat serves as a time to gather the freshmen mentees and their sophomore mentors together. During this time students work together to accomplish several group challenges and a high ropes course. They also participate in small and large group discussions to being learning more about their Leader Advancement Scholarship cohort. This is the time where everyone can forget about school for 24 hours and enjoy others like them.

In 2016 I returned to Eagle Village for my third Mentor/Mentee retreat. This time I was neither a mentor nor a mentee…except I did get asked “who’s your mentee?” This year I returned as the Leadership Institute’s third graduate assistant. My past two experiences were from the inside -> out. This year I watched from the outside -> in. Watching the groups instead of being a group was eye opening. It gave me the chance to see our students work together, connect, and grow. Instead of being limited to my group of mentor/mentee pairs, I was able to see every one take on some of the toughest challenges that their facilitators could throw at them. The opportunity to watch our students work together was beneficial in learning more about them and gave me the time to reflect on my experience. Being a part of the Leadership Institute gave me the foundation of what I needed to excel within my CMU community.

This weekend left me with a happy heart knowing that I get to watch the next group of Leader Advancement Scholars tackle what our campus has in store for them!

Welcome To CMU

11350431_10153325498127866_5464017373766886692_nThis summer close to 4,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students meandered onto campus, followed closely by their family members to experience their first Central Michigan University (CMU) orientation. Over the summer 36 student and family mentors worked closely with professional campus staff members to coordinate 11 orientation sessions. Orientation consists of educational sessions for both students and family members. Family members learn about financial aid, campus life, the bookstore, safety and eat lunch at a residential restaurant. Students schedule classes, meet with advisors, receive their student ID and discover places where they can get involved on campus. The day ends with Reunion Central. This is the time family members take full advantage of this time to ask questions, explore, make phone calls to find the entire family and eat ice cream cones.

10407973_10153325498842866_2925108577260570278_nI spent my four weeks of orientation working with the family team. What does it mean to be a family academic orientation mentor? This means I had the opportunity to work closely with the family members that decided to take the trip to Mount Pleasant for the day. I met the fathers who feared that their daughters might meet a boy on campus. I met the mothers who asked where their sons would get their laundry done. I met the first time parents along with the second, third, fourth and fifth timers. I met the parents of twins, the parents of adopted children, the family members who weren’t their parents and the parents who had graduated “not that long ago” from CMU. For some family members this was their first time visiting Mount Pleasant and for others they had spent the day before exploring campus so they knew where every building on campus already was. I had family members that could give my tour and family members that had stories to tell about their off campus experiences. I had the good, the bad, the funny and the fast walkers. This truly was the experience of a lifetime. I would never trade the experience of being an Academic Orientation mentor, even for all the khaki pants in the world.

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A Day In the Life of an Academic Orientation Mentor

5:15 am: First alarm goes off; snooze is hit shortly after and repeatedly.

5:30 am: You mutter “let’s go” and roll out of your twin bed.

6:45 am: Everyone reports for breakfast downstairs. During the walk to residential restaurant, you pray they will be serving “tri-tators” this time.

7:00 am: Daily morning meeting with Michelle Howard, the director of academic orientation. This meeting included numbers for the day, weather, daily awards and of course the moon phase.

7:30 am: Clean-up and head to our various starting locations on campus.

8:00 am: Registration, welcoming eyes, smiling faces and groups begin to form.

9:05 am: Meet my group of family members for the day.

9:30 am: Programming begins.

12:00 pm: The best part of the family member’s day: LUNCH!

4:00 pm: Reunion Central begins. Family members and students reconnect, catch up on their days and indulge on the provided snacks.

4:30 pm: The best part of the mentor’s day: DINNER! This time is spent catching up, sharing stories from the day and stuffing our faces after another day on the sunny Mount Pleasant streets.

 

Site Leader Hannah

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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.

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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.

10881662_989291007767753_1287599758204276198_nWe traveled by Metro.

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.”

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.

The Power of Dad

10221256-largeBrian 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.

#Homestock

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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.

10.) Repeat.

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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.

 

Dr. Joyce Baugh’s Detroit Support

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Dr. Joyce Baugh is a professor at Central Michigan University in the Political Science department.

Joyce Baugh was pro-Detroit. She loves the city. She spoke to our class before we left for our service project weekend. She really educated me on the city. I never thought about what really harms Detroit: racism. She interacted with our class by asking questions on the history of Detroit. She was beneficial to the class. She gave us back story on where we were going. She also helped to clear the air about the negative side of Detroit. She taught us a lot about the once thriving motor city. I wouldn’t mind taking one of her classes in the future. She was extremely interesting and easy to listen to. Since her speech and our trip, I have rekindled my love for service work and the city.

Student Leadership Challenge

challenge

  • 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.