“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!

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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.

 

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.”

#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.

Ted Talk

Drew Dudley presented on Everyday Leadership. His speech was about why we revere leadership as such a high and mighty quality to have. He talked about how leadership isn’t something we’re going to eventually get it. He also addressed that we don’t appreciate each other enough. We don’t tell those who are important to us how much they truly mean to us enough. We’re all born with it, it just depends on how and/or if we ever end up expressing it. He shared a story about when he was working at a university. He gave a lollipop to a new freshman boy and told him “Give this to the most beautiful girl in the room.” He ended up handing the lollipop to a girl who was extremely close to dropping out. That event kept her at the university.

The reason he created this speech was because he was touched by the fact that this woman found out he was leaving the university soon and she wanted him to know how much he had touched her life. He’s actually unable to recall that event. I think it’s relevant to student leadership. He didn’t do something unbelievably impressive. All he did was use an icebreaker to make the boy branch out a little bit more. I agree that we need to let the people that have made changes in our lives how much they’ve touched us.

I already try to do this. I’m not a touchy or expressive person. I don’t tell people I love them or hug them very often. Sometimes saying things like that are like pulling teeth for me. Since I don’t tell people how important they are to me very often I like to send cards to my friends every once and a while. Everyone loves mail and it’s usually a great little surprise.

Click here for a link to the video.