“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.

 

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.