Leadership Safari

Before I knew it, August 22nd arrived. To many, it seemed like just an ordinary day, however, on this day my life completely changed. I said goodbye to my friends and family and Holly, the town I called by home and was on my way to move into my new home at Central Michigan University.

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Barnes Hall, my new home at CMU.

The thought of being a college student and calling Mount Pleasant my new home scared me and excited me at the same time. I was so uncertain what college would be like; the only information I knew was the opinions and advice from other people who have went through this before. Do college professors really not care about their students? Will I gain the freshman fifteen? Is the cafeteria food as gross as people say it is? These were all thoughts going through my head leading up to the big day.

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2,000+ Leadership Safari Participants along with their guides, the football and cheerleading teams, and the marching band.

I am so grateful that I signed up for Leadership Safari, a five day program for incoming freshmen and transfer students to get acquainted with CMU’s campus, other students, and feel at home before 20,000 other students would arrive five short days later.

Safari participants are each broken into groups with ten to twelve other CMU students and an upperclassmen staff member that is known as a safari guide. Each team was assigned a specific animal that their team would represent, anything from termite to zebra. Through these small groups, participants are able to form friendships with other students, have any questions about college life answered by their guide, and grow in their leadership capabilities.

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Team Tree Monkey

Shortly after moving into my new home in Barnes Hall, I found out that I was part of Team Tree Monkey (aka the best safari group I could’ve asked for). My fellow tree monkeys and I went from being a group of strangers to being a tight knit family by the end of day five. I was grateful I was able to experience safari with such a great group of people.

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My fellow LAS-er and Tree Monkey, Faith, and I maneuvering through one of the obstacles in the challenge course.

While I had already completed, and sometimes even facilitated, the leadership activities that we did at safari, what I took away from safari the most was learning to conquer my fear of college. College scared me. Let’s face it; I had never had such a large change in such a short period of time in my entire life. However, listening to the speakers at safari, having my guide answer any of my groups questions about college life, and even being able to have pizza with a CMU professor made me realize that I can do this. Before the rest of CMU’s student population arrived that Thursday, I felt like I was a campus expert. I knew the locations of all my classes, where the cafeterias were, and the fastest route to get from one spot on campus to another. On Welcome Weekend, other students would even stop me and ask for directions.

Safari made me so comfortable with CMU’s campus and I knew that I’d have no problem calling Central my home for the next four years. Safari made me realize if I dedicate myself to my studies, keep striving towards my dream of becoming a teacher, and keep being fearless, I will conquer college, one step at a time.

MASC/MAHS Student Leadership Camp 2015

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As a member of the College Volunteer Facilitator Corps, this summer I had the opportunity to return to what I like to call the happiest place on earth. MASC/MAHS’s Summer Student Leadership Camp is an experience unlike any other summer camp. For just one week, student leaders from high schools all across Michigan come together at Albion College to learn more about leadership, step outside their comfort zones, and create new bonds and friendships with other student leaders. Camp creates a warm, friendly atmosphere where everyone is valued, accepted, and cared for, no matter what. 

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Level one JC staff

There are three levels of camp: level one, level two, and level three (creative names, I know, right). Each level has a different leadership curriculum for students based on their camp experiences. Level one is for students who are attending camp for the first time, level two is for students who are attending camp for the second time, and level three is for students who are attending camp for the third and final year.

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Past and present CMU students at camp representing Central on college day.

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My wonderful campers along with my SC

Each camper is placed into what we call a council. This council is comprised of 15-20 student leaders from all over Michigan, typically every student being from a different school. Also, each council has two staff members, a Junior Counselor (aka JC) who is a college student and member of CVFC and a Senior Counselor (aka SC) who is an adult with a college degree who is passionate about student leadership among adolescents.

It’s hard to believe that just a year ago I was a camper myself, having no idea that this camp would absolutely help me find my purpose, develop goals, and shape me into who I’d always wanted to be.

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Me with my campers after defining what leadership truly is

When I found out that I was selected to be a level one JC at camp this summer, I couldn’t contain my happiness. My heart was filled with love, and my passion for leadership was like rays of sunshine beaming off my face. I was going to have my own campers. I couldn’t wait to inspire them and watch them grow.

As soon as I found out that my council color was yellow, I went Pinterest crazy with ideas. I planned cute yellow outfits and decorations for my council room. I couldn’t wait for the day that my campers arrived at Albion to experience one of the most life-changing weeks that they’ll ever have.

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My council room; the room where our council met daily and completed activities and reflections.

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The very first time all my campers were together as a group was heartwarming. They were all complete strangers and were able to connect with each other by working together to create a council name, mascot, cheer, and chant. My campers named our council the Beyellonces, making Beyonce our mascot and adding in the “yello” for yellow torches. I knew at the end of day one that I had an incredible group of student leaders I was going to spend the rest of the week with.

As the week continued, I challenged my campers more and more. I challenged them to think outside the box, leap outside of their comfort zones, and put their passions to action.

My favorite part about camp was connecting with my 17 campers. Every single one of them was filled with love, passion, and a desire to change the world. I enjoyed listening to their experiences at school and their aspirations to continue to grow and BE better everyday.

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My campers right before the level one sound off and olympics

My Beyellonces will always hold a special place in my heart and I’m so proud of the leaders they are and the difference they make in their schools and community. MASC/MAHS Leadership Camp changes lives and I’m grateful to be part of CVFC and the entire MASC/MAHS community.