Servant Leadership: Beyond the Classroom

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 11.47.12 AMThroughout my LDR 200: Introduction to Leadership course, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about many of the theories and approaches that help define what leadership is. For the duration of the semester, my classmates and I were split up into groups; each group was responsible for creating a workshop for a specific theory we given. Now that we

Now that LDR 200 is coming to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about how these theories we’ve learned (even th12417568_625062540980523_9015609560789164536_nough some of them are hundreds of years old) are applicable to our everyday lives as college students.

One of the theories presented in LDR 200 that really resonated with me is the Servant Leadership Theory. Not only is my own leadership philosophy centered around this concept, but I believe that as a college student, servant leadership is nearly everywhere.

The Servant Leadership Theory is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations, and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.

12938074_625062574313853_7982738962821157617_nFor instance, this semester I joined the Student Michigan Education Association (SMEA). As our Outreach to Teach Community Service Project, we devoted an entire week during the semester to painting the inside of Ganiard Elementary School. Ganiard was looking for ways to make their school more of a warm, welcoming environment for their staff and students. SMEA members came together and spent more than 60 hours total at Ganiard prepping walls, stenciling, and painting. At the end of the week, our devotion to this project paid off and because of our efforts, the students and staff at Ganiard will have a warmer school environment.

Through this project, we displayed many of the characteristics of being a servant leader. We listened to other SMEA members’ ideas various ideas for the school and also collaborated with school officials to ensure we could provide what they11218480_625062567647187_9138030472145902539_n needed.

We developed a sense of empathy to better see what types of paintings would make students happy and comfortable to be at school.
We became aware of the impact our dedication to this project would have on staff and students at Ganiard.
Through this project, we built an even stronger community within SMEA as we each had a shared passion for teaching and the impact this project would have on the school.

I am so grateful for the opportunities I have every day at CMU that continue to inspire me to be a servant leader.

 

 

Spark Leadership Series

 

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Team Involvement after our first Challenge

For the past 4 weeks, I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to participate in the Spark Leadership Series. The Spark Leadership Series, also known as Spark, is a program put on by CMU’s Leadership Institute to further students’ understanding of their definition of leadership, their leadership style, and how they can further their capacity to lead on campus.

Going into my first session of Spark, I was a little skeptical. I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of leadership activities and simulations and I was really hoping that Spark wouldn’t be just a repetition of the same activities I completed throughout high school.

Thankfully, Spark was so much more than I imagined it would be.spark2

I think that one of the most valuable parts of Spark was being broken apart into groups that we stayed with for four weeks. My group, Team Involvement, went from being a group of strangers (minus a few of us in LAS who already knew each other) to a close-knit family. We overcame obstacles such as leading each other blindfolded through a room of mouse traps, discovered our personal leadership style, and expanded our perception of leadership.

Participating in Spark has furthered my understanding of my leadership style, considerate leadership, helped me develop new friendships within LAS, and has inspired me to continue to strive to BE better everyday.

Start With Why

Why-PicWhy are you alive? What is your purpose on Earth? What do you want to be your legacy?

At some point in our lives, we’ve pondered these questions and questioned our purpose on Earth. Whether someone directly asked us, or we had thought about it when we were unable to fall asleep, the purpose of life is a question many of us have asked.

But in our day to day lives, how often do we think about our purpose? How often do we make decisions that don’t actually align with our purpose?

why simon.pngThis is exactly what Simon Sinek discusses in his TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. You see, people are drawn to purpose. People didn’t rally behind Rosa Parks because she merely gave up her seat on a bus; they rallied behind her because they supported her activism for racial equality. People don’t buy Apple Computers because they “look nice” (well, I’m sure some people do), they buy them because Apple markets their purpose is to enhance their consumers’ life and make technology easier to use.

So in the midst of all this talk about purpose, I questioned my own purpose.

Why do I get up in the morning? What am I passionate about? What do I want to change in the world and how am I going to do it?

In LDR 200, we were asked to create a why statement. Everyone’s why statement starts with “Inspire others to..” and then it was up to us to make our why statement our own. It only took me two worksheets and a few inspirational youtube videos to really get my creative juices flowing.

a47f04615a394cdb46fcac25cad1b7a6And then, boom, my why statement hit me like a big yellow school bus.

“Inspire others to live passionately and grow endlessly”

As soon as I wrote those words on paper, my heart glowed. I knew that these very words described my purpose on Earth. I believe wholeheartedly that life should be lived with passion and that everyone can always grow into a better person. If I could inspire someone to do anything, it would be to live a life filled with passion and always strive to be better than the person they were yesterday.

Though I may have figured out my why statement, I am excited to challenge others to find their why and wholeheartedly incorporate it into their everyday life.

 

 

True Leadership

If an ordinary perIMG_6165son was stopped on the street and asked to name someone who is a leader, they would probably respond with a well-known figure such as Barack Obama, Oprah, or Steve Jobs. Contrary to public opinion, most leaders are not necessarily people who hold positions in the government or hold a special title. In fact, the world’s most influential leaders are often people we interact with in our everyday life that challenge us to be better, inspire us to reach out to others, and remind us to live a life filled with gratitude and compassion.

When I was asked in my LDR 200 class to identify someone who is a leader, the first person who came to mind was not Barack Obama, Oprah, or even Steve Jobs. The first person who came to mind was my mom.

My mom is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. I’ve come to realize what makes my mom a leader is her unconditional desire to help others and her compassion for everyone she comes in contact with. You see, my mom is a leader by leading through others. Whether it’s her genuine compassion towards her patients at work, creating intentional relationships with everyone she meets, or devoting her time and energy to volunteering in the community, she portrays the type of selflessness that a true leader possesses.

While she may not realize it, my mom has had a tremendous impact on so many lives, including my own. Her everyday actions of selflessness and true kindness inspire others to “pay it forward”. The intentional relationships she creates inspires others to form more intentional relationships of their own. But most importantly, her gratitude and optimistic outlook on life remind many people, including myself, that life is a blessing that should be cherished every day.

 

Worn Out Leaders: Getting Yourself out of a Leadership Rut

1089a5d31ecd9cf300ffa77f4059d6d2During the Connections Conference, I had the opportunity to attend a session presented by Suzy Herman about Leadership and being worn out. I was very excited to attend this session because as a college student nearing the end of my first semester, I was getting a little worn out.

What the ordinary person doesn’t realize is that leadership isn’t just a switch that can be turned on and off. Student leaders, like myself and members of my LAS Cohort, are being leaders twenty-four hours, seven days a week. We’re full-time students, involved in multiple organizations, have leadership roles, have jobs, have a social life, and we’re trying to balance all of that at one time. We’re also devoted to helping others in any way that we possibly can, even if it means sacrificing something from ourselves. At times, being a student leader can be pretty overwhelming.

Suzy Herman’s session was a breath of fresh air; it was everything I really needed to hear. During the session, we identified personal signs we are worn out (like binge-watching a season of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix when you have two five page papers and a presentation due tomorrow). It was very comforting hearing other students share their experiences with being overwhelmed trying to balance being a leader with everything else. I was happy to hear that I wasn’t alone. It was also very beneficial to discuss various strategies of how to get out of a leadership rut.

If you’re reading this and you are feeling stressed, worn out, or overwhelmed, remember this:

Take each day, one at a time. It seems simple and cheesy enough to be put on one of those generic classroom posters, but it works. Trying to accomplish everything at once is unrealistic and will make you want to crawl back into bed and eat a large chocolate bar. The solution usually boils down to one or both of these: either do something or stop doing everything.

This session reminded me that it is essential as a student leader, even during finals week, to take a little time every day to renew myself and rejuvenate.

 

Fred Factor Reflection

41R6kggnMZLAs part of my LDR 100, Introduction to Leadership class, we were asked to do a project on Mark Sanborn’s book, The Fred FactorThe Fred Factor is a story about Sanborn’s mailman, Fred, who consistently goes above and beyond doing his job. Sanborn was so impressed by Fred that he decided to write a book called The Fred Factor to help ordinary people live a life with as much enthusiasm, love, and passion as Fred.

For our Fred Factor Project, we were split up into groups and our assignment was to “Be like Fred”. While many groups in my cohort decided to target their projects towards bringing positivity and happiness to random strangers, my group took a different approach.

During one of our many group meetings, we came to realize that we are all blessed with so many wonderful people in our life, whether that be family members, friends, roommates, LAS family, teachers, etc. We also came to realize that we don’t appreciate these people in our life as much as we should.

As a result, my Fred Factor Group decided to write little notes of appreciation, also known as warm fuzzies, to our entire LAS cohort. We arrived a half hour early to class one day and left each of our classmates an appreciative note to open once they got to class.

By showing our gratitude for people we care about and mean the world to us, we demonstrated the four principles of being a Fred: Everyone makes a difference; Success is built on relationships; You must continually create value for others and it doesn’t have to cost a penny; and you can reinvent yourself regularly.

Dreams Do Come True: Observation Hours @ HHS

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Mrs. Wheeler and I after my day of observation was complete

Spending an entire day in the classroom with one of my biggest inspirations guiding and encouraging me was an absolute blessing. My day of observations at Holly High School inspired me and allowed me to bring my passion for education into a high school classroom. Spending an entire school day working one-on-one with students and assisting them confirmed my love for teaching and my lifelong dream to become a teacher.

During my day at HHS, I observed four 9th grade classes of Digital Assist, a required class for freshman students that helps them transition from middle school to high school and acclimate them to the different aspects of technology utilized in the classroom. Having graduated from HHS, I previously thought that my school was not very diverse. However, after all of the diversity discussions we’ve had in EDU 107, I was more aware of diversity present within the classroom now than I was as a student. While the students were not very culturally diverse, they were diverse in other ways such as having different learning styles, varied socioeconomic status, and different behaviors. I felt that Mrs. Wheeler did a wonderful job in reaching oHolly_High_School_logout to all of her students and making sure all of their needs were met.

Additionally, Mrs. Wheeler utilized various types of instruction to ensure she reached all students’ needs. She started the class with a discussion based warm up question that was both relevant to their current assignment and related back to the real world. Essentially, she made her students ask, “why does this matter?”, which I feel is a very important aspect of education that I will incorporate into my future classroom. Additionally, she gave independent work time for students to use Macbook laptops to continue working on a digital project. During this time, I was grateful to be able to walk around the classroom and work with students one-on-one and assist them with any questions they had or help they needed. Making classroom content relevant to the real world is very important and I know that I’m going to incorporate that philosophy in my own classroom.

When I was one of Mrs. Wheeler’s students, I always felt at home in her classroom and when I returned to observe her, I immediately felt the same way. What made her room unnamed-8 so warm and welcoming was the way she decorated it. The two bulletin boards in the room were decorated with inspirational quotes, infographics, and also helpful information such as emergency procedures. There were inspirational quotes on the whiteboard, canvases on the walls, and even uplifting messages on the cupboard doors and behind her desk. The classroom was also set in small groups to encourage discussion and collaboration with the students. I’ve always dreamed of making my classroom feel like a second home and I definitely will utilize inspirational quotes, uplifting messages, and arrange the room so it feels like a comfortable atmosphere for students.

My day at Holly High School reinstilled my purpose and my passion for teaching. By watching one of my favorite high school teachers who made class so engaging, interesting, and meaningful; I gained an understanding of how how I can translate those qualities into my own classroom. What I loved the most was working one on one with students and knowing that I was able to help them or just be someone to talk to. I know in my heart I’m meant to be a teacher and my observation at Holly High School has only fanned the flames of my lifelong dream of becoming an educator.

 

Mentor/Mentee Retreat

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Freshmen & Sophomore LAS cohorts at the Mentor/Mentee Retreat

Two high ropes courses, 100+ fanny packs, and 91 Leader Advancement Scholars; what do they have in common? They all played an integral part in the Leadership Institute’s annual Mentor/Mentee Retreat.

Bright and early on Saturday September 12th, the freshmen and sophomore LAS classes piled into two school buses and headed off to Eagle Village in Hershey, Michigan. The Mentor/Mentee Retreat is a LAS tradition. As part of the LAS Protocol, LAS sophomores are required to mentor an incoming LAS freshman. While mentorship sounds as if it’s just something required by protocol, it’s actually one of the coolest aspects of being a Leader Advancement Scholar. Our mentors become our “survival guides” for our first year at CMU. They alleviate our nerves with the transition from high school to college, become our go-to person if we need help, and most importantly, they become our friend.11809647_1603303416597270_1051086970_n(1)

One hour later and we’ve arrived at Eagle Village, our destination for the weekend. Soon after arrival, we were broken into groups with our mentors and several other mentor/mentee pairs. The groups were all named after LAS inside jokes; our group was named, “Team Bloutfit” which stands for black outfit (when someone is wearing all black clothing it’s called a bloutfit in LAS terminology). After two short days icebreakers, teambuilders, and obstacles Team Bloutfit became a tight knit family and had made me come to the realization that all of these people are there for me, not just my mentor.

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Me with my LAS family; my twin, Katie and my mentor, Meghan.

The entire weekend, I was consistently reminded of my BE goal: BE fearless. I made a goal for myself to leap out of my comfort zone by talking to new people and participating in group discussion even when I was unsure if my insight would be beneficial to add to the conversation. I wanted to leave Eagle Village knowing that I did everything I possibly could to make myself uncomfortable and truly grow as an individual.

The most challenging part of my weekend was going up on the high ropes course with my mentor, Meghan and my LAS twin, Katie. I always knew I had been somewhat scared of heights, however, as I looked up at the obstacles from the ground, I had not a doubt in my mind that I could conquer this course. I told myself that this would be a breeze.

Once I was standing twenty feet above the ground and the only thing securing me was my harness being clipped to the metal wire above me, my emotions changed pretty fast. I was nervous. I was afraid. I questioned if I would actually be able to make it through these obstacles. I knew that my biggest opponent, fear, had set in. 11998873_10103432851724638_7197907013465967067_n

To say that the first obstacle I attempted scared me was a complete understatement. The first obstacle I attempted was simple; it was so simple that the thought of going across it made me shake. The only thing between the platform I was on and the platform I needed to go to was a thin metal wire. It had no handrails, nothing to hold onto, nothing to catch you if you fall. The moment I stepped onto the wire my hands began to shake, I could feel my heart racing, and I questioned if I should just return back to the platform where I felt reasonably safe. But with the encouragement of my mentor Meghan, my twin, Katie, and reminding myself of my goal to BE fearless, I was able to cross the wire, one step at a time.

On the high ropes course, I quickly found which obstacles were easy and which ones were challenging. On the easier ones, I challenged myself by attempting to do the obstacle blindfolded, and believe me, that added a whole new dynamic to my experience. The obstacles I found most challenging were similar to the very first one I tried; they all had a small metal wire and nothing else to support me. I told my mentor, “The ones with the metal wire scare me the most so I’m going to try another one”. I knew that by doing what scares me, I would be making progress in BEing fearless.

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Our freshmen LAS class at the retreat.

The high ropes course and the Mentor/Mentee retreat taught me so much that it’s difficult to put into words. I was reassured that by facing your fears, you are able to grow so much more than you could if you were tucked away in your comfort zone. When you leap outside of that safe spot or comfort zone, the magic happens. I am also very grateful to have a mentor and two entire LAS classes that I can lean on and will support me no matter what. I know it’s still a ways away, but I am very excited to have my own mentee next year and be able to guide them through their first year of college and this retreat.

LAS is more than just a scholarship; LAS is a family.

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.