Clubbin’

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At CMU there are nearly 400 registered student organizations (RSO’s).

“Build confidence, your résumé, leadership skills and a new worldview by joining a CMU student group.” –CMU Student Organizations.

People typically stick to what they know, who they are comfortable with, and don’t push themselves too hard. Here at school, I say there are many reasons to throw those values to the wind and join any club that sounds interesting to you.

Effects of joining an RSO may include but are not limited to:

  • meeting new people
  • increased positivity in your everyday life
  • mental and physical activity
  • professional and personal development
  • time management skills

I first joined the Infusion Dance Team. We are completely student run without any choreography help from faculty or staff here. We are very proud of how well we organize ourselves and perform. For events like the Homecoming Parade, Siblings Weekend, some basketball half-time shows, and Relay for Life, we come up with songs and choreography that fits our skills and is fitting to the event. Our organization doesn’t compete against dance clubs from other schools and we stay on campus for all of our practices and performances.

Coming out of high school, I was a mediocre dancer at best. I learned and executed what skills I considered the minimum for qualifying me to be a dancer. But, bless my soul, I really love to dance. So I decided that I didn’t want it to end with my high school graduation. I searched for the right dance club to join which was surprisingly difficult. There are several here on campus so I had to really look into which team would be a great fit for me. Infusion Dance Team focuses on self and team improvement, a positive place to escape from school/work/other responsibilities, and a group to find friends among dancers. Try outs were nerve racking and challenging so I feel blessed to have made the cut. However, the experience of being on the team is much different. We offer each other so much as far as new skills and tips to improve old ones, that I feel like I could easily learn new things whenever I think I’m ready. It’s a great club for improving myself without feeling the pressure of a competitive team.

Secondly, I joined the Classic Games Club here at central. Another completely student run group, this club’s main purposes include recreation, relaxation, and fun. Every Friday night we meet in the lobby of my building to play all sorts of games. It can range anything from Taboo to Settlers of Catan and from Family Feud to Mortal Kombat. We plan special event nights that include a barbecue, volleyball at the Student Activity Center, going to the casino, a euchre tournament, and many others.  There are no try outs or skills required to join. It’s suggested that you really like board games and games of other sorts but you could even learn to love them if you’re looking for new things to do. We go for hours on end switching from game to game. Everyone has been more than welcoming.

The easygoing atmosphere and friendliness was immediately offered to me and I started telling everyone to check this club out. I have had a couple friends here and there already come play games with us which is why I decided to run for the publicity chair. Several people ran and now my pal Cameron and I are co-chairs. I created a Classic Games Club Snapchat and Instagram that we run and I bought tons of chalk to mark up the sidewalks around campus–unfortunately spring semester weather isn’t exactly conducive to writing with chalk on the sidewalk most of the time so that will take place more in the upcoming fall semester.

Over the summer, I have plenty of people to play games with and time to stretch and be ready to dance again in the fall. I chose these organizations not only for the benefits that come along with being in an RSO but because these activities are already part of who I am and will likely remain to be for as longs as possible.

To Be a Mentor?

I recall those that I have looked up to throughout my life. Many of whom were adults. However, the ones who helped me grow into particularly positive directions and realizations were those who could grow along with me.

If you’re a reader that is familiar with any of my previous posts, you are most likely aware of how dearly I hold both my past and current sensei. They held tittles of authority, yet surpassed their duties as teachers and became mentors and nearly family figures in my life. Their influences have spanned across areas of my involvements such academia, sports, hobbies, relationships, and jobs.

“Train your brain. Build your Body. Strengthen your spirit.”

Although I haven’t said those words together out loud since I was in elementary school, I never forgot this wisdom bestowed on me by my first sensei. For me to remember this, after all these years, has meant that I am not so easily lost in times of adversity. The weight of these words is immeasurable and I had someone in my life determined enough to make sure I remembered them.

As much as I can thank them for everything that they have done for me, I am also indebted to many people from my own generation and friend groups that I look to for guidance and positive examples.

I mostly feel young and inexperienced when it comes to simply living life. I’m a novice at this living-independently-thing at best. With that being said, I was extremely anxious about taking on what we at the CMU Leadership Institute call a “mentee” (or as I prefer to call them- padawan,  young cricket, apprentice, or protégé). This meant that, come summer 2016, I would be some poor soul’s mentor through the scholarship program that I am a part of here at school. Based on my nervous behavior, some may have thought I was about to bring another human into this world. I won’t go into detail on how I found who I wanted to mentor, but I will describe how impossibly perfect the match is becoming.

logan
photo credit to Dan Gaken

 

Logan James Palm is currently a freshman in the CMU Leader Advancement Scholar program. He is known for sharing funny videos, geeking-out over some definite geek-worthy things, spreading the joy of dank memes, being a fantastic performer, and loving/praising all things Disney. He will be known for making people laugh, ensuring other’s comfort (even at the cost of his own), and being a big name in the entertainment industry through working for Disney. I am blessed enough to be challenged as Logan’s mentor.

The weekend of September 10th , the Leadership Institute took the freshman and sophomore classes, or, more notably, the mentee and mentor pairs on a overnight retreat to Eagle Village.  We spent merely a day and a half on this little trip and those few hours are already proving to have had an endless impact on our relationships. We filled our time there with constant communication and exciting activity. Sometimes we were physically challenged to points requiring intense trust. Other activities pushed us to come up with creative alternatives to help each other complete puzzling tasks. I could go on and on about the specifics, but I would much rather recommend that you watch a video that was created from moments captured over the weekend.
A talented young lady in my cohort, and an amazing roommate of mine, Riley Bussell, created a heart warming compilation of us students being cute. You can check it out here!

Logan and I already had so many things in common. It wasn’t until the retreat that we birthdaylogandiscussed our differences and found out more ways to be there for each other. School has been going for almost three weeks and Logan and I have already proclaimed our sibling-like bond to the entire world. Or at least on various social media accounts. I cannot stress enough how important this young man is to me.

I have been putting an immense amount of pressure on myself to be someone perfect for Logan to look up to. I want to be able to answer all of his question. I want to help him through all his problems. I want to always make sure he’s having a better experience in this program than even myself. Despite all this, I have to remind myself that we are in the same boat. I only have one year more of college experience than he does. I have to remind myself that I can only do my best and hope for the best as a result. This is when I think back to all of the peers that I have looked up to over the years. They weren’t perfect either. They were just what I needed at a point in time to help me grow. I have to remind myself that what Logan needs from me is that same help to grow in positive directions and realizations. I want to be the perfect mentor for Logan, but that doesn’t mean I have to be the one to give him all the advice and all the help he needs. I have to remind myself, that just like me, Logan will have an endless supply of inspiration and support from everyone in the leadership program.

So on that note, I’d like to thank a few people. Angie (my mentor), thanks for always being  someone I can fall back on. I know I don’t usually admit when I need help but I think you can always tell and easily step in to help before I reach another level of crazy. Roommates, thanks for always making me laugh and reminding me of who and what is most important in my life. My cohort, thanks for all your unsuspecting wisdom that you casually drop on me at any given time of day. Keep up the good work, please. Thank you to my parents for raising me in a way that enables me to be so resilient. And finally, I’d like to thank Logan for being so open and honest with me. I see that you trust me, I see that you are willing to lean on me, and that shows me that I am doing at least enough right to allow you to feel comfortable with me. I feel like I’ve magically acquired a younger brother that I didn’t know I needed in my life until you arrived.  We have so far to go but with a start so strong, I can’t wait to see what the future may bring. I am determined to make you remember how great you are every day.

 

The First Climb: Fresh, New View

Perhaps there is a reason that people refer to college as a higher education. I think of  all that I’ve learned from going away to school. When I reflect on this first year at Central Michigan University, I can only compare my education to the amazing new perspectives that I get when reaching the top of a mountain hike. The journey is equal parts challenging and rewarding.

From the beginning, I was never alone. There was someone right there with me the whole time to guide careful steps and to warn me of danger. Whether it was the person’s job to do so or it was just their desire to help me, someone was there from day one. With each day came learning opportunities. There were so many lessons handed to me that sometimes it got hard to remember them all or keep track of when they were useful. However, some of the biggest lessons were the ones that I had to learn on my own. No matter how much anyone tried to help me, experience was the teacher that trumped all in the ability to teach resounding lessons.

Along the way, I met incredible people. There were some from so far away, that I was amazed they made the journey just to get here. I loved to hear their past experiences and to be inspired by their plans for the future. When I am not certain where I can go next, it has always been handy to get ideas from other’s successes. It is easy to see why people come so far. Their amazing attitudes simply recycle and improve the welcoming and positive environment that already exists.

When things got tough, there were several options. But for some reason, I always wanted to handle challenges on my own. I have always found it hard to ask for help with personal struggles. I never wanted people to see me fall but I loved to show off what I could accomplish. Sometimes, it just wasn’t possible to make it to a point to show off without letting someone see me fall. Fortunately, the person who sees me fall was always able to help me up. Then, when I move on, we are both able to celebrate a point to show off.

In the end, it is humbling, breathtaking, and empowering to see how far myself and others have come. This is certainly a fresh, new view on the world around me.

I wrote out a quick reflection that roughly summed up how I was feeling after my first climbing trip:
Each time I reach the top,

every twisted ankle,

pain in my knee,

ache in my achilles,

breathless water break,

dizzy pause,

and drop of sweat

that had accumulated along the way

just dissipates

and blows away

like the clouds

as I watch them hit the peeks of the mountains.

 

on the mountain
Twin Sisters peak in Estes Park, CO.

Looking back on what I wrote now, I have a very similar feeling. My first year of college was hard. It wasn’t always easy to see the point in everything. Once I was able to collect myself, my thoughts, and my purpose, I could watch my worries dissipate and blow away like the clouds as they hit the peaks of  mountains.

If you are from CMU and you are reading this,
I would like to thank you. Thank you for every opportunity so far, every challenge I have faced, and all the help I didn’t really deserve but you gave me anyway. Life would have been a very different journey for me so far if I didn’t go to Central and if I didn’t receive the Leader Advancement Scholarship.

An Ascent: Leaders Brought up in Detroit

You wake to the pang in your stomach. You try hard not to remember when it was, exactly, that you last ate a full meal. Who can you tell? Who cares enough to help? Besides, you should be able to help yourself, right? All you can do is go to school each day as you should. You know you’re not the only one which makes it even more difficult to ask for help. Someone else has it worse. But how long can you endure things the way they are now? Sometimes you just wish you had someone to show they care–just enough to show you an opportunity to make things happen.

This is a reality for far too many young people around the world. Places like Detroit, so close to my home, know the feeling of hunger, restriction, and fear all too well. Change is wanted and needed. With nearly 40% of Detroit area residents living under the poverty line, where does the community start?

We get so caught up in the pressure to be successful that we forget the things that don’t affect us immediately. We fill most of our days. We spend our time on things that we have to do and then feel drained and incomplete if we don’t do some of the things that we really want to do.

I don’t have all the answers but I do have time to offer a helping hand.

It only takes a little time and hardly any extra effort. Instead of going through the usual routine, consider doing something to help others. Providing service for others is not only extremely helpful to a community, but offers personal gain in character.

My Leader Advancement Scholar cohort made a trip down to Detroit from Mount Pleasant   to help out the second poorest place in Michigan (around third poorest in the nation) that just happens to be a place full of potential for more amazing things. Detroit could return to the state of greatness it was once in. It may just need help along the way. We visited the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy on day one of our trip.

We placed our things and ourselves within a tiny gymnasium that doubled as a cafeteria and then waited patiently for the students to arrive. On their last day of spring break, I was worried the students would be far from excited to be undesirably adorned by their uniforms and come back on a Friday that was meant to be school-free. Throughout the day, I was with a small group of LAS members and Jalen Rose students. We made a somewhat quiet team. I did appreciate, however, that the students went along with our efforts to keep conversations rolling and our attempts to play games to make things more interesting or engaging. There were two moments in the day that really stuck out to me: First, we were simply “de-fuzzing” some circles cut off of socks for an educational non-profit’s craft kits. As the eight of us sat quietly in the classroom, we decided to play hangman on the white board. We each took turns going to write on the board. Every one else continued to “de-fuzz” as we guessed letters and phrases. Second, at the end of the day, we discussed what everyone thought of the whole event. It was then that I realized that none of them were really disappointed to be brought back to school. In fact, they were glad that they had something fun to do on their break. Nearly all the students agreed that they were extremely bored during their break. Many even felt like they were trapped to do nothing until we came to visit.

Their attitudes were obviously appreciative. In a place that doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of facilities and opportunities, it’s amazing to see that they show their appreciation so clearly. Or maybe that is something that I should be used to seeing? Should I even be surprised when people are appreciative? With such a great difference between the areas we live, no wonder I am accustom to being under appreciated and under appreciative. Attitudes and life styles are geographically based when there is such a difference in an area’s average income. This new point of view that can be gained from simply getting to know the inner-workings of a new area, is something that everyone should have to experience at least once in their lives. And even though it isn’t understood by all, I’m positive that our LAS members were humbled by the type of leadership that we saw coming from the Jalen Rose students. Attitude is a huge part of leadership attributes and they had it right. They were so appreciative and they saw so many good things coming from their situations. It assured me that they don’t want to become victims of circumstance, and specifically, victims of their city’s current reputation.

 

Spark?

Formerly known as the Alpha Lead program, the Spark Series is held in both the fall and spring semesters here at CMU. I attended the fall program this year. Leading up to attending this four week program, I was very unsure of what to expect. I didn’t hear much about it before hand. But then again, I knew that it was supposed to be changing quite dramatically this year.

As far as getting back into the swing of leadership expansion, I would say that Spark did a swell job. My friends and I were able to play familiar games and participate in activities we hadn’t seen in a good while. I definitely had a good time. However, I didn’t feel challenged enough. There were games that are designed to make us uncomfortable, but I’ve played them all before. There were mind challenges that I had solved before. There were team challenges that many of my past teams had already conquered.

sparkAs far as my personal growth went, I have the people to thank. My teammates that I saw once a week each had their own type of personality. They were from all parts of Michigan and further. With different cultures and pasts, we had different and important rolls to play in making each other more understanding. Outside of all that, it is great to see even more people on campus that I can talk to.

I would also like to tell everyone about how amazing the facilitators of this program are. I was pleasantly shocked at how well they got along with every personality type. Each facilitator showed respect, maturity, individuality, and compassion. They lead conversations with fluidity and listened well to remember so much about everyone.

The deja vu threw me off a bit, but the program as a whole was definitely not a waste of time. I can honestly say that I did get to enjoy myself.

Retreating From the Front Lines to the Back Woods

Preparing for finals is the best time to reflect on the things that helped you through the semester so far. Think about what made you feel uncomfortable and what you did to feel at home again. For me, many struggles appear outside of the realm of classes. I would occasionally feel down about my involvement and not finding a club that I felt I belonged in. This often came with the reminder that having a job really gets in the way of being able to learn more about and spend time with those in my cohort.

angie and I
My mentor, Angie (wearing maroon), and I (wearing gold), getting ready to climb high ropes.

For this, I try to look back on the mentor and mentee retreat that the Leader Advancement Scholars of first and second year students went on. Each incoming freshmen gets and mentor (from the sophomore class) and sometimes a mentor gets two mentees. We go on a retreat in the beginning of the fall that brings together mentor and mentee as well as the two classes as a whole.

Unfortunately, my mentor couldn’t be there until late night on the first day. My friend, Derek, and his mentor, Garrett, made sure that I was able to work with them for group activities. Although another group could have done this, they were considerate enough to be the first to offer to take me into their group. I had my first sense of belonging since coming to school with all of LAS. I was fortunate that I didn’t need someone assigned to me to make me feel more comfortable. I love my mentor so much, but since she couldn’t be there, I felt so lucky to have friends already. retreat2

After some intense mind games and even some physically challenging games, we had time to relax. And by relax, I mean play basketball, volleyball, gagaball, and go for a walk. During this time, I talked with some mentors and mentees that I hadn’t gotten much of a chance to before. Somehow, by the magic of the retreat, we even turned into what student’s here like to call a “cuddle puddle”. The appreciation I feel for those sort of moments don’t come immediately.

mentors
“cuddle puddle”

Some time later is when realize the importance of these simple moments.

When night fell, over 90 LAS students gathered around a large fire. Despite my nerves for fitting in and being understood, I found myself comfortable. Around the fire, I could make out individual faces that were warmly lit by orange colors in the dark, cold, blue night air. Student began telling stories. No matter who it was, every other person at the fire listened intently. It was as if everything that came out of a person’s mouth fueled our gradually kindled spirits.

Out of all the social situations I have been in, I had never seen anything like it. After sharing a fun story, or something that we were thankful for about LAS members, we were encouraged to find specific people who have impacted us so far. Once we find each person, we thanked them for something that they have done for us. In my case, I thanked people for the things they had done with me. For me, shared experiences become more than just memories. These times become sources of growth and mutual understanding between hearts and minds. This is important in true connections which gave me all the more reason to be thankful and tell friends.

That night, everyone moved their beds out of their bunks and into the common room of the cabin. Small beds covered the floor where everyone slept in the warmth and comfort of old and new found friendships.

retreat
My mentor and I with my roommates and their mentors.

Fred Factor Reflection

Fred is a real person but also a concept that has changed thousands of people for the better. Mark Sanborn was inspired by a mailman to write a book about becoming your best self. The idea is that this mailman, named Fred, went above and beyond his duties as an employee and as a decent human being. He had  a way with making people feel better and valuable. You can watch this video that really captures what the book and the following movement are all about. As a part of our leadership class, we were to find creative ways to become a “Fred” and show the effects that we had. My team decided to spread positive vibes on campus and over social media. We handed out flowers to strangers with a note attached that read,

Step One: take a picture with or of your flower and post it on social media with #sharetheloveCMU

Step Two: pass the flower on to someone else who would appreciate it so that they can do the same”

After we recorded several brave flower exchanges and dissected the reasons why it helped us attain our goal, we put together this presentation that summed it all up quite nicely. If you would also like to see the wonderful people receiving the flowers, you can click here and admire the awkward building of connections that we made.

The project and the presentation may be over, but learning such valuable lessons and getting myself to go out there and do something definitely leaves a lasting impression. I will continue to hold myself and my group-mates accountable for being the best version of ourselves we can be.

Leadership Safari: College Students in their Unnatural Habitat

Here at Central Michigan University, something occurs that challenges the natural conformity of the species I call my own. We, animals, are called college students. A special event was formulated to dissect, analyze, and contemplate what behavior is versus what should be considered “normal” for my kind. This week-long event enables us to step outside of what we’ve known for so long. It goes against all the tendencies that most on-campus students follow blindly. It’s a scary, loud, no-sleep-because-you-have-to-keep-dancing kind of trial; it is Leadership Safari.safari

As far as Leadership related events go, I considered myself a veteran. I thought I had seen it all after going to 5 training events each year (on average) throughout my high school career. Going into Leadership Safari, I expected all the same exercises with the only differences being the places and the
faces. So color me maroon and gold and call me an average teenager because, well, I was wrong. Safari was, admittedly, challenging to myself and other so-called veterans.  Some of the activities were very close to what I had done before, but even so, it was on a completely new level. The large-scale of Safari changed even the last day of safarimost basic of games. I absolutely loved all of my past experience however, that fateful week felt most relevant to reaching for a future that I am really digging. I developed family strong bonds with people I considered strangers just a few days before. I made connections to people who can help and guide me for the next four years, and maybe even for a lifetime. I discovered that, with each day, there will be new and exciting challenges that will propel me toward my goals. I realized that I am making an impact today and not just in the wonderland that is called tomorrow. But most of all, I found my place in this world is wherever I can be at my best. A song I dearly enjoy says, “They all say that home’s where the heart is and I’d know ’cause I’ve tried my hardest just to see if I left it behind but it was with me the whole time” (Alive In Standby). Because of the many feels and my constant, unstoppable, desire to connect with more leadership opportunities, I am going to apply to become a Safari guide during my time here at CMU.

There is an atmosphere here that is completely unique to our campus. I never walk to a class or to work without waving hello to several encouraging individuals. Central constantly attracts and provides you with people who you can always lean on when you need them. This environment is the healthiest habitat for my species. I am proud to say that I went to Leadership Safari because it is what helps to create this beautiful ecosystem I call home. 

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