Giving Back to the Place That Helped Shaped Me

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Debate: The Class That Taught Me How To Argue With Some Class.

As a requirement for my Leader Advancement Scholarship, I took a debate class during my first semester of college, and I can honestly say that it was arguably the best! Haha! Not only did I learn many interesting facts about the history of debate, but I also learned how to properly debate an issue at hand. I was looking forward to learning this because I know that understanding how to properly back up an opinion or idea I have will greatly help me in my future career.

For my first debate, I was partnered with my great friend Emily and we had to argue against the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports. Though the subject matter wasn’t the most interesting, I soon realized that we had to plan a lot before going into this. Emily and I spent a few hours in the days before our debate researching the topic, planning counterarguments to anything our opponents could possibly say, and trying to learn everything we could about the history of PEDs in sports. It was a lot of work and definitely tired me out, but we were incredibly prepared for the debate and took home the gold! Every debate we did from that day on was stellar and we became a force to reckon with at the podium.

Debate taught me the importance of being prepared in every way. You never truly know what is going to happen while doing a presentation, and you need to have your next move ready to go even when you don’t know what that move will be!  If I am not prepared to handle the unexpected, I cannot succeed. Yes, at a basic level, Debate taught me about Aristotle, the gamblers fallacy, and proper debate format. What I learned in this class applies to real life by showing that I always need to be prepared for what is ahead of me; ready in an instant to adjust to anything that life throws my way.

Encouraging LAS and Ourselves

As an assignment for my leadership course this semester, we were placed into groups and given books on different leadership theories that we would later do a presentation on for the class. My group was given the book, “Encouraging The Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others” by James M. Kouzes. As you may have guessed by the title of the book, encouraging others and understanding how to do is the main theme of this book. The author compares two very different styles of leadership to the reader; one in which reward and acknowledgement is very obvious and shown to everyone, and one where it is very casual, understated, and subtle. It was very clear while reading that workers who receive boisterous encouragement are more successful in their future task accomplishment than those who receive less than exciting versions of it. Though I have always known that encouragement and recognition is very important to the success of a job, I truly didn’t see the seriousness of it until doing this project.

We had to create a presentation that showcased what we learned in this book. Rather than making a boring powerpoint, we wanted to have the class to have first hand experience in examples of good and bad encouragement. So my group and I developed a presentation where we split the class in half, giving each side a different style of encouragement, and having them complete an almost impossible task of sorting a new alphabet in under 3 minutes. Going into the project, we were really sure if it was going to be a success! Though all of us had previously attended leadership seminars before, where games like these are played, NONE of us had played one like this before! We were hoping that even if the tasks weren’t completely, the side receiving positive encouragement would have thought the task to be less awful and more fun. Our fingers were crossed and on the day of our presentation, we dove right in and went for it.

The presentation went perfect! Our classmates reactions to the experience was exactly what we wanted. We wanted them to understand that to truly “encourage the heart” you need to be personal with others and truly show them that you appreciate what they have done. Our classmates showed not only themselves how necessary it is to positively encourage others but gave our group an even deeper respect for the importance of it. The book and presentation showed us that personal encouragement is key to a successful business and organization, and from this, I will forever try and expand on my abilities to give others what they need to thrive.

 

Connect 4 Might Be Fun… But I Think That Connections Conference is MUCH Better.

In the beginning of November, I had the privilege of going on a weekend trip to Great Wolf Lodge entitled, Connections Conference. Hosted by The Leadership Institute, the conference brought together LAS members and other students leaders on campus to discuss relevant issues in our communities with an intent to create strategies around these problems in order to make a positive change or impact.

While there, we attended many seminars led by students and teachers from school that taught us different plans to help our clubs and programs grow in the best way possible; in a way that would make CMU a better place. This event was incredibly interesting because not only did I learn many new leadership tactics that I can use in the future, but I was able to network with some of the most incredible students that my school has to offer. Outside of the seminars we were attending, we were able to exchanged ideas, discuss problems we have within our organizations, and help each other make plans on how to avoid problems in the future.

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You know this was a good conference by the faces everyone is making in this photo.

The event was a ton of fun, and it really didn’t hurt that we were right next door to a water park! We ran around the hotel all night and had a complete blast! We also met this night guard who was by far the sweetest and most hilarious man I have ever met. We all learned so much about ourselves and new strategies on how to handle problems we come into contact with. I was happy to be invited, and incredibly thankful for the experience it gave me. I bonded with many people (And night guards), making new connections with people that I still talk to on campus since that weekend. I am very lucky to have attended Connections Conference and I have enjoyed utilizing the skills and strategies gained since then.

Similar, Yet Incredibly Different: Choir In College

Since the fourth grade I have been lucky enough to be involved in countless musicals, concerts, and performances that have molded me into the music loving nerd I am today. So, even though I am not majoring in music performance or theatre, it was very import to me that I get involved in the Concert Choir at Central Michigan University. My high school choral director suggested that I sign up for the choral program; he was a music major at CMU and learned from the same staff still teaching here. He knew that I would get a lot out of the program and really wanted me to continue with my musical education, even though it was not exactly a necessity for my degree. So, I called the music department, scheduled my audition, and the rest is history.

I am so glad I joined this program. Aside from the Leadership Institute, Concert Choir has been the best thing I have been apart of since arriving at Central. With such an inclusive environment full of kind and caring people, I knew that I had found I place I could call home. On the first day of class, there was a noticeable difference in work ethic between high schoolers and college students… and boy did I love it! It was incredible! What would’ve taken a week in high school, took a class period in college to finish a piece of music. In high school, our director would spend so much time dealing with talkative students and disrespect that we had trouble accomplishing things fast in class. Don’t get me wrong, we were one of the best choirs the school had seen in a while and we had very talented students; just no ability to focus. There were those of us who were always ready to work hard, however we were out numbered. We always great potential as a choir, and for the most part, we did an good job. However what we lacked was the motivation to focus, because most students thought that hard work took the fun out of things. My new college choral experience proved how wrong they were. You can have have SO MUCH fun while focusing and working hard! I can agree, that the speed at which we were learning the music was, at times, overwhelming. However, this hard work was paying off by the beautiful music we were creating. The music were creating was some of the most wonderful pieces I have ever heard, and due to the immense practice we were having, I was truly connecting with the music, making the experience that more touching. I was learning first hand that if everyone is willing to put in the hard work needed, the outcomes are truly magical and something that I will always want to be apart of.

To be involved in a choir as amazing as this makes me look forward to my future within the CMU Choral Program. I cannot wait to create many more memories and have experiences that allow me grow musically and as a person. During my first choral concert, I got choked up on stage because I realized that I can always be apart of something that I love in life through music. I stood up there, next to some wonderful people, creating truly beautiful music. Though I have experienced performing in a choir before, this event took it to a deeper level. The hard work that I put into this concert made it all the more meaningful and I will never forget the music we created that day on stage. I never want to lose music in my life because it has become a part of me; it is in my blood. Music will forever play a huge part of my life, and I cannot wait to see where it brings me next.

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My best friend Eric, my aunt Trina, and my Mom came to see the show! They all loved it!

 

What I Learned Down In The Rat Infested Sewer Systems of CMU

In September, I was able to participate in the Spark Leadership Experience hosted by the Leadership Institute. This event gave myself and other students a chance to learn and develop our leadership styles and abilities through many activities. When signing up for the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was excited to spend the day in the motivational halls of the Leadership Institute, where I am always inspired to become a better version of myself. I went into the Spark Leadership Experience with enthusiasm for what I was going to learn and how I was going to grow as a leader.

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Susie guides a blindfolded me through a dangerous maze.

   As predicted, I learned so much about my leadership style during that afternoon. Gaining insight from how I handle situations, to my ability to listen and direct was extremely beneficial. The activity that I believe I gained the most from was the blindfolded maze, where my listening abilities were truly put to the test. After being paired with a partner, one of us were to blindfold ourselves. With no hesitation, I chose to be the blindfolded one. The instructor then told us that the blindfolded person is now “permanently blind” and the only way obtain a cure for my ailment was to go down into the “rat infested sewers” of our school and find three components to create a cure and exit without stepping on any mice. Sounds crazy, right? Well, in reality, it wasn’t that bad. The blindfolded person was to be guided around a room by their partner. We were required to navigate through a colored classroom, find and hit three colored buttons to create the “cure”, and not step on any mice, which were mousetraps. Though I was excited for this activity, I will admit, I was pretty nervous. I am most comfortable when I am in control of a situation, so even though I completely trusted my partner Susie, I couldn’t help but be nervous about the situation! There were activated mousetraps on the floor! I was NOT in the mood for excruciating pain, so allowing Susie to have complete control over my movements scared the daylights out of me. However, I knew that for me to accomplish this, I needed to release all doubts and fears from my mind and prepare to trust Susie with my entire being. I took a deep breath and went for it… and I can truly say that was one of the most fun activities I have ever been a part of. Letting go and trusting Susie like that was extremely beneficial to my understanding of my own leadership style. I further understood that sometimes to succeed, I need to let go of personal control and let someone else run the show. I had a really great time doing that activity and I was happy to experience a trust exercise like that at the Spark Leadership Experience.

The Rule of Two: Always Two There Are; A Master and an Apprentice.

Something very important to know about me is that I love Star Wars. I love it so much, this small paragraph cannot do my passion justice. Since I was a little kid, I was always captivated by the many worlds that existed and the stories told within the film universe. One of the most intriguing parts of the saga for me has been the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi. To me, Obi-Wan was always one of the coolest characters because of his vast amount of knowledge. I’m gonna get super nerdy here and say that if I could meet any fictional character and hang out with them for a day, it would be this amazing Jedi. He always seemed like he knew so much about the universe I loved so much and I believed that he could teach me so much. Ahh, to learn the ways of the force from this fictional of sage was a fun dream to have, but I needed to realize that Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t real, and I was never going to become his apprentice.

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Twas’ the first time I met Kalie Grice, and may I say, my life has never been the same.

 

Well, maybe not HIS apprentice. Kalie Grice may not be Obi-Wan Kenobi, but I honestly can say that she comes in at a very close second. Being a Leadership Advancement Scholar, I get the privilege of having a mentor from the grade above me. When I first heard I was getting a mentor, I was ecstatic! I filled out all of my “about me” paperwork and waited, in hopes that the perfect person would select me as their mentee. The moment Kalie walked into my leadership class of high school dressed up as a Jedi, I knew that I was beyond lucky to have by far the coolest person in the world as my mentor. From that day forward, I texted her often, just to ask her questions about college and whatnot, and she would always respond with the greatest answers or helpful hints. Just from texting her, the fact that she got us matching american Batman and Superman shirts, and when she kindly took me out for Sushi for my birthday, I just knew that this young woman really cared about me, and I was unbelievably excited to see where this “Master and Apprentice” relationship would take us.

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Crab Rangoon is very good. If you haven’t had it, I highly recommend that you do. I made Kalie try it and she loved it. Obviously I have the right idea.

The weekend of September 10th rolled around, and I was extremely excited for the LAS Mentor & Mentee Retreat. The Leadership Institute took the freshman and sophomore classes on a overnight retreat to Eagle Village. The point of the retreat was for the Mentor and Mentee pairs to bond and get closer over team building exercises, high ropes courses, and delicious hot s’mores. After a long bus ride where we listened to music, watched some intense Pokemon anime scenes, and talked about life we finally arrived at Eagle Village.

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Photo credits to Dan Gaken.

Kalie Grice is one of the most intriguing people I have ever met in my entire life. Not only is she one of the kindest, sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met, but she is hilarious, adventurous, and the most courageous person I have ever met. I seriously envy her in so many ways and I aspire to be like her. Did I mention that she is also quite the nerd and were basically the same person? We both love Star Wars, Pokemon, Super Heroes, Disney, board games like Dungeons and Dragons, and so much more that I’m having trouble listing it. I firmly believe that everything happens in life for a reason, and meeting this amazing leader and gaining the privilege of being her mentee was destiny. Other cool things about Kalie is that this girl has done some serious mountain climbing, knows karate, and is deadly with a bow. HOW COOL RIGHT!? Every new thing she tells me about herself blows my mind. With all that she does in her life, Kalie makes me want to accomplish things I have never done in my life before.

When we started the high ropes course, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I was very nervous. But being the young Padawan I am, I had to impress my Master and go for everything. We hit certain points where I didn’t think I could go any further, but she kept pushing me through, telling me to just go for it and trust my instincts. What she was saying spoke to me. I am an over analytical person who tends to think through a situation much too long. She knows this about me, and though it was a very minuscule problem to work through, she helped me overcome my fears and reminded me that she will be there for me to make it through moments like that in life. And even when she can’t be there for me, I will always be reminded of what she did for me. By far the coolest thing we did up in the high ropes course was when we stopped using our safety ropes. The goal was to go from one end of the bridge, using only each other as balance, to the other, but we had to make some blind steps across from plank to plank. Essentially one wrong step and we would’ve fallen. Thankfully we had safety harnesses, but I treated the situation as if those weren’t there, you know for added exhilaration. We stood on this incredibly shaky bridge and held each others hands and took our steps. I won’t lie, it was really scary, but I had to trust Kalie when she told me to take a step. I trusted her and she trusted me, and we make it across and back on the bridge. This meant a lot to me because it reminded me that sometimes in life, I’m going to be blind in certain situations and I’m going to have to trust others advice. The high ropes course helped me remember that I can conquer my fears if I only have the courage to do so.

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Me, conquering my fears while having the courage to do so. Photo credits to Dan Gaken.

Kalie and I bonded over so much that weekend. We talked about life, pop culture, and told only the best of jokes. As cliche as this whole trip could sound, it truly did make our relationship grow. As the weekend went I, I kept feeling more and more like I was gaining an older sister… and man did that make me happy. Well, I wasn’t really in the mood to play volleyball or basketball with everyone, so her and I went inside the rec room and played pool and ping pong. Might I add, we are quite the talented pair when it comes to that game, so it made it even more of a memorable experience.

When we talked about our Mentor and Mentee relationship and what we wanted out of it, I knew that she truly cared for me. She told me that she just wanted the best for me and always wanted to be someone I can look up to. She went on to say that she try, to the best of her ability, to help me in anyway she possibly can. When she said this, I couldn’t have been more relieved. Going away to college can be nerve-wracking at moments, but having someone thats always on your side can always help. I told Kalie that help is always appreciated but I wanted her to know that sometimes, it’s good for me to be independent. Independence is something that people struggle with today. As a culture, were so used to latching onto people and not having the ability to do things on our own. As a relationship, I want us to always be there for each other and support each other, but always be understanding that as growing adults we need to learn how to be self serving and have the ability to support oneself.

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Master Kalie-Wan Griceobi and Loganakin Palmwalker striking the sickest of fight poses before.

Kalie and I work incredibly well as a pair because we always have each others back, just like a Master and Apprentice. My Mentor is such an incredible human being that I want to see her to succeed as well as myself. I want to see her change the world and do the most impactful things, because if any person can do it, it’s her. Kalie is unlike anyone I have ever met before. She is fearless to no end, intelligent, wise, a fighter, and by far one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. Kalie Grice is someone that everyone on the planet should know because they will change their life for the better. Her presence is enough to bring even the saddest of people into the light. I could talk about her forever and how much she has amazed me in the short time that I have known her. I want to be just like her. She has made me want to be a better leader and person in general, and for that, she has already changed my life in such a short period of time. That weekend changed our relationship forever because I think we both know that we have gained lifelong friends that will never go away. Kalie might not be able to teach me how to use the force or fight with a lightsaber, but she makes up for that in her vast knowledge in leadership, kindness, personality, and how to live her life to the fullest. I know that at times, she feels like she doesn’t have much to offer me because she hasn’t had much life experience, but she couldn’t be more wrong. Already in this short amount of time, Kalie has taught me more than she could ever know and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. Thank you for being you Kalie, for being my Master, Mentor, and older sister. I cannot wait to see what else you offer me.