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.

Safari: The Week I Was Leader-Shaped Into A College Student

The moment I committed to Central Michigan University, all the current students or graduates I knew that went there wouldn’t stop talking about Leadership Safari. They all said the same exact thing, “CMU is such a wonderful college Logan! You are going to thriv-WAIT! You signed up for Leadership Safari, right!?”, “If you aren’t doing Safari, I will have to stop talking to you.”, “Safari was one of the best things about my freshmen year.”, “If you don’t participate in it, you will be missing out on something awesome dude.” I could only sit there and wonder: is Leadership Safari truly as good as everyone says it is? Or is it just something that has been hyped up over the years? My precautions only grew because I had attended so many leadership conferences over the years and I wasn’t sure what more Leadership Safari could offer me.  Could this possibly be anything new for me? Was I going to regret ending summer a week early for this? My god… I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Just a boy standing out side of his new home, taking the obligatory parent photo.

   When I arrived on campus, I was shaking with nerves and excitement. This was the first step of the next four years of my life, and I was so incredibly scared to make it. But, after a moment of fear, I pulled all of my courage together and I walked bravely into my new home. I unloaded the car, set up my things, and I officially became roommates with three of the greatest guys I know. My roommate Lucas Gustafson, and my suite mates Blake Kwiecinski, and Ryan Timm, are Leadership Advancement Scholars just like myself, and I think I got the cream of the crop. They are some of the funniest and kindest people I have ever met and they made the transition into college a thousand times easier. Guys, if you read this I love you all so much and I hope we stay close for a very long time. After everything was moved in, it now came time to say goodbye to my family and girlfriend. Though I was very sad to say goodbye to them, I knew that it wasn’t really a goodbye, and I was too excited about my new roommates and college life to be to upset. I hugged them all, said my last words, gave each of them a kiss, and took my next step into college: independence. I was finally on my own and that was the coolest and weirdest thing in the world. But again, I took a much needed breath full of courage and headed out on my Safari of Leadership.

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The Gents of 212: Blake (far left), Ryan (middle left), Myself (middle right), Lucas (far right).

   When I walked into Safari, I knew I had been wrong to think that they would have nothing to offer me. There was so much planned for that week that I was shocked they were cramming it all into that time frame. An aspect of Safari that I didn’t fully understand until I got there was the “Teams” you were placed in. Each person that attends Leadership Safari is placed in an animal themed team that you spend your entire week with. While in this group, you play team building activities and bond under the guidance of your “Safari Guide“. Your Safari Guide was an upperclassmen that would be in charge of the team and be a positive leader for us throughout the week.  I was lucky enough to be on Team Chameleon with the most inspirational leader named Boomer Wingard.

Boomer has by far been one of the most amazing people I have met since arriving at CMU. Never before have I met a person who radiates leadership, kindness, and passion more than this guy. During group discussions, Boomer would truly listen to whoever was talking and always give respect to everyone. He truly made us all feel cared for during a time where that feeling of comfort is scarce. No matter what, he always presented himself in the most exemplary ways. One of my favorite things he did was while we were on tours and he was showing us different department heads, he would always take a moment to learn their name. He would pause for a moment and repeat it out loud. It’s sad that people do not do that as often as they used to, but it gives me hope that there are still genuine people like Boomer on this earth to keep that quality alive. The way that my Safari Guide presented and acted reminded me of how I, as a leader and person need to act. I want people to view me in the same way that I viewed Boomer. Since Leadership Safari ended, I’ve been making a conscious effort to present myself in a similar way to Boomer. Thank you Boomer for teaching me an important lesson in leadership that I didn’t even expect to learn. I am going to always try my hardest to be an exemplary leader like you.

Since I started attending leadership conferences, the part that has always gotten to me on an emotional level has been the inspirational speakers that they choose. So when I had the realization that this would be a week full of them, my excitement level shot through the roof. There were so many incredible speakers that presented during the week. Each of them had the most impactful stories to tell that always made you take a step back. That’s why I love speakers! They always hit me emotionally right where I need it and when I need it most. Ed Gerety was my favorite inspirational speaker that week because he did more than just tell a great story, he genuinely changed my life.

The day before I left for college, I dropped out of all the classes I had scheduled and switched them all up. I had planned on majoring in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts at CMU because aside from leadership, it was the only program that I had any interest in. I was heavily involved in television and filmmaking at my high school, so per suggestion of my teachers, I “committed” to get a BCA major. This, however, was never what I really wanted. What I wanted was to work for the Walt Disney Company in their parks and resorts. More specifically what I want to do is be the President of Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts. Haha yes, I know that sounds unrealistic, but what would the world be without its dreamer’s, right? Well, I’ve always loved Walt Disney World and the thought of working there overjoyed me. It was something I was passionate about, and it finally felt good to say what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So, I changed up all of my classes to set myself on the path to become a hospitality major.

A portion of Ed Gerety’s presentation that day was, “What WILL you be when you grow up”. The word “Will” was our main focus of that day. He told us that to many people say they WANT to be something, and it rarely ends up coming true because it isn’t enough of a reality in their eyes. But, the people who say that they WILL be something, and have complete confidence in that dream becoming reality, will actually become that thing. When he said that, it really hit me. I know what I want to be and there is no way that I am losing that feeling so why not own that. I sat there, took in yet another breath of confidence and I said something that will one day go from dream, to fact:

“I will be the President of Walt Disney World parks and resorts.”

To say this out loud and to really believe was the most magical feeling in the world. It felt like everything was all in the right place, as if I can accomplish the impossible. The words of one of my favorite Walt Disney quotes rung in my mind; “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” For once in my life, I truly felt unstoppable.

   I would go into detail about my new best friends pictured in the photos below, but this post is already getting pretty long, and I could talk about each of them forever. So, I’ll do you a favor and not do that! Haha! Just take my word that these are some of my favorite people on the planet and meeting them has been one of the greatest thing about going away to college.

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Molly (far left), Ash (middle left), My Amazing Roomie (center), Myself, Susie (far left).

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Erika (middle right). She wasn’t able to make it in the last pic, so I made sure she got in a picture!

   Leadership Safari was an unexpected joy ride. I learned so many important things about myself as a person, as a leader, and as a friend. I realized how important it is for me to be confident in every aspect of my life because with confidence will come success. My Safari experience has inspired me to work harder. Since I now know what I WILL be in my life, I will always be reminded of what I’m working towards. I will also try my hardest to be like Boomer, and to live my life with upmost respect for others, care for everyone I meet, and with undying love for the world. I am so happy that I gave up a week of my summer for this. Though I am not a fan of being wrong, I was 100% wrong; Safari is as good as everyone says it was. Scratch that, Leadership Safari is way better than everyone says it is.