Community Service: “Building” Relationships

During the Fall, I worked with some friends to finish some electrical in houses. A few of my friends are contractors and asked me if I wanted to help them out with some projects they were working on. I found out that they were working on some buildings in some urban centers and needed some guys to help with some labor. I am no builder, I will admit that, but I have worked numerous labor jobs in the past. I volunteered with my friends for a couple weeks and by the end of it, I was really good at somethings that I never thought I could be good at. Because there are building codes, I could not do a ton, but I learned a ton of usable skills. We built a few buildings and left an impact in the community, which was a really cool experience.

 

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Volunteer work is imperative to giving back to a community. As leaders, we all have an obligation to give back to the communities from which we came from. Communities are such a cool space because they allow people to come together in effort to conquer a common goal, so contributing to my community was a very humbling experience knowing that I was making a difference in someone’s life.

 

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As an emerging leader, it is important for me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, rather than holding a bias about an area. Last year, I attended the LAS in the D Trip with my LAS cohort. The city of Detroit was beautiful and upcoming, and this service work I did reminded me of the effect that my cohort had one the city last year when we went. Experiences like this allow me to reflect on how fortunate I am. When I have spare time, instead of participating in selfish actions, I will reach out to members of my community and participate in servant leadership the community so deeply needs.

 

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What Being a Mentor Means to Me

As part of the LAS protocol, it is required that all Sophomore members in a cohort take a member of the incoming freshman class as a mentee. As the near of my freshman year had come to an end, the mentors of the LAS class of 2016 got our clipboards, pencils, and attitudes, and were ready to choose our mentees. The process within itself was pretty stressful, as we had 45 brand new leaders to choose from! Each leader came from different areas, had different passions, and different leadership styles. Making the process all the more fun. Once the process was complete, I had my perfect little mentee, Emily Doucette.

Emily is a riot. I have never been so scared of someone who was 4’11” in my life. She is a ball of fire, waiting to explode. She is determined, open-minded, and has the drive to succeed… and is really sassy.

Growing up an only child, I was not sure how I was going to deal with this other human being, who was now such an important piece of my life. I had been entrusted by the Leadership Institute to show my mentee the ropes of CMU and LAS when I wasn’t sure quite what the hell I was doing here in the first place. Lets just say I winged it for a while. I wanted to be this cool person that she could look up to, call throughout the day, text whenever she needed it, and most importantly, I wanted her to be my friend. I did some corny reveal and met her at Panara Bread for lunch where we both argued about who was going to pay for food. The conversation that followed was so easy. I had felt that we had known each other for ages and I knew that our relationship was going to be great even though we had both just met.

 

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The year presented some challenges for us, as we both had our struggles, our ups and downs. I tried to be there whenever she needed it, as she was always there for me. Whether it was hammocking, hanging out, getting food(thanks for the guest swipes), or just talking on the phone or texting, we always had a great time.

We both had a ton of fun this year. I can honestly say that Mentee Mentor retreat this year was a blast. The purpose of the event is to get mentors and mentees on the same page through conversation, team building exercises, and relationship building exercises. There were many fun events and activities to do, and the event was so great because I really got to build our relationship. (Thanks for not making me do the zip-line, very convenient that we are both afraid of heights.)

Troughout this year, I have learned so much from Emily. I learned that it is okay to not be okay, and I learned how important it is to take time out of your day for self care. Before I received my amazing mentee, I often found myself burnt out after a long day of coursework, as I was not taking time out for me. It might sound cliche, but she has taught me so much about myself, and for that I am so grateful.

I would hope that Emily would say that I have been a positive influence on her life this far here at CMU.  Because she has sure influenced mine.

The topic of this blog is: “What does being a Mentor mean to me.”

I can say that being a mentor to Emily has been a empowering experience. Being a mentor is a two way street, as much effort as you put in you will get out. Although I was the mentor, I feel that Emily has taught me so many life lessons over the last year. I feel like a proud sibling watching his baby sister grow up into such a great person.

 

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Emily,

As a mentor and as a friend, I could not be more proud of the person you have become this year. You are a strong woman, who has the drive that will take you anywhere you want to go in life. Where there is struggle, there is perseverance. Life throws some curve ball so be sure not to get caught looking. It has been a wonderful year and I cannot wait to meet our perfect addition to our LAS family. (I am old, and its crazy to think that I will already be a G mentor). I hope you had a great year, and I am looking forward to spending more time with you next year.

Love you “little one.”

Blake

 

PSC105WI Refelection

During the Spring 2018 semester, I took PSC105WI, or Introduction to American Government. The course is designed as a traditional political science course that immerses students into the history of American policy as well as American political thought. My professor, Dr. Thomas Stewart, did a wonderful job teaching the course. Dr. Stewart made the class fun while relating material in the course to present day politics. With the election of 2016 came great divide in the United States of America, and Dr. Stewart did a great job communicating thoughts without sharing his opinion or creating bias within the classroom. One could appreciate that Dr. Stewart taught the class objectively rather than allowing his own political views dictate the direction of the course. In this class, we learned about democracy, and how the United States came to be. We dove into the ground rules of the Constitution, and who and what branch got the power. We then explored the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and did an exercise that allowed us to spot constitutional issues within Hollywood films and in present day issues.  We wrapped up the course with information surrounding foreign policy and how the United States has dealt with diplomatic issues in the past. Overall, the course was a fun experience as it related a ton of material back to the current day problems that everyone sees on the news.

Political science courses are a privilege. When exploring other countries that do not have a democratic government, it is evident that the students in those countries do not get the opportunity to learn about democracy or their governmental systems at all. The U.S. allows for students to immerse themselves in free thinking and limits the amount of censoring when it comes to the sharing of information. We are very lucky. We have the ability to learn about all different types of government and explore different forms of government practiced around the world. It is crazy to see how uneducated Americans are when it comes to their own country and political system. I encourage each citizen to take a few political science courses as they will open your mind to the real issues and limit your ignorance when you argue issues that require fact based evidence. 🙂

Moving forward in the leadership minor, I see its purpose. The minor is intended to promote independent thinkers with open minds. Taking these courses, especially this political science course, has opened my eyes to some of the limitations of this country in its current state. Currently the elected leadership in America faces problems that they cannot solve due to lack of ambition, experience, and drive. The American political system is one of the best in the world. Citizens truly are the voice of the country, which is the classic definition of Democracy. What is a shame is when the elected officials begin to stray away from their promises, constituents, and the wants of the common person, and begin to act with disdain, ignorance, and are motivated by self-interest. This course did not create some type of epitome in my thinking, but it made me realize how many people throughout history and in the American political system are underrepresented. The leadership claims that it is time to “Make America Great Again” but who was it great for to begin with? Leaders must stand up for what is moral, and use this morality to drive the country into prosperity. Excluding citizens and treating minorities as second class citizens is not the answer.  I am glad to say that LAS has opened my eyes to some of the problems I have previously overlooked. I am blessed to say that I am part of the program that creates ethical leaders. This country lacks ethical leadership, but we are the future.

LEAD Team Reflection

During my freshman year, I was on the Grad Ball LEAD team. The LAS Grad Ball is an event for the graduating seniors within the LAS program, which they are honored for all of their accomplishments within the program. For the LAS protocol every student is required to actively participate on a LEAD team. During the 1st semester of my freshman year, my lead team was not very active due to the fact that the event was not until April. After Holiday break, the LEAD team took off and we started to buckle down. We worked to organize a venue, menu, and other party requirements. Our team put together all the details really efficiently and broke into committees. I worked on the set up/cupcake committee to make sure the venue was prepared for all the guests. As setup we had to make sure the venue was ready to go to honor our LAS seniors, who have dedicated so much time and effort into the program. During the setup we prepped the tables, photo wall, and slideshows. We also set up the cupcake display in the shape of an LI. I already knew that Grad Ball would be fun before people even arrived.

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What is cool about Grad Ball is that it brings all of LAS as well as the Leadership Institute staff together. It is super cool to see everyone within the Leadership Institute be together in one room. It was almost overwhelming to see Central Michigan’s top leaders within a banquet hall room, but it was awesome to say the least.

Working on the LEAD team allowed me to work within a team to plan an event. In the professional field, it will be important to have teamwork skills. During the planning, we all had different ideas. We had to collaborate as a group to come to compromises. Earlier in the year, we learned about all the different leadership styles, and it was evident when planning Grad Ball, all of the styles were being utilized. I am a very systematic leader and am good at organizing things, however, sometimes I lack the sympathy connecting to my followers. Helping plan this event really touched my sympathetic side. Since this event was to recognize the senior LAS class, it really hit home considering that my first year within the program has quickly ended. What spoke volumes to me was the speech given by Dan Gaken at the event regarding Central Michigan’s ability to create the next generation of ethical leaders. I have never heard something truer in my life. The graduating class of seniors have the potential to change the world. It is crazy that in just 3 short years I will be where they stood on the night of Grad Ball.

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This experience working on the team was so fun working with others to make the event great, however, during this last paragraph I want to do some self-reflection. I can honestly say that the Leadership Institute has changed my life. Sitting in the same room as the graduating LAS seniors made it real to me, it connected all the dots. I knew that being a part of the LAS program was very rewarding, but that fact really hit me the night of grad ball seeing all of the leaders about to walk into the professional field with confidence and compassion. I am so lucky that I received that phone call from Dan Gaken on January 20th, 2016, at 5:46 P.M.  I am glad that someone saw my potential to lead. Central Michigan believes in Leadership. Central Michigan creates ethical leaders. I am so blessed to be a part of the Leadership movement at Central Michigan University.

Year in Review Reflection

When I first came to Central Michigan University in the Fall of 2016, I was scared but also super nervous. As an only child, I never really had to do complex tasks on my own, and always had my parents there to help me if I needed it. I was excited to be a part of the Leader Advancement Scholarship program and knew that I had friends before I even entered the school year. Once we began the year, the year started pretty negative. Honestly I did not like Central one bit at the beginning of the year. I immediately wanted to transfer. I ended up going to some friends in LAS and they talked me into giving Central a chance. Within a few weeks, I ended up buckling down academically and started to love Central. Once I was able to get in my routine, I loved Central Michigan University with a passion. I knew Central was the place for me, and from then on I was excited to dive deep into my major, leadership program and fraternity.

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Powers Hall- Central Michigan University

When I came into the Leadership program, I was a very systematic leader who always was vocal about my beliefs. I advocated hard for my beliefs and was honestly pretty closed minded. The program has definitely allowed me to be a more inclusive leader. For example, my political views coming into college were very set. After taking a step back, I have opened my eyes to “the light.” The Leadership program, along with its leadership classes have really gotten me to realize that you can look at the world from many different perspectives. As a high school student, it is uncommon to look at things in leadership from different perspectives, just the one that you are familiar with. Within my LDR100 and LDR200 classes, I was able to learn about all of the different approaches to leadership that I have never even considered. What I feel changed me so much was rushing my fraternity.  Joining my fraternity threw me directly into a leadership position. In contrast to high school leadership that I was familiar with, my leadership position put me in to a position where I was in charge of older members. Being a freshman and getting elected to an e-board position really changed my outlook on my personal leadership skills. Older members of my fraternity elected me to be a leader in the chapter. This moment gave me the confidence I needed to transform into a better leader.

When working with others before I came to Central Michigan I was often very analytical when leading. After going through multiple workshops, I realized that I needed to display more sympathy when leading. I was always very goal oriented when it came to completing tasks, and sometimes left the feelings of others out of the equation. Now when leading others I often consider the feelings of others when making decisions. Another huge thing I learned about leadership is that leaders don’t always have to lead from the front. It is okay at times to just support other leaders from the backs, rather than being a vocal leader from the front.

In the LI, we always talk about how the skills we learn from our program can be directly applied within college and real life. I can honestly see the skills that I have learned throughout the year come right into play. Whether it is being a vocal leader, or leading from the back of the room, I can say the first year within the Leadership Institute has taught me the necessary skills to be an effective inclusive leader. I am going to continue working hard to ensure that my leadership skills improve over the next four years. Ultimately I am trying to get into a good career path that will allow me to work hard and inspire others to do the same.

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LAS Grad Ball with members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Michigan Delta Omega Chapter

 

 

Mentor Reflection

 

Last week, the LAS cohort of 2016 went through a workshop to prepare us to become mentors to a member of the incoming LAS class of 2017. Before the workshop, I was consumed by the thought of getting myself the best possible mentee. I wanted someone who I knew that I would instantly connect with, and honestly probably become really good friends with. I had a very closed mind when it came to the selection process. I wanted who I wanted and that was that. As the workshop began, I knew that my thought process was a little skewed. The whole time leading up to the workshop, I focused so much on my possible mentee, instead of myself. Sure, my mentee is going to be super important to me, but I needed to take a step back and realize that I needed be the BEST mentor to him/her, rather than trying to select “the best mentee.” Once I realized that I was able to be the best mentor I could be to ANYONE, I was not as worried about “finding my perfect match.”

During the workshop, my idea about being the perfect mentor was solidified. For me, being the perfect mentor isn’t all about being the mentees best friend ALL of the time. There will be a time to be friends, however, there is going to be times that I will need to be a mentor, and make sure my mentee is on the right path, the path to success. As a mentor I will always be a backbone to my mentee, however, I will allow them to do their own thing to allow personal growth. As a mentor, I am just looking forward to meeting my mentee. As a sophomore in college, I am looking forward to showing them the do’s and don’ts of Central Michigan University. As an only child, I never had the opportunity to be a big brother to a sibling, and I want to be able to take on that role with my mentee.

In preparation of my anticipated mentee, I am doing a lot of self reflection. I have had a pretty crazy first year, but have definitely experienced enough college to be an effective mentor. Coming into my freshman year of college, my biggest concern was the transition from high school into college. As soon as I arrived, I was able to connect with a great friend group who ultimately led me to being successful with my transition. I have experienced the home sickness, the stress of class, boyfriend/girlfriend drama,  and general college drama. I am so ready to lead my mentee through it. Freshman year in the LI has pumped me up to become a mentor to a member of the class of 2017. I can confidently say that I am ready to indeed be the best mentor I can be!

LDR200L Reflection

In the Spring of 2017, the leadership advancement scholars of 2016 took LDR200L with the wonderful Jesi Ekonen(with the help of Garrett, Jordan, and Kate) . The first day of this class I knew that it would be super fun and interesting! Jesi laid out the format for the class and allowed us as a class to come up with learning objectives that we wanted to take out of the class. As a class we wanted to better our facilitation skills, create a sense of community, and to learn more about the theories of leadership. The class was set up for us to succeed! Within the first few weeks we dove straight into initiatives: exercises that would better facilitation skills. Within the initiatives, each group presented an idea to the class and provided an activity with a debrief session following. Following our initiatives we got into exploring The Golden Circle, and starting with why. The Golden Circle hit the nail on the head with the community aspect and definitely was able to show the class the meaning of inclusive leadership. We took assessments regarding leadership theory and had practical demonstrations regarding theories as well. One of our big projects at the end of the semester, the leadership workshop, challenged each group to facilitate a 45 minute workshop that would present the class with a leadership theory. The presentation included an activity to solidify the concept, as well as a presentation to give the class the information about the theory. Within the course, I have learned so many things about leadership, some things that I did not even think existed. Our last huge project was our blogs. Yes like this one. Our WordPress has been our running project since the beginning of freshman year and will continue until we graduate. Our blogs incorporate our leadership experience, as well as our service in our communities. Some students choose to only utilize the blogs for class, while others show employers all of the experiences that they have had. For this class, we also took a trip to Detroit to perform service, which I blogged about in a recent blog. Overall, LDR200L has been a wonderful class. As a cohort we have grown as individual leaders due to the constant group think occurring throughout the class and outside experiences.

LDR200L has been a great class. I truly enjoyed the class because it was centered around our wants as a cohort. In the future, I will take the theory applications from class and apply them throughout daily life. My why statement uses a lot that I have learned from this class: “Inspire others to protect and serve communities that cannot protect themselves.” I believe that everyone has the potential to be a leader. After this class, I now know that there is indeed empirical evidence that backs up that statement. Leadership theories such as the trait and skill theories identify leaders with certain traits as well as point out skills that people can better to become leaders. I have always practiced leadership throughout middle school and high school, but it was not until this class did I truly understand the origins of leadership theories. I can also use this class directly to impact my future. I have been writing my blogs for class as well as using it as an e portfolio for employers. This class definitely has allowed me to be successful when using my blogs as a resume tool. Lastly the class allowed me to perform service in a neighborhood that needed it. As a class we went to Detroit and participated in 1.5 days of service within the community. The trip was a truly eye opening experience and allowed me to realize how grateful I truly was. The class as a whole developed my knowledge about general leadership and allows me to work toward my why statement everyday.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon (RSO) Reflection

In the fall of 2016, I decided that I wanted to go Greek. I decided to rush Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity here on CMU’s campus. When going through the process, I did not know what to expect, but joining SAE has truly impacted my life in ways that cannot be explained.

Soon after joining SAE, I knew that I was joining a brotherhood. Never have I ever had a solid group of 40+ guy friends in my life. SAE has shattered all stereotypes regarding “fake friends.” Not only are the members of my fraternity are my brothers, but they are my friends. I can genuinely say that I can see multiple members of my fraternity standing up in my wedding. During my first semester, I was elected to serve as the Member Educator, and currently sit on my fraternity’s executive board.

I have learned many things from joining SAE and later getting elected to the executive board. Greek Life in general gets knocked for “partying” and what not, but Greek Life instills a sense of community into each of its members. Being in Greek life has also made me think more about others than myself, and has created a great sense of camaraderie between all groups within the community. The world today has become selfish. People don’t think about others as much anymore. Philanthropy is begged for rather than simply given. This is a problem. People in the world need a helping hand sometimes, and one must reach out to give support. After joining my fraternity, I can truly say that I am dedicated to helping those who cannot help themselves through philanthropy and service. Each day I attempt to achieve my why statement: “Inspire others to protect and serve communities that cannot protect themselves.” My involvements in Greek Life have contributed to allowing me to indeed serve the communities around me. After almost two semesters in my fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, I can truly say that I have grown as a person. I am more open to new ideas, always willing to help, and always have a smile on my face. Be true.

 

HST110 Reflection

When I signed up for my 3 hour history class, I was a little nervous, but was excited to learn more about history. College history classes teach you things that you did not think about in high school. I did not know what to expect in a 3 hour college class. All I knew about the class was that I would be taking it with members of my cohort. I had taken a history WI class last semester so I knew I could handle the writing. During the Spring semester of my freshman year I took HST110L, “The American Experience.” The professor, Dr. Jones, focussed on the importance of immigration throughout American history.  In the class, we covered topics regarding all different races and ethnicities moving to America. Dr. Jones truly created a sense of  an inclusive American society.

So far, I have learned so much in Dr. Jones class. From the Irish Potato famine to Latin American labor union, the class covered many different forms of immigration. In addition just to the immigration, the class taught us the motives for creating barriers between people, which we know now is a very bad practice. Oppression has targeted many groups of people, and we must ensure that we are being proactive when it comes to protecting the oppressed.

In the present day, leadership MUST be inclusive. We live in a world where people are consistently stereotyped based on their gender, race, or sexual orientation. We must know the history of immigration and the history of oppression to ensure that people in the present do not repeat what had already happened. In America we face the challenge of racism, sexism, and other cultural differences. Taking this class has been eye-opening. Moving forward, it important to continue to preach inclusive leadership. With the conflicts occurring in the world today, we must understand that immigration is going to happen. America will be taking in immigrants.. Or maybe America will not be taking immigrants. Whatever situation arrises within American politics, we must understand as a nation that people over generations have been oppressed. We as Americans need to break the streak of oppression.

LAS in the D Pre Reflection

In the city of Detroit, there are many that live in poverty. Poverty is the main reason the city of Detroit is struggling. Throughout the years, many have moved into the city hoping for a better life and a better job, and this worked for a while. However, once racism spread throughout the city, the city’s urban population began to feel the direct effects of the racism. The racism caused many urban zones to be redlined and caused a segregated community. Today, the city is mostly African American, as most of the whites have moved into suburbs. Unfortunately, this has caused jobs and opportunity to leave the city. Due to many of the manufacturing jobs moving to the suburbs, Detroit has started to deteriorate. During the talk with Dr. Baugh, I learned that racism and unequal opportunity was the reason the city started to deteriorate in the first place. Detroit is a large urban center, and it is the job of the upcoming generation to start the rebuild of the city.

The Leadership Institute as a whole serves those who cannot serve themselves. As a deteriorating city, Detroit needs the hospitality and philanthropy of those in the surrounding area. As a cohort, we are very fortunate to be experiencing higher education together; however, some of the students in the city may never know what higher education is. As a member of the Leadership Institute, it is my responsibility to go into communities that are struggling, and do my best to contribute my part. The Leadership Institute preaches inclusion. Whether you are white, black, blue, or  purple, we all bleed the same color. We are all humans first. WE need to care for each other. As a product of a public school, I say that if the opportunity and spark is given, students will be able to be successful. I am very excited to work with some of the upcoming leaders from Jaylen Rose Leadership Academy. As a member of the Leadership Institute, it is my obligation to bring leadership across the state. During this weekend, I am looking forward to giving back to a community that really needs it. I am fortunate. I understand that some are not. My part? To give my time and service to those who cannot serve themselves.