The Perfect Storm

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Four years of pushing my mind and body to its limit, being one piece of a pyramid that would crumble figuratively and literally if I didn’t do my job, trying to motivate and support teammates to do what may seem like the impossible. The sport of cheerleading is not one for the light-hearted. It’s for the tough, strong-minded, internally & externally motivated, ok with failure, smile through the pain individuals who see the end goal and do everything they can to get there as a team.

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I fell in love with this sport eight years ago and it has a large hand into why I am who I am and why I am the leader I am. Yet, this year was the year my leadership was pushed to new levels and my personal motivation was tested and retested.

This year I walked into the gym as a four-year program cheerleader (not a small feat) and was elected as the captain of the All-Girl team. As the captain, I was not only the one everyone looked to when they didn’t know what was going on but as the one to make the final call of to stand up for their wellbeing. I was also as the person my coach leaned onto be the liaison between him and the team. It was a position that I knew I was ready for but never thought would challenge me so much.

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cheer 4The team of girls this year were comprised of me, the fourth year, a few third years, and a TON of rookies. The rookies dominated in numbers and were (and still are) unbelievably talented.  I knew that the rookies would be fragile as they learn the ropes. I knew if we did it right, we could hone in on their talent and push them to reach skills our CMU Cheer Program has never seen before.

Knowing that all I could think about is “How am I going to do tha?t!” My initial mindset was a micromanaging strategy talking to them about what motivates them, making sure the older teammates knew not to be mean and run them off the team and to encourage them even when they fail and so on and so on. Obviously, that isn’t the best way. There is no way for me to control what happens and I obviously can’t make someone stay if they don’t want and even more so I don’t want the older girls to be anyone but themselves. We had to build a family filled with trust, motivation and a goal. That doesn’t happen overnight and there isn’t a handbook telling us what to do for a reason.cheer1

I decided if I clearly communicated my goals for myself personally and highly encourage them to set personal goals, then to set goals as a team would be a good first step. From there I was clear about the role I wanted and planned to play and communicated the leader I wanted to be for them. I told them I will be the arms to catch them when they fall, someone, they can trust no matter what and someone who will always have their best interest in mind, but I will also push them and communicate to them with as much transparency and clarity as possible.cheer 2

I came into practice every time and did my 110% best to be the leader that I told them I would be and some days it was really hard and I failed a few times when I started to let the weight of outside sources come inside the gym. For that, I was called out that, which was a good thing. My team knew when I was off my game gave me the support when I needed it.  That understanding helped build a trust that was unbelievable. These girls trusted me to convince them to do stunts that they didn’t think they could do. They followed suit and each individual was transparent with the rest of the team about what they could offer and over time built a bond of 30 women that was like none I have ever experienced. Of course, there were bad days and of course, I didn’t do it alone, but it was a perfect storm.

We may not have all been best friends but the bond we made will never be broken. Through injuries and routine changes to adding in the most difficult skills, we have EVER done the night before National Finals. Through tears, blood, and college life we hit the mat and made CMU History in so many ways.

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I learned that as a leader you don’t always have to have it all together and everything happens for a reason. When building a team if you come in and say, “this is who I am and this is what I will be doing to make our goals happen, what do you plan to do to help? We can do this together!” is a great place to start, but to actually do what you say builds a loyalty and trust that can launch girls high into the air (no pun intended).

Central Michigan University 2017/2018 Competitive Cheer Team Takes 10th in the toughest division in the Nation.

 

I can leave the program knowing that I had a journey of a lifetime, but I’m leaving it with a standard that I helped set with talented athletes who will make me proud.

FIRE UP FOREVER!

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The Snowstorm that Ruined Everything

The Detroit Service trip use to be known as LAS in the D is, to me, a very impactful and important Lead Team. It is just as personally impactful as it is for the freshman students experiencing it for the first time. It is a weekend where you check your privilege, ignite a passion to give and support, a chance to bond with likeminded and/or not like-minded people in your cohort and cohorts above you and have needed conversations about today’s society. For the Lead Team, it’s an opportunity to meet and build relationships with the underclassmen who you can relate so closely with as you went through what they went through.

The Detroit Service trip for the past two years has fallen on my birthday and it is 100% worth it to spend that day on this trip. Yet, this year was different. The Leaders for the service trip Lead Team took extra care and time in making this the best service trip yet. They tapped into the Lead Teams knowledge and experience and molded the learning objectives so the freshman would have and unforgettably impactful experience.

A few days before this impactful trip, Mother Nature, at her finest hit the mitten with a snowstorm canceling the trip. With all the negatives that come with a monumental experience being canceled and all the frustration and emotions of a letdown, I asked myself why. Why was I so upset that it was canceled? I hadn’t invested near the amount of time in the logistic and preparation of the trip. I merely gave my knowledge and opinions at a meeting and came to the logistic briefing meeting and was ready to go.

I was upset because I knew how the trip impacted me and how I knew I could do an even better job and help make the freshman cohorts experience even better. I was ready to be apart of their lightbulb leadership moments.  The moment when they are at Cass Community Services and it hits them the number of people the organization feeds and the dire needs to support the hunger epidemic. When they walk into the Detroit Institute of the Arts for the first time and have your breath taken away as you stare at a painting so big you can’t imagine how long it took, or how long ago it was painted. The bonding moments as you sleep on the floor next to an acquaintance that you get the chance to really talk to and could become your best friend. The Detroit Service Trip is an extremely important service trip, but it is even more than that. It’s a weekend to remember as relationships passions and eyes are open.

Professional Relationships

Through my Business Fraternity I had the opportunity to work with university professional on a whole different level. Myself and a co-chair worked tirelessly
in partnership with the Central Michigan University Career Services office to
bring roughly 140 business to our campus to recruit CMU students for internships and jobs across the country.

Career Services and Alpha Kappa Psi has a strong relationship as their role is to help student find jobs, and my fraternity’s goal is to uphold our 100% full time job placement after college. The relationship and the experience collaboration with Career Services,which is a group of 8 full time professional was like none else.

Career Services treated my co-chair and I as if we were one of the team.  They expected my co-chair and I plan the agenda, set up times and full on run the bi weekly meetings. Those responsibility were not only extremely intimidating but such an amazing opportunity to put my business and leadership knowledge to the test. 

I had to make big decisions and delegate responsibility while motivating everyone to a common goal.  Their “real life” feedback on how I handled those responsibility helped me grow tremendously as a leader and business professional. The tedious planning and organization of the event takes months, but at the end it is truly something. This special relationship between Alpha Kappa Psi and Career services gets to both reach their goals and bring jobs and opportunities to our students.

 

 

LAS in the D 2017

 

LAS in the D is my favorite time of the year! It is when the Freshman Leader Advancement scholar get the opportunity to attend a service learning trip to Detroit and take part in volunteer work practicing servant leadership, and education/awareness regarding Detroit as growing and rebuilding city and where they see leadership . This trip is also special as it also serves as a bonding experience for the cohort and a place where many passions are ignited. I got the AMAZING opportunity to be apart of the LAS in the D lead team and lead my own group of student s through this impactfl weekend.

 

The first stop of the Journey was at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA) where we got to interact with Jalen Rose students and their lead team member facilitated leadership activities with the JRLA students. OUr ultimate goal this year was to help the JRLA students learn and develop their facilitation skills, as well as learn how to facilitate a debrief. After we visited JRLA we went to Quicken Loans where we got a tour of their facilities and listen to employees speak about the company and what they are doing for Detroit.  We also encouraged the students to be aware and look for people who exhibited different leadership styles.  

From there we went to the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA) where we allow the students to roam around the facility and take it all the amazing exhibits they have to offer. The night was wrapped up at the Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) it’s located right on the river walk and about a mile from the Renaissance Center. Not only did we all get to explore,  play all throughout the facility and was our location to stay for the whole night, but we got to hear from Mrs. Walter and got an indepth look on the beautiful history of the building. We got to hear about the dream behind this exhibit that was able to come into fruition, and the importance and impact it has had on the city.

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My favorite part of the day was when we had the chance to have a Meaningful debrief with our group and listen to the impact this trip has made on the students and parts the inspired and motivated them to want to make a change. That was the largest highlight i had on the day.

Day two came quick and and was the day we set aside for direct service. The day was spent at Cass Community Social Services. Cass is a local nonprofit that provides many services to the community such as food, housing, and support. They also have other areas where Cass works to generate money and items to give back such as making mats out of recycled tires, shredding paper, cleaning and organizing closets of donations. The areas we all served were working in the kitchen, helping make mats, shredding paper, and organizing the closets.

The second day was very special, because I believe the students got a true taste of the impact and support the Detroit community still needs. They were encouraged to journal throughout the experience via self-guided questions to process what they have been experiencing and that process helped reach an amazing outcome of aware and excited students.

The trip as a whole could not have gone any smoother. I was surrounded by not only amazing students but amazing LEAD team leaders. The freshman LASers will never know what a large impact their perspectives and passion made on me that day. It was a refreshing re-energization that I need going into the last parts of the semester.las 

Trust the Journey

2016/2017 Started with force… especially in the world of CMU Cheer. As a program, we all had high aspirations to do big things for ourselves and our program. At the start, we weren’t quite sure how that was going to happen, but knew we wanted it. In CMU Cheer we aren’t given the title of “captain”, it isn’t voted on and labeled, but it is a responsibility that is put onto in a natural occurrence of overlapping poise, experience, drive and genuine care. You all-of-a sudden know that everyone is looking and coming to you and everyone falls in suit.

At the end of the 2015/2016 season I was awarded female MVP of the program and was utterly surprised and didn’t believe I deserved it… I didn’t lead games as game captain, I didn’t go out of my way to be the one up front, I just came into practice being me working my butt off and following through with my responsibilities. After self-reflection, I realized that is what our program is about. Our title of “captain” or a valued teammate, leader whatever you call it is given to someone that is now know I need to be confident in, and that is myself. I came in ready to work not for me but for my team, I care about the well-being of my cheer family. That internal commitment was oozing out of me and with that I earned the respect to lead and inspire my teammates to do the same.

2016/2017 season came around with force, because I learned from my obliviousness/passive leadership. I reflected on the impact I could have when I put my love for the program, experience, drive, and natural leadership qualities into more active and aware leadership style. That impact was quickly grasped by the program/ rest of my teammates and came with a lot of recalculating. I had to recalculated as I was put on a different team, small coed team.

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Small Co-ed is still in the CMU Cheer program just means the team is compiled of two all-girl groups (flyer, two bases, and a back-spot), and four co-ed couples (male base, female flyer). This small co-ed team was made up of individuals who have the most skills on the team, we each individually brought a lot to the table. Yet, the hardest thing we faced was being a team. I have been apart of many teams in my day all with different struggles, but this team was by far the most challenging. Challenging, to me doesn’t seem like the right word, because we were very good  just lacked the energy when times get tough. That last bit of energy that is needed when you are pushing your body to its limits. That would separate us from being really good to being unbelievable! Also, the challenge in dealing with different mindsets… Majority of the male team members tended to gravitate and respond to harsher more pass or fail type of coaching/leadership. Where majority of the female team members (myself included) gravitated and responded more to discussion based coaching/leadership and positive reinforcement.cheer 1

So, for myself as a leader on the team I had to deeply identify my audience, which I have never had to do before to that degree. I had to know how each person was motivated and be able to bounce back in forth helping, guiding and motivating my teacheer 2m members on 10-14 hours practice days. Once I understood my team members and was open about how I am best motivated, as well as how I’ve notice they were motivated it opened a channel of understanding throughout our whole team.

I was able to bring strong individuals together by looking deeper into their actions and tendencies and asking them how they prefer to be motivated.  We went from being a good team to an amazing team taking 5th in the Nation, and making CMU history. We brought our individual strengths to the table and the cohesive energy needed to break into the top 10. 

 

2016/2017 CMU Small Co-Ed season will be one I never will forget as it challenged me as a cheerleader and a leader. 

Better to see something once than to talk about it a thousand times

Wednesday July 6 -Thursday July 7-Friday July 8

On Wednesday we finally made it Venice. It’s a trip we’ve planned on our own. Our first trip without our class. We hoped on the train (a long train ride at that), burned skin from Via Reggio and all, we made it to Venice. The moment you walk out of the train station it was like you walked into a different world. It was beautiful!IMG_8216 So many peopled warned us that it was going to smell and it wasn’t as cool as they thought it would be, the streets would be dirty. With that information we were kind of nervous! Yet, in the moment we walked out of the station we knew that all the things that were said were so so wrong. It was gorgeous!

We had a simple plan for the day: walk around and see as much as we can, eat seafood, take a gondola ride, and find out if the city is really sinking. And that is what we did! We walked around and saw some beautiful churches, many stores filled with Vancian glass (one of the products they are known for) I got myself a Vancian glass ring J. The other product that they are known for is there homemade masks that all of Italy uses for a holiday/festival similar to Halloween. After walking around for a very long time in the crazy heat we found a restaurant that had tables overlooking a canal.IMG_3407 We had walked past it a couple times just from getting turned around and the plates coming out looked AWESOME. We were very very excited and didn’t hesitate to make this our “big” meal of the day. Olivia Jenna and I ordered the pasta with seafood. The menu didn’t elaborate much farther than it saying pasta with all kinds of seafood, which we assumed was whatever fresh they had in the kitchen and Angie ordered a salmon pasta. The food came out fast and the plates were beautiful! Not only did the sea food pasta have a big swirl of pasta decorated with tons of clams and mussels and a little octopus on top with shrimp and squid. It had a bright red already glazed (in something delicious not butter they don’t really do butter in Italy) sitting there for us to crack open.

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sorry I remembered to take the picture after i started eating…

Given we found out that out of the three of us really didn’t know how to crack open a lobster, myself have only two experiences. 1) At my mom’s birthday when I was in like 5th grade we cooked lobster for her party and I cracked one lobster and felt so bad, because I picked him out only earlier that day. Then the second time my family and I were in Maine of vacation where I got to again, pick out the dang lobster, listen to it hiss in a pot and then had to crack it open and try to forget that I had chosen its doom. Ok, yes I may be being a little dramatic, but all my memories with lobster, yes, delicious the cracking part was my least favorite. Yet, today I had no other choice to ask my dad to crack it for me (sorry about the lobster rant). Getting over the full lobster, and getting over that we were going to have to use our hands to be able to get the dish “all cracked open” before the cows came home (utensils made it to hard haha we were kind of a mess). After the prep phase of our dish we dug in and it was the most amazing dish I had yet eaten in Italy.

After dinner we only had two more things to do on our list: gondola, and find out if the city was sinking. We figured that the gondola was next. Right by the restaurant was a dock for the gondolas later finding gout that each boat is essentially its own family tradition gondola boat driver’s boats have family tradition. It all happening very fast we were on the boat and on our way!! The gondola driver guy was very nice and spoke English, which was very nice, because he pretty much gave us a tour telling us about all the different building and which historically famous person lived there and the ages of all the bridges and even confirming to us that not only is the ocean rising but the islands are actually sinking. They are sinking because the islands are made out of sand and they are putting/building up so much it is compressing the sand rock which is causing the island to shrink and go under water! The gondola ride was amazing and felt like a dream!

Afterward we walked around the more touristy places and realized we were even more burned than we were when we got there and we decided it would be in our best interest to now head back to Florence.

The next day Thursday July 9th we went to class where we had lecture and were taken to a Sicilian bakery where we learned about arenchini, cannoli, and granita. Arenchini, which is a cone like shape made with rice and stuff with anything from rague sauce, eggplant and mozzarella, squid, or cheese. Cannoli, a fried pastry dough filled with a ricotta filling! Granita is pretty much a shaved icy with flavors in it like lemon, strawberry, watermelon, and coffee. I got lemon it was very very good.

After class we headed home to take a nap the heat and sun we had gotten the past couple of days was hitting us hard and we hadn’t been drinking enough water. For some reason when we got into the apartment o couldn’t sleep, so I cleaned up the apartment and came to find that my burnt chest had little blisters ALL OVER IT!!! As I cleaned and sweat (freaking hot and no AC) the blisters grew. Let’s just say I don’t like it and I had to call my mother to double check. She confirmed to me that I would be all good and needed to just leave them alone, which was really hard!

That evening we had reservations at Ganzo our schools all students lead restaurant, to partake in a themed dinner. Themed dinners are a 6 course meal under a certain theme, tonight was traditional Tuscan dishes. Long story short the dinner was awesome and here are pictures from each course… we were spoiled.

Friday July 8 was another chill day after dinner at ganzo we explored the town till late. We woke up and found an American Diner for breakfast! I got an omlette that was amazing and an actual cafe americano!!IMG_3439

After breakfast we came back with plans to get our papers squared away and travel plans together for Switzerland. Instead we came back to a whole different adventure when I decided to change the outlet I was using…. long story short no more electricity nor wifi and that led to multiple flights being climbed (we live 6 flights of stairs up and box is down stairs) it wasn’t fun…we finally called and had someone come help us because nothing we were doing was working. The gentleman comes in looks at the box on the first floor looks at this random box at the very very top left corner unlabeled and flips it and the electricity came on…. of course right. I was just happy the lights were on. Only for time to pass a little longer and i tried a different socket and POP!!! I blew it again… had to walk the stairs AGAIN and climb to try and reach to box flipped it climbed upstairs and they weren’t on… went down and flipped it AGAIN!!!! and thank the lord they turned on… I threw away my adapter here’s the culprit….IMG_3441

Service learning Reflection: Youth Advocacy

Through my college experience thus far I have had many volunteer opportunities. Just this year I have found my favorite volunteer opportunities to be that benefiting the younger generations.  Some of my favorite are listed below:

Being a CMU Cheerleader we get multiple opportunities to volunteer our time to teach younger generations the skills and training methods to be a collegyong champe cheerleader. We partner with Champion Force an organization with young girls and boys ages 8-18, from across the state that compete in all-star cheerleading. These teams come to us to enhance their skills. We get to work with these teams through five stations: tumbling, stunting, private coaching, baskets, conditioning. Working with these young girls I have had the opportunity to share my passion for cheerleading while teaching them the skills and
technique to be safe in this dangerous sport, as well as teach them exciting new skills.

This opportunity is hard work and you most definitely have to utilize patience, and strong clear communication. Yet, the reward is beyond what you could ever ask for. They end up looking up to you as a role model as they ask to get pictures with you after, come give you hugs, or evsufken tell you verbally how much you helped them. To be able to share a skill you have and love, and coach them through it as well is extremely rewarding.

Joining Alpha Kappa Psi, I have had the opportunity to participate and help elevate their new philanthropy Stand Up For Kids a non-profit organization that works to end youth
homelessness. We also work with other organizations that stand for youth advocacy. My first event that I tie blanketsparticipated in was decorating lunch sacks with inspirational quotes or happy pictures. As I got more involved in the Fraternity we have also volunteered our time and made tie blankets through an organize where they take donated tie blankets to liven up children’s hospital beds before they arrive.