My STEP Experience- Reporting Back

This past summer, I was able to focus my time on my role as Chief of Staff for USG. I was able to meet with the President, Deputy Chief of Staff, and other members of USG. We were able to collaborate and work together to prepare for our upcoming school year.
During this summer, I had the opportunity through STEP and my position as Chief of Staff to work on policy points USG wanted to see enacted during our time in office. Serving as the student voice, USG must have a clear idea of the changes necessary. Coming up with a detailed, well thought out plan of how to enact policy and project ideas into the university is essential to be effective during the year I hold office. The STEP Program assisted me in completing this goal last summer and this school year, we have been able to focus on working with administrators at the university on the policy we discussed this past summer. Running Cabinet, which consists of around 200 members, and a portion of that number being new members who are unfamiliar of what policy changes are plausible and needed, I must have a firm idea of what policy should be prioritized to give the members a better understanding of how to make a difference. With the STEP program, I did not worry about the financial burden of paying for housing and was able to focus my attention on gaining a strong sense of the policy that we would be working on this school year and so far, Cabinet has been running very smoothly as a result. My role as Chief of Staff has allowed me to oversee all policy and project ideas. This has allowed me to have a real life experience that I can apply to my future career. Having a clear understanding of how to enact policy changes at the collegiate level will assist me in my dreams of enacting health care policy at a much higher level.
This summer, I also restructured Cabinet, focusing on changing the organization from within, and coming up with the schedule for the year. As mentioned previously, I am responsible for Cabinet, which consists of around 200 members as well as Senior Staff, which consists of 14 members appointed by the executive branch. Having such a large responsibility, any changes or plans for the internal structure of USG must be planned well in advance to the beginning of the school year. Staying on campus this summer allowed me to collaborate with the USG advisor and the USG President to carefully work out the details of the structural change. I also came up with weekly plans to hold Directors of committees within Cabinet and members of Senior Staff accountable to make sure they are fulfilling their roles to the best of their abilities once the school year begins. I communicated with members on Senior Staff and Cabinet directors to come up with a blueprint that catered to the needs of the organization and the leaders of USG. We installed a system that streamlined the communication system of our leadership. Not only was this communication system well thought out and created, but I was able to implement it during the summer. Members of Senior Staff submitted their updates well into the summer and we saw the effectiveness of the system, made minor adjustments to improve the flow of information, and made sure it was efficiently running before the school year began. The strategy and planning needed to accomplish the goals I set for last summer really advanced my leadership qualities that were needed to be a successful Chief of Staff.
The STEP Program truly helped me throughout my sophomore year. Every other week, I met with my Cohort and we would discuss different things pertaining to what we planned to do and make of our STEP Program. I was able to discuss the different options of what we could do with our STEP program with other sophomores in the same program. Our cohort leader allowed us to lead the conversations and cultivated an open atmosphere. I also really enjoyed the other requirements of the program as well. The different co-curricular programs were inspiring and educational. After each co-curricular, I was able to walk away happy and educated. I heard about interesting topics and also learned about the different programs and services available to students at The Ohio State University. One of the programs I enjoyed the most was the financial literacy program. The financial literacy program prepared me for following years as an undergraduate student and also after graduation. They told me about several scholarship websites that I could take advantage of and ways to apply for financial aid for graduate schooling. This semester, my family and I have been using the resources given to me by the financial literacy program to research scholarship opportunities for me and my younger brother who is planning to attend OSU next year.
I have learned several concepts and skills in the academic setting such as organization and self-discipline. These are needed qualities in a leader as well. As I went through the leadership development program, I was able to apply my academically learned skills to my leadership roles. Although I developed these qualities in the academic setting, I knew they could easily be applied and advanced in my leadership role. My role as Chief of Staff will continue to challenge these concepts and skills and improve them as they have this past summer. With my role thus far, I have learned that a leader must holds values of unselfish leadership, the talent to remove personal interests to make clear decisions, and communication skills. In order to be an effective leader, you must be leading for the right reasons. Obtaining leadership roles solely for the purpose of personal gain severely impacts decision-making. Removing personal interests to make clear decisions is also essential to be a successful leader. Although you may not personally agree with decisions being made, you must make the decision that is best for an organization or your constituents. Lastly, communication is key to success. Communicating with all facets of the organization you are leading is necessary. If you are unable to affectively communicate, your role as a leader will greatly suffer. As Chief of Staff, all of these necessary and effective leadership qualities will be tested and further developed through hands on experience.
Not only have I been able to translate the skills I’ve gained in an academic setting to my leadership role, but I plan to do the same with the skills I’ve obtained through my role as Chief of Staff to my future career.
As I am quickly approaching my final year of undergraduate studies, I have heavily considered what I plan to do after graduation. Talking with different Public Health professionals, I decided that I want to go into health administration and work on health policy. My position as Chief of Staff provides me with valuable experience that can be translated to experience for my future career. My position requires strong leadership qualities and has taught me how to lie out an effective plan on how to advocate for policy changes. I look forward to build the strengths and knowledge I obtained from the STEP program and continue to grow as a leader.

Athletes in Action: The Puerto Rico Project

STEP Reporting Back

Kelsey Krenwinkel

Puerto Rico Project: Leadership and Internship

My STEP experience was a blend of three different pillars, Leadership, Internship, and Study Abroad, with Athletes in Action in San German, Puerto Rico for two weeks this past summer. Athletes in Action is a nonprofit organization that allows student athletes to become passionate and effective leaders by becoming part of something greater than themselves.  I was able to develop leadership skills by leading small groups and individuals about how to combine faith and a sport while immersed in Puerto Rican culture.

Before this trip, leadership was something that I struggled with.  I never quite saw myself as much of a leader before this trip and I had a very narrow view of what leadership is.  I thought leadership was being the outspoken, loud, take-charge person who stands in front of people and directs people.  Certainly leadership can look like that, and we do need people who are confident enough to do this, but I’ve learned from this experience that leadership is so much more than that.  At times, leadership may not even require words. I found myself as a leader by leading by example.  I led by doing little things that others may not think to do or want to do.  I found my place in serving others: clinging up after dinner and setting up food.  I found my leadership by being there for people when they need someone just to listen.  Of course I did other things that are more conventional of leadership, such as planning and leading a study, but my biggest take away was finally seeing myself as a leader and finding my place in leadership.

I had a role in Puerto Rico where I got to work one on one with two other girls, much like I do on campus now.  This was huge in learning my leadership abilities because I was able to connect with these girls and help them through what they were learning about themselves on the trip and trying to apply to their lives.  I was a leader by listening to them and sharing wisdom with them, as well as guiding them in different ways to take what they were learning home with them.  I mostly just learned through the relationships with these other women that good leadership needs to be flexible and depends on what the people you’re leading need.  One of the girls needed a lot of wisdom and wanted to hear my input on her experiences, but the other girl needed me to just be present and listen to her.  Leadership does not fit in a box. You need to be aware of the people around you and their emotional and physical states to lead them efficiently.  In the end, you are serving them.  It’s not about you, it’s about the people you are working with.

Additionally, this particular experience was helpful for my own personal growth because I had someone else pouring into me the way that I was pouring into the two other women. They not only did for me what I was doing for the other girls, listening and providing thoughtful feedback, but they were also a great example for me of how to better serve them.  Macy was a great example of how to love people and how to help them overcome their struggles of the rigorousness of the Puerto Rico Project.  In education, this is called modeling, so it was pretty cool to be able to apply what I’m learning in class to life ousted of just education.

My favorite part of the STEP experience was getting to meet people on a very personal and intimate level.  Friendships were made in Puerto Rico that are stronger than those of some friends I have in Columbus.  It’s on trips like these that you get so close to people in such a short amount of time.  People shape the experience and the experience wouldn’t be anything without the people.  I have made friends with these people that have stayed in tact since we returned.  It’s so rewarding to be able to keep in touch with the students from other universities and the Puerto Rican students and continue supporting them from so far away.  It’s a beautiful picture of community and how people so different can come together for the same purpose.

As an education major, this experience was incredibly helpful for me because I had an opportunity to work with students and plan out lessons.  I got a taste for what it like to see a student’s particular need and design a lesson or meeting to those needs.  I also lead studies here on campus with me team and it was helpful to get practice leading and planning for the studies.  I love helping people grow and being a source of wisdom and this experience was exactly that for me.  It has certainly strengthened my desire to teach and has also given me a new passion for traveling.  I plan to possibly return to Puerto Rico next year and intern there again.

My blog written while I was in Puerto Rico: http://kelseykrenwinkel.blogspot.com

 

 

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Backpacking in the High Sierra Mountains

For nearly a month I backpacked with a group of other OSU students in the High Sierra Mountains of California. Covering over 130 miles, I learned how to survive in the backcountry trails and how to lead a group completely out of their comfort zone to achieve a common goal.

Despite having limitless information at our disposal in the forms of phones and computers, the amount you can learn by completely removing yourself from them is staggering. Backpacking for such a long time so removed from civilization causes every weakness you have to be laid bare. And every strength you possess is stretched to their max. I personally found out that I will break mentally before I break physically. I found out that I fixate over small details and can quickly become on edge. But I also discovered an unwavering perseverance, an intense desire to experience the outdoors, and previously unknown emotional levels. There are societies constructed by man and there is wild nature, and I won’t say one is more the “real world” than the other. What the wild nature part of the world shows you however, is that despite our reliance on our own artificial creations one is still able to survive and even thrive out in the backcountry.

A backcountry trip such as this requires organization and leadership. That leadership came from one of the students in the group each day. When appointed leader of the day that person decided when to get up, what to cook, when to get water, who was assigned what tasks, how many miles we went and nearly every other conceivable task that had to be completed that day. When I was leader of the day it rained. A lot. It rained, and briefly stormed, for the entire morning and part of the afternoon. We even had to do what is called a lightning drill, where you essentially near a tall tree ad wait for the storm to pass. Despite what the label says, nothing is completely waterproof. Eventually you will get wet, and we were soaked and cold. So wet to the point where we considered stopping and finding shelter off the trail. It was pretty miserable, especially since one would expect clear sunny skies in California. It had rained a number of days before this as well, and I was beginning to lose it. I was able to push through and get through that day but the next time storm clouds came rolling in I had a full on panic attack.

I had been fixating all day about the weather, how fast we were moving, setting up camp that I finally couldn’t take it anymore. But once it was over I learned that I was still there, I was still breathing. I found solace in my fellow backpackers as well as my own self-assurance I began developing. Leading the group was challenging and even when not leading some days dragged on. No matter how you adjust the straps on your backpack you will get sore, and the relief of taking your pack off in camp is incredible. Every time I made it to camp the problems of the day seemed almost trivial. Backpacking is a huge confidence builder, it just has to break you down first. But one you’re broken down you can build yourself back up.

One of my favorite days on the trip was our stay at a place called Granite Basin. As one would expect it a large basin. It is filled with shallow streams, a meadow, and many large rock outcroppings. This particular day we didn’t hike, we just relaxed in camp. I climbed halfway up a large rock face and sat on a ledge overlooking the entire basin. I hadn’t bathed in over a week, had been eating the same bland food on repeat, hadn’t changed clothes for a week and had no contact with civilization. It was the best feeling ever. I was looking at the most beautiful and grand sites I’d ever seen and felt pure, absolute joy. Everything you think you need becomes irrelevant. We met a park ranger named Rick. We talked for a while and he told us about how nature reflects what you feel inside and that this is the kind of place humans are made to be in. While I certainly enjoy bathing and indoor plumbing, lack thereof is by no means a boundary to incredible experiences.

What was perhaps the most incredible experience was getting to the top of Mt. Whitney. At 14,508 ft. in elevation Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States. The day started early as they usually did and we set out up a switchback for a few thousand feet of elevation change. Once at the top of that switchback, there is another two mile trail up to the actual summit. It is nothing but bare rock, mostly along an enormous mountain ridge and at times through narrow, precarious paths that drop completely off to the side. The elevation makes it hard to breathe as well. Throughout the trip I became more and more acclimated, but the air was as thin as it was going to get up there. Once you reach the top there are dozens of other hikers all celebrating and taking pictures. Some guy was playing music on a portable stereo, it was the first time I had heard music in nearly a month. Unfortunately it was Bon Jovi, and  I hate Bon Jovi. But that couldn’t ruin being on the top of a mountain, knowing that right now in the US no one is higher than you are right now. It was the true culmination of weeks of purifying water, sore feet, digging catholes and everything else in between.

All of these emotional experiences were wrapped up in the daily tasks of leadership and team work. While they may seem opposing concepts, the personal mental and emotional state you had affected your interactions with the group. Overall the main task was to ensure the success of the group when you were in charge. To effectively lead a group one must be able to physically and mentally push themselves more than the group since they look to you. You learn how to mentally connect with and help your group members, as well as analyze what you yourself are doing. I find that I am far more comfortable interacting with people and asking for help, since that is what I was forced to do to survive essentially. The extreme setting of this trip will not be found in the average 21st century job, but the theories and practices of leadership will be. Being able to stay calm in stressful situations , and then being able to analyze yourself and the input of your teammates to find and implement a solution.  After this trip tasks that seemed like mountains are now mole hills, especially after climbing actual mountains.

 

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The Whole John Muir Trail and Then Some

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Jennings Rengel

Step Reflection

 

For my step project, I spent time planning and budgeting, organizing, and then leading a through hike of the John Muir Trail. We spent 28 days in California and took 21 days to hike all 220 miles of the trail.

This was truly a transformational experience for me and I won’t soon forget this. I am very proud of what I have done. At the end of the trail upon completion, I felt physically exhausted, but yet hungry for more. I didn’t want to be done because I was enjoying myself so much. I was relaxed, fit, at peace, and settled into a rhythm. Every morning was an adventure on the trail. I woke up and started hiking, all the while wondering what beautiful scenery was going to come next. I never had to worry about responsibilities, or entertaining myself. Hiking was life.

When I started the trail, I looked at it as a personal challenge and not an experience. I didn’t expect to make friends along the way. I didn’t expect to discover a new culture (sort of an old-school hippy counter-culture). I didn’t anticipate how hard the trail would be. The first day on the trail I started out by eating a big piece of humble-pie.

I definitely noticed some changes coming over me on the trail. I have always been a relatively solitary person. I never stand out in a crowd, am always shy, quiet, but on the trail everything came so easy to me. I made many friends along the way. When you only encounter another human once a day or so you realize how important those interactions are. Normally when I am going about my daily routine I never talk too much to people around me except for my friends. On the trail, I looked forward to those interactions. You take people for granted in the world. On the trail you realize how important people are. The tranquility of nature is amazing, but after a while you really want someone to share it with; someone who appreciates it as much as you. Its ironic how getting away from society brings people together.

We did meet some amazing people along the way. One particular gentleman seemed to have traveled the whole world over. I inquired about a patch that he had sewn onto his light brown lightweight leather jacket that looked like something an old wild west cowboy might wear. I learned that he got that particular patch on one of his trips to Nepal. As he recounted the story of his trip to us, he reminisced about how next time he goes back he won’t recognize some of his favorite places because they were destroyed in the earthquake this summer. It has been a dream of mine to visit Nepal and someday and see Mt. Everest with my own eyes. It was incredible to meet someone who has actually been there. That’s not something you get to do every day. This particular gentleman went on to tell us that he is retired and typically spends all summer just hiking around the Sierra-Nevada and then goes home to Hawaii for the winter. He pretty much just summed up my retirement goals. I would love to be an accomplished world traveler. There aren’t very many things that stoke my fire like exploring. It really makes me feel alive. I refuse to let the saying “no body ever dies wishing they had worked more” describe my life.

On the second half of the trail we met Chris who happened to be a master outdoorsman who was very willing to share his knowledge. This guy was like the MacGyver of the woods. He made his own stove system out of a couple of beer cans and nails, he packaged all of his food in a way that allowed him to carry a full 10 days in a pack that weighed 30lbs fully loaded and about 15lbs with just his clothes, tent, and gear, found a ripped Patagonia puffy in the trash, superglued the shell back together and wore it, used his bear canister as a washing machine, et cetera. He taught me how to catch, kill, clean, and cook a trout over an open fire (grill them on a blazing hot slab of granite). I’ve eaten fish before but never any that tasted as good as those trout. This had a profound impact on me. For one, now I feel like I can call myself an outdoorsman.

Secondly It made me realize how wasteful we are on a regular basis. When I was eating that fish, I felt obligated to eat every last scrap of meat. I felt like I owed it to the fish. The girls that we were with were vegetarians and when I asked them why they explained that its not that they object to eating animals necessarily, but rather they object to the way we raise animals to be eaten. They didn’t have much of an issue with us catching fish out of a wild untamed river and cooking them. I don’t plan on becoming a vegetarian anytime soon because I like meat, but it made me stop to think about where my food comes from. I decided that cutting back on the amount of meat that I eat and making sure that I don’t waste anything would in a small way pay homage to those animals that gave their lives and be a responsible thing to do.

The trip was a good experience for me because I got out of my comfort zone, met a lot of new people, and experienced a sort of enlightenment. Additionally, from an academic perspective, I got to put my research and planning skills to work. It was good for me to be totally in the driver’s seat and have complete control over a project that I wanted to complete on order to make myself a stronger, more well traveled person.

I think the changes that I experienced on my trip will continue to shape that way that I think about life. I now have a clearer understanding of who I am, what my values, goals, and where I want to go in life. Life should be more about the journey and not the destination. I know that I have to work to live, but I don’t want my life to be about working because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. Society doesn’t matter and there will be a day when it ceases to exist. What will be left is the physical world. I want my life to be about exploring. I want to see as much of the world as I can. You only get one opportunity to live.

I took many pictures on the trail. After my camera battery died I switched on my iPhone and had a go of it with the built in camera. The resulting stunningly beautiful photos can be seen on my google photos page https://goo.gl/photos/PAkGJtmBptT3wLLG9.

Finally, one of the last experiences that I had along the way was one of the side trips that my climbing partner Jesse and I took. In Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, Jesse and I decided to climb Lembert Dome. The western side of this dome is a vertical face with about 400 feet of climbing above another 200 feet of exposure. This is where we decided to try our first multi-pitch climb. What that means is that one person climbs while the other belays from below. Then, the second person climbs while the first person belays them from above. I found myself looking down at about 400 feet of air hanging from an anchor in the wall belaying Jesse (who at this point was 200 feet above me) and at that point I asked myself, how terrified am I right now? How do the professional climbers do this? Is this worth the scare? Everything worked out fine, and I am proud that I kept myself together and finished the climb, but from now on anytime I get into a scary situation, I just have to remember how scared I was then and suddenly things won’t seem so bad.

I wish that I had the time to talk about every one of the challenges and experiences that I dealt with along the way, but as of right now, I don’t feel like writing a novel. I hope that I can have many more experiences like this in my lifetime, but until next summer I’ll have to enjoy reminiscing about this trip and hopefully inspire others to experience the world in a different way. The world is awesome. Take a chance. Get out there.

Bryce Spees – STEP Leadership Reflection

Name: Bryce Spees

Type of Project: Leadership Project

The objective of my STEP Leadership project that I completed over the summer was to help the Council on Student Affairs (CSA) get an idea of how they are distributing their funding to various student organizations. I did this by organizing and analyzing data that was collected from the funding cycles of the previous three fiscal years.

Before completing this project, I had never faced a challenge that required me to work on my own project without very much assistance from a supervisor. I was not sure how I would handle having to work on a project like this by myself.  However, after working very hard and committing a great amount of time to this project, I defied my own expectations and was able to successfully accomplish my goal and give the CSA exactly what they were looking for.  My understanding of myself was transformed because I realized that if I pushed myself through a challenge, I can accomplish things far beyond my own expectations.

Many of the events that led to a personal transformation of myself came after difficulties that the requirements of the project presented to me. The challenges that I faced required me to push myself to complete the obstacles that confronted me.  The first challenge that I faced was determining the best way to organize the data that would give make analyzing the data easy for myself.

After organizing the data, my next challenge was to analyze the data to find trends that had occurred in the previous three fiscal cycles.  After working hard to complete this challenge, my next obstacle was to present the data to the Council on Student Affairs in a manner that was easy for them to understand.

A relationship that led to a personal transformation was my relationship with my supervisor, MacGregor Obergfell.  Before I began this project, MacGregor taught me the process that organizations go through to request funding from the university.  MacGregor was also provided me with very detailed expectations from the Council on Student Affairs.  MacGregor’s description of the expectations and his advice were crucial in my personal transformation.

This transformation has been very valuable in my life because I have applied it in many more areas of my life. I have worked much harder in school this past semester and I feel that my grades will reflect the extra effort that I have put in.  I have also applied working harder in my relationships with other people, whether it be as a son, brother, roommate, or co-worker.  I have found that putting more effort into relationships has led to more healthy relationships with people that are important to me.

Chicago Summer Mission

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Pictures: Top image — full group picture of staff and students from Chicago Summer Mission 2015. Bottom image — a group of students participating in Soularium, a survey used to help facilitate conversation about individuals’ beliefs.

Name: Sarah Thompson

Type of Project: Leadership Experience

Project Overview
For my STEP experience, I participated in a ten week mission trip to Chicago, IL as part of a Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) Summer Mission. The mission focused on college campus outreach at three campuses in Chicago: Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago. The trip took place May 29, 2015-August 7, 2015. While in Chicago, I also had the opportunity to work at Shedd Aquarium, so I gained additional experience in the realm of nonprofit organizations.

Personal Transformation
Growing up, my town’s definition of religious diversity was one Catholic Church intermingled with a plethora of Protestant churches throughout my small town in Southeastern Ohio, so prior to coming to college I had to real experience with religious diversity. Even since coming to Ohio State, I know different belief systems and worldviews exist, but I have not fully had the opportunity to engage in discussions on the topic. In Chicago, my eyes were opened to a completely different worldview about individuals’ religions and how this impacts their day-to-day lives. My personal faith was challenged as I was pushed to understand (and articulate) why I believe what I believe and how this shapes my everyday interactions, especially as I look to learn about the religions of others.

Transformational Interactions
Because one of the main goals of this mission was to interact with college students and just hear more about their views (particularly on religion), I met a lot of great people who helped bring about shifts in my worldview and challenges to my personal belief system. One of my favorite conversations that shaped the transformation discussed above was with a student on Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT’s) campus named Vidhiya. Using tools to help facilitate conversation, I learned that she had been raised in a practicing Hindu family in India, but after moving to the United States and doing extensive research on a wide variety of religions before deciding to identify as Agnostic. This was one of my favorite experiences because she was extremely knowledgeable and open to sharing her beliefs and listening to my personal opinions/experiences, and she gave me a lot of insight into other worldviews while challenging/affirming my personal beliefs.

Also during the course of my time on IIT’s campus, I spoke to a fraternity advisor who described his beliefs to me — and it was quite a unique perspective that I had never heard before. After being raised in a predominantly Muslim family and studying religion independently in college, he came to the conclusion that the God(s) of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all the same God. He described his belief system as “the faith” and cited scriptures from the Torah, Qur’an, and Bible to support his findings. Although I can’t say I personally agree with the conclusions he came to after studying these religions, it changed my worldview and personal definition of religion. I previously assumed that mainstream, large religious movements were the only legitimately observed religions, but this was proven wrong in his case. He was very certain of his beliefs, and “the faith” played a very large role in his day-to-day life although he was unable to be involved in a community of people with a similar belief system.

Finally, a lot of my personal transformation took place with my peers who were also on this mission from all over the country. All in all 68 college students spent 10 weeks together in Chicago. I learned more about myself in community with this group than I probably have during my first 2 years of college combined. Although there was not one major point of revelation with this, it is still extremely significant — from meeting others with similar experiences, to gaining knowledge and clarity about my own belief system by not being afraid to ask questions, to just gaining confidence in myself and in making decisions as an adult — this group was there through everything. Working through challenging conversations and personal struggles with a group of like-minded individuals was extremely powerful and allowed me to greater develop my personal belief system.

Lifelong Transformation
With more short-term academic goals, this experience helped to prepare me for a Comparative Religions course that I am currently enrolled in this semester. The experience gave me a tangible basis for applying the religions I am learning about it class, which allowed me to understand complex/supernatural concepts with greater ease. Additionally, this experience working with nonprofit organizations (both Cru and Shedd Aquarium) gave me real-world experience into the world of nonprofits and allowed me to put into practice what I was learning in my courses.

In terms of personal and lifelong goals, my experience on Chicago Summer Mission helped me gain confidence in talking about my personal faith. It also broadened my knowledge of religious diversity, which opened my mind to be more empathetic in working with religiously diverse individuals, especially for my future career field. In looking towards my future and career goals, it allowed me to compare the role that religion plays in people’s lives. More tangibly, it also provided great experience and networking opportunities in the city of Chicago. Finally, this experience gave me a better idea of what career path I want to take within the field of social work and has led me to look into pursuing graduate school for social work with a focus on counselling.

Adaptive Outdoor Adventure Program Coordinator

I worked at Double H Ranch running the adaptive outdoor adventure program this summer. The Double H Ranch is a camp in upstate New York for children with serious illnesses. All children with medically qualifying diagnoses and their siblings go free of charge. Double H serves children with neuromuscular disorders, cancer, sickle cell anemia, spina bifita, bleeding disorders, autoimmune disorders, mitochondrial disease, and collagen vascular disease. Camp is fully accessible and all activities are adapted for children of all cognitive and physical abilities. At HH, I ran the outdoor adventure program and was a cabin counselor as well.

While working at HH, I learned that we are all human. Everyone deserves love and attention and positive affirmation. Everyone deserves to be told that they are special, capable, strong, and deserving of love. When we are kind to one another great things happen. Less importantly, I also learned about many medical diagnoses, how to care for children with serious medical conditions, how to adapt activities so that everyone can participate, but these were not nearly as valuable as lessons in how to be a good human. I loved watching children who are constantly told that they can not do X because of their limitations be told that they CAN. I loved watching children be in a place where they are loved and accepted and seeing them thrive in that environment. I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to and it has made me a more independent person.

I formed relationships with my campers and my coworkers that were incredibly valuable in my transformation. Although more importantly, I had the privilege of watching my campers form relationships with one another. One session, I had a camper who could walk with some assistance without his wheelchair, at the cookout, he wanted to run around and play with everyone else, so I was supporting him and we were killing it. I looked over and noticed that one of my other campers that week was following us around with the camper I was helping’s wheelchair in case he got tired. My camper spent the entire play time following us with the chair just in case his friend got tired. These boys were 8 and 9 years old. It was amazing to see how much love children can show to children who are a little different from them.

I also was empowered by the relationships that I formed with my coworkers. I learned that I am self reliant and capable of handling more than I thought I would be able because I had their support while I was learning. I learned how to accommodate an activity for any disability, I learned to care for people with serious medical conditions wile being respectful and making them comfortable. You don’t know how much you’re actually capable of until you’re in a room with a kid covered in poop and another counselor and you make cleaning it up fun for everyone involved.

I was able to adapt to being in a new environment, make friends with people I had very little in common with, and find new experiences on my time off. In addition to my job, I also climbed seven of the Adirondack high peaks and organized a weekend backpacking trip for me and a couple of my coworkers. This experience was incredible, I was conquering mountains while conquering my previous assumptions about my abilities.

Working at Double H further solidified my passion for promoting health in a holistic manner, however it also showed me how capable I am of setting my mind to something, going out and doing it. I continually pushed the boundaries in my program area by challenging people’s perceived limitations that come along with a serious illness. Who says a child in a wheelchair cannot pee in the woods? Not me. Applying this mentality to my own life has encouraged me to rethink what I originally thought was not within my own realm of possibility. I have expanded my goals for my postgraduate plans to include things that I previously would not have had the confidence in myself to do.

 

Unfortunately I cannot post pictures of my campers online, but feel free to check out Double H Ranch online: http://www.doublehranch.org/ . So here’s a picture of me on a mountain and with some of my coworkers.

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