STEP Reporting Back
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