STEP Reflection – Leadership

My STEP Project involved creating a tangible “Bag of Tricks” for counselors to use as they began the summer with campers. I gathered information from other counselors about their tricks in order to make a bag that would help counselors to be successful. I then gathered the supplies and put together a bag for each counselor to receive during staff training.

While creating the “Bag of Tricks” I was able to reflect on the things that worked for me last summer.  I was challenged to develop these tricks that worked for me into a bag of supplies that counselors could use for themselves. Throughout the summer I was able to observe new and returning counselors use this “Bag of Tricks” in their own way. Each counselor used the supplies in different ways and to solve different challenges of their week. Through this I was able to learn that everybody has a different way of approaching challenges. There is no one correct way to solve a problem, and just because something worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for others. I was also reminded that some children don’t respond to your first approach, and it may take a few tries to solve their problems (such as homesickness, boredom, etc.). Having this “Bag of Tricks” helped counselors to feel more prepared and to have a few different options to pull out of their backpack when a problem arose. 

Some of the most important relationships that led to my transformation this summer come from the campers that arrived each week. Through my interactions with each of them I was able to learn more about what works, and what doesn’t, with different age groups. They taught me more about how a child thinks and feels in different situations. For example, campers can feel homesick in ways that I never imagined. Through conversations I was able to better understand the reasons why they may feel so homesick and I developed new tricks to get them involved in activities and to keep their minds off of home.

Another aspect that led to my transformation during this project was being in the role of Unit Leader. As a Unit Leader I was able to observe other counselors and their interactions with campers. As a counselor last year I was very focused on my own cabin of campers, and didn’t pay attention to how others worked with their cabins. This summer opened my eyes to the many different approaches that a camp counselor can take to solving problems between campers. I learned new techniques that I can use and that I could add to a new “Bag of Tricks” for next summer.

The event of creating the bags also helped to lead to some transformation in my way of thinking. As I was putting together the bags I was reminded to think of items that would be effective for all age groups. Since I had most of my experience with older campers, I also had to pull information from other staff members to know what works for the youngest campers. The act of putting the bags together taught me about the ways that our staff can work together to help each other be successful and solve a variety of issues that may arise.

This change has caused me to think with more of a child’s mindset. I now think of how each thing I do when working with children will affect the child. This has influenced the activities I choose when programming for a group, or the approaches I take when mediating a camper. This relates to my future, as I plan to go into a setting where I would work directly with children. Having this “child first” mindset will help me to be successful as I pursue a career in a school setting or as a social worker. I can also use this new knowledge as I create service programs for my Advocates for Children and Education Scholars group. It will help me to better understand how we, as a group, can serve the children in our community and how we should interact with them while we do service projects.


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STEP Leadership Reflection

This past summer I had the opportunity to serve as a camp counselor for Sanborn Western Camps in Florissant, Colorado. As a counselor, I had two groups of campers that I was directly responsible for over the course of two different month long camps sessions, one in July and one in August. This job required counselors to lead a variety of outdoor trips focused on outdoor skills and outdoor leadership such as fishing, mountain biking, hiking, or backpacking trips.

I’ve always thought of myself as reliable and as someone who can make decisions with discernment. These traits though had really only helped me to strengthen relationships with people around me but had not manifested itself in legitimate leadership roles. Because of this, I never really thought of myself as a leader because the definition of a leader to me involved being in charge and commanding a group of people with authority and respect. And while that is definitely a part of being a leader, I hadn’t placed a lot of thought into how to go about developing that type of respect. I thought that I had to do something large and monumental to be noticed and for people to look up to me. Something that really changed in me this summer was my realization that leadership can be cultivated with a single thought or sentence. When you try to think of life in different ways, people listen and are interested in what you have to say. I found out that I didn’t have to make some huge discovery or accomplish some great task, but mutual respect, kindness, and introspective thought goes a long way in making people listen to what you have to say.

Going into this job, I didn’t know what to expect really. I knew I was going to spend a lot of time outdoors but I had no frame of reference of what to expect in terms of potential coworkers or campers. In all honestly, I didn’t really love my job for the first week. However, on the second week of the first session of campers, I led a trip that was focused on outdoor leadership for older campers around the ages of 13-15. Before that, I didn’t feel like I had any chance of making an impact on any of my campers. During this five day backpacking trip, we climbed multiple 14,000ft mountains which required constant encouragement from me in order to have all of my campers make it up together. At night we would do leadership activities where we discussed how our experiences in nature can translate over to developing leadership skills in our regular lives. For the first two days of the trip, I was pretty discouraged by the feedback I was getting. This was a huge lesson for me in patience because the next day I had a wonderful conversation with a few of the boys on the trip about how thankful they were for the opportunity to experience a place that not many people, least of all people their age, were able to experience and how they didn’t take that for granted. This opened up many other conversations and incredible bonding experiences over the next few days. At the end of the trip, we had a ‘debrief’ where we talked as a group about things we learned that week. To my surprise, many of the kids talked about things that I had done or the example I was to them that they wanted to get better at emulating. And here I was thinking that I was being completely ineffective. This was incredibly humbling and made me realize how I had completely underestimated my campers, but it was also quite an amazing feeling to know that I could make a difference.

Another experience that I had during the summer that reaffirmed by belief that making a difference in someone’s life can constitute a simple sentence happened towards the end of the summer with my second group of campers. On Sunday nights, the camp as a whole would hike up a small mountain on the camp’s property and we would sit and reflect on the week we had just had, or the upcoming week and all of the adventures that we would partake in. On the last Sunday of the month, during this time of reflection, everyone was allowed to write down a quote from anyone that they appreciated or helped them process life in general. These quotes were then read for everyone’s benefit. I had become fairly close with my campers throughout the camp session, but I wasn’t entirely sure how much they had taken away from the summer. Most of the quotes that were read were by important historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, or John F. Kennedy. To my surprise though, quote after quote was read that was accredited to me and were things that I had said to my campers during serious talks that we’d had throughout the session at camp. I had no idea that the little things I said were making that large of an impact. Obviously I’m not saying I’m on the level of JFK or MLK, but knowing that I was able to make a positive impression on these children at this level was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

Finally, being a leader amongst my peers has always been hard for me. I think that this experience has equipped with the ability to communicate much better and have more patience with my peers. I don’t have any exact examples of how this came about, but the whole summer was one big learning process that was beneficial for leadership growth on all levels. Usually when people my age get together, it can turn very immature very fast. I think something that helped me develop leadership skills in this setting was putting myself apart from that culture. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun with them, it just means that I didn’t get sucked to that level, and people noticed. This allowed me to gain more respect from my peers because they realized that I was someone who they could look up to and someone who set a good example to follow. Of course I’m not saying I’m perfect in any way, but it’s cool to have another way that the small things in life can help establish you as a good leader.

I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. I met some amazing people and was introduced to some very unique personalities. I went into this job quite skeptical about what I was walking into, but there are very few settings in my life where I’ve been welcomed so eagerly by complete strangers who in a few months turned into some of my best friends. During my time at Ohio State, it’s been hard for me to cultivate my leadership skills because any leadership positions are incredibly competitive to obtain. Never would I have thought that I would engage that side of myself so quickly and competently in one summer. I now know that I can go into any new setting with confidence because I believe that I am qualified to lead others as long as I work hard on developing strong relationships with those around me.

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“The Mountains are Calling, and I Must Go.”

My STEP Signature Project was a 27 day backpacking adventure through Yosemite, King’s Canyon, Sequoia and Inyo National Parks in California. My trip’s focal experience was Leadership, and we demonstrated leadership primarily through being “Leader-of-the-Day,” the day on the trip where each student had the chance to be in charge of the group for the day. Responsibilities included monitoring the morale of the group, arranging camping and eating locations, tracking elevation and weather conditions, teaching the group a wilderness skill and about a leadership theory (mine was Behavioral Theory).

The purpose behind STEP Signature Projects, and STEP in general, is that you leave the program transformed or changed in some manner. For me, this change can be seen in my appreciation for solitude, for being a small part of a much larger world, public parks and the environment, and that sometimes the best leadership can be demonstrated through being a good follower. Before this trip, I do not know if I could honestly tell you that I enjoyed being alone. Being by myself bored me – outside of reading a novel or newspaper. Afterwards though, I relish in having a bit of alone time each day, in which I can ride my bike, read, pray or think.

The purpose behind STEP Signature Projects, and STEP in general, is that you leave the program transformed or changed in some manner. For me, this change can be seen in my appreciation for solitude, for being a small part of a much larger world, public parks and the environment, and that sometimes the best leadership can be demonstrated through being a good follower. Before this trip, I do not know if I could honestly tell you that I enjoyed being alone. Being by myself bored me – outside of reading a novel or newspaper. Afterwards though, I relish in having a bit of alone time each day, in which I can ride my bike, read, pray or think.

Surrounded by mountains for four weeks certainly makes one feel small. Really small. It is humbling to realize that the world is so much bigger than I had ever imagined, even though I had read and seen maps and pictures. But realizing my smallness led me to become an advocate for public parks and the environment, because I was able to feel the impact of being in those spaces, and how valuable those places are for learning, self-reflection and widening one’s worldview.

Appreciating solitude was not easy in the beginning, but it was something that grew on me as the trip wore on. Being in the backwoods of the American wilderness with the same group of twelve people for such a duration makes one seek solitude. Daily required “silent times” allowed each participant the opportunity to reflect separately from the group setting. These times were relished, as these were the moments that I took to pray – for my group, for patience, for my family & friends back home, for strength, and for wisdom -, to read – to lose myself in a novel, giving my mind a break -, and to explore my surroundings.

One particular memory that sticks in my mind to this day is camping at Dollar Lake. We stopped hiking mid-afternoon due to unceasing rain, and we parked next to a little mountain lake to spend the night. While the rest of my fellow backpackers crawled into their tents, I climbed up to the top of a nearby ridge. Arriving at the top, I turned and looked all around at the most captivating view of my life. I heard bubbling mountain streams rushing from the peaks, gaped as craggy stone mountains glistened under the rain and sun peeking out from the clouds, and noticed the stillness of the trees and lakes shimmering below. I had a heart-to-heart conversation with God on top of that ridge, which calmed and cleansed me.

Appreciating public parks and the environment came easily out in the Californian wilderness. On one of the first days, we toured Yosemite and got to stand next to the giant redwoods. As we stood looking at the trees, we were standing on the outline of one of the biggest redwoods that had been engraved on the stone path – we had the entire group standing inside of it, with room to spare. Another moment was the sunset at the Guitar Lake. I have attached that picture; no description that I can write will be worthy of that view. That is why I appreciate public parks and the environment all that much more passionately. I will include the evening at Charlotte Lake as yet another poignant example of environmental beauty. The lake, with Mount Bago rising majestically behind it, was the perfect setting for a cool evening in the woods. The water entertained us as we skipped stones across it, and the wooded site was ideal for hanging up my hammock.

I had always appreciated a good follower growing up and taking part in leadership roles. This adventure brought home the importance of me fulfilling the follower role. Our group comprised individuals with a varying level of camping, backpacking, and outdoors experience. One of the first leaders-of-the-day, who had limited outdoors experience, was stuck with a dilemma of where to camp for the night. After several minutes of tense discussion, I told him that whatever decision he made I would firmly stand by him, even if it was not the option that I wanted. This gave him the confidence to make a decision just a few moments later. I also learned that being a good follower is not being a blind follower. That is, there is a necessary questioning of the leader and his or hers line of reasoning or thinking that can help them grow and better serve the group.

But does this experience actually mean anything? I definitely think so. I recently wrapped up my internship with The Wilderness Society, in which we ran a “Protect Our Parks” campaign. Before this trip, I enjoyed the outdoors, but I was not an active advocate for protecting those places. After this trip, I felt a desire to help protect these places so that others could share in these experiences in the future. I bought a bicycle when I got back, and now I go biking along the Olentangy Trail and around Columbus. Having a bicycle has opened up more outdoor opportunities, especially living in an urban setting.

As for the future, I plan on working with NextGen Climate this summer here in Columbus. NextGen is an environmental advocacy organization based out of San Francisco. By working with them, I would have the opportunity to continue with environmental organizing as I did this past semester working with The Wilderness Society.

In closing, this trip was the opportunity of a lifetime. I further developed my leadership, which is now being applied to environmental advocacy. This is a new direction career-wise than where I was previously headed, but I find this work both invigorating and necessary. I do not know if I would be in the position that I am in today if it was not for being a part of STEP.

All geared up a few days into the trip (somewhere between Twin Lakes and Ranger Lake)

All geared up a few days into the trip (somewhere between Twin Lakes and Ranger Lake)                         

Guitar Lake, a few days before summiting Mt. Whitney

Guitar Lake, a few days before summiting Mt. Whitney

Exploring Granite Basin

Exploring Granite Basin

Leadership experience – STEP

(Side note: I tried to add a photo and it just wouldn’t accept or upload any!)

Samuele Asfaha


For my STEP project, I served a leadership position dedicated to empowering the youth in the community through education. I was able to provide programming for students in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties (Maryland) in the forms of after-school tutoring, leadership development, a junior chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, League of United Latin American Citizen councils, college preparation and drop-out prevention programs.

I learned that there are many bright minds that exist. They might not be in the best living conditions but they are definitely leaders in the making. There are so many misguided individuals in this world that only look for a sign of hope. Something or someone they could grasp on to for guidance and direction. I learned how impactful this organization is on our youth. They can start from such a young age and build to be a future leader of America. I learn that there is others just like me, who want to help and encourage our youth to strive to their fullest potential. Most importantly I learned the value of education within our youth. This is the pipeline that will build onto a life of success and accomplishments.

This opportunity impacted me by giving me confidence within the education system. It gave me the confidence to believe in those that were left with unfortunate conditions. Before this position, I had been an open minded individual. I just never knew the influence I was able to have on younger students. I have been able to come to realize that, with the motivation needed, anything is possible. As a minority myself, this reaffirms that there are no boundaries that can be set up to make you fail if you go out and get. It is all about the desire to make something of yourself.

This experience has given me the desire to continue to succeed at the rate that I do. It has been able to provide me more resources outside of the classroom in order to succeed. It has been able to push me to be even better than the person next to me because of the high academic of some the students’ and children. My life goals have been centralized. I have been able to see the motivation from my presence and want to be able to do the same to others in the near future. Seeing all those students’ heading off to college was a great moment that had shown me that I could truly make an impact on minorities.

I’ve got to say that my favorite part of this STEP project was the ability to influence the minds of individuals of all ages. Being able to have them look up to me as a role model. Having the great opportunity to watch them grow as the summer progressed. I can truly say that the experience these youth had was a meaningful one to both them and me. We were able to bond on many issues that we felt were commonplace in society today. I was fascinated by the intellect that these kids had as well as the high schools students.

Leadership Step Reflection


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Name: Kaylee Siffert


Type of Project: Leadership

For my STEP project, I traveled to Tampa, Florida to attend the American Association for Respiratory Care Congress. This event consisted of top respiratory care professionals sharing the newest research in the field. Several of my professors and graduates of Ohio State presented throughout the conference.  I spent my time in Florida attending presentations and learning about exciting advancements that are currently happening in medicine, as well as doing a little sightseeing in Tampa.

When I first planned this project I was a little apprehensive. I thought I would be traveling alone, spending most of the trip alone, and just attending a bunch of presentations. I was also a little worried because I tend to be shy and attending a giant conference is a little outside of my comfort zone. However, as soon as I walked onto my plane, I saw several of my professors. The fear of being alone quickly disappeared and I was able to focus on making great connections. Once at the conference, I realized that I was probably one of the youngest in attendance. However, this was to my benefit because most people were impressed and excited that I was attending a national conference before even graduating college. I realized that age didn’t matter because we were all just as excited about the field of respiratory. I was even able to share ideas and give fresh perspectives, because I was still in school. This conference showed me that being passionate about what you do, and making connections with others that are just as passionate, is the most important thing you can do for your career.

When we arrived in Tampa, I found out that I was staying at the same hotel as three of my professors. They took a cab with me and then invited me to eat dinner with them. We met up for dinner, and two graduates from the Ohio State respiratory program joined us. We all quickly became friends and I spent the rest of the evening with them, meeting other people at the conference. I got to talk to therapists from across the nation. Many of them encouraged me to come to their hospitals during my senior practicum, because they wanted to give me an opportunity to work with them. At one point, I had been talking to a group of people for a while when my friend told me that one of them was the future president of the AARC. I was so surprised that he was just casually conversing with me.  I had no idea that I was going to be in direct contact with some of the most prominent figures of the event. I even got to take a selfie with the future AARC president.

The next day six seniors from the Ohio State respiratory program joined us in Tampa. It was great to spend time with them, since they are my mentors in the program. Together we attended many presentations, many of which were put on by our professors. It was eyeopening to see my professors sharing their research and knowing that my class gets to benefit from their knowledge. One of my professors even won an impressive award.  It became very evident as to why Ohio State has one of the best respiratory programs in the nation.

The two graduates from the program were also selected to present the research that they did during their senior year. I found that exciting, because that could eventually be me. Hearing about everyone’s research has helped to spark ideas of what I would like to research during my senior year. I also got to see some of the newest technology in respiratory at the expo. There are many new inventions that I will probably be using once I am a part of the medical field. An added bonus of the expo was that I won a raffle and got a free iPod touch!

I never could have imagined all the connections I was going to make through this project. I got to know my professors, OSU graduates, and respiratory therapy professionals from across the nation. I now have a list of people I can contact when I have questions or need recommendations. Their passion for the field has also made me certain that I chose the right degree. Respiratory is not the most known field, but everyone I met is incredibly motivated about changing that. I’m so excited to be able to contribute to the research that they are doing. Academically, I now have so much more appreciation for the respiratory program at Ohio State. I always knew it was a spectacular program, but seeing the work my professors and graduates are doing solidified that. I have the opportunity to do great things with my time in the program, and I hope I can do just that. Attending this conference has definitely made me want to achieve higher goals.  I look forward to attending the conference in the future, and someday present my own work there.

STEP Reflection

STEP was not what I expected. To be honest I signed up for STEP because I was under the assumption that it meant “Second Year Transfer Project” and that it was focused on transfer students. I expected it to feel more like a club, where attendance was optional but everyone wanted to be present. Since I was transferring to main campus I figured this would be a great way to meet new people. It was soon after that I got an email telling me how by joining this group I had the opportunity to earn $2000 (I had no idea how, but it got my attention). A while later I received another email telling me that I could also earn a free IPad, and while my STEP grant was then demoted to $1500, I managed to get a free IPad! When we finally met our cohort at the beginning of the year, I was surprised to find out how dedicated our professors were to helping us better ourselves. As the year went on we got to learn about each other and what each person was hoping to do with their STEP money. I initially had no idea what to do with my STEP grant, Study-Abroad would be enlightening, however $1500 wouldn’t take me very far for very long. I then looked at Internships but heard that if I were to accept a paid internship, I wouldn’t qualify for the STEP grant and in my major of Construction Systems Management, unpaid internships are almost non-existent. After panicking for a few months I met one-on-one with my STEP advisor, Amy Barnes, who convinced me to look into the Leadership aspect of STEP. After carefully looking into Leadership, I began to have my heart set on a 28 day backpacking expedition  trough California. While I had never been backpacking before in my life, I was ready to challenge myself. The trip took place this past June-July. The trip in its entirety was an indescribable experience valued well over $2000. Out in the wilderness among the mountains, you discover who you truly are and where you want to go. I never thought I would be traveling farther than I ever have been from my home to traverse over 134 miles and climbing Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, all while carrying 40 pounds of gear and making friendships that will certainly last a lifetime. I wasn’t always thrilled to wake up and go to my STEP meetings every Monday morning, but I’m thankful that I was given this opportunity to challenge and make myself a better person. Had I not taken this challenge, I would have not discovered my overwhelming love and appreciation for the outdoors.

There and Back Again: A STEP Leadership Reflection

On June 24, 2015, I set off with 13 strangers to travel cross country for a 26 day, 130+ mile backpacking trek in the back woods of California to summit the highest point in the lower 48 state, Mount Whitney. On July 6, 2015, I returned home, alone, after 13 days, only 43+ miles and the only summited was my fear or oatmeal.

I had never backpacked before; I had never even camped before I set off on this crazy trip. I was nervous and excited. I felt in over my head from the moment we had started packing our packs; the group had Eagle Scouts and Golden Girls, and people who had gone on multiple Outdoor Adventure Center trips before. Although I felt this overwhelming feeling that I was about to step into a territory I had never even come close to being near with the weight of the world on my shoulders, I had never been more determined or thrilled.

Anticipation and nerves were in the air, literally. We flew to California soaring over flat fields of the Midwest and banked around the ever imposing mountains of the National Parks that we were supposed to summit. Our first few days were meant to get us acclimated to the elevation difference between the High Sierras and the smooth land of Ohio. We took this time to see the natural wonder – El Capitan, General Sherman, Half Dome, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove, In-N-Out Burger. Walking among these trees, that are hundreds and hundreds of year’s old made feel so small and so insignificant, only a small blip in their lives. Gazing upon these unyielding land masses that can be rewritten by the tiniest of droplets, made me feel as though I could do anything. My soul had ignited with a flame that I never knew existed, let alone ever fathom it could burn so searing hot.

Being immersed in the grandeur of nature made my allergies rage, which was particularly strange considering I don’t have any allergies.

The walk out of the camp and into the wilds of Yosemite National Park was like walking the gauntlet towards Death’s Door it seemed. This was the last chance to turn back, last chance to take off this heavy as hell pack that was breaking my shoulders, crushing my back and weighing down my I’m-a-rain-drop-I-can-beat-this-mountain spirits.
The first three days on the trail were wonderful, they went by quickly, and my pack seemed to be not even there at all, I could not have been happier! Ha, just kidding. Those three days seemed as if I had actually crossed through Death’s Door and into the 9th circle of Hell. I was miserable. I continuously thought with each dragging step that I had made the biggest mistake of my life, and there were over 20 days. My back and shoulders felt like they belonged to a circus pony after years of being ridden by screaming obese children. My legs felt like they belonged to the pony too. I wanted to cry ever few minutes, luckily I was always so thirsty that I never did, could not waste the precious fluids. It did not help that mutant swarms of blood-glutinous mosquitos blanketed the entire landscape like a nefarious insect blizzard. On top of all of this, my dang allergies would just not let up, no matter the amount of Allegra I took.

It is often said that the 3rd times the charm, in my case, the 4th day was just that, a charm. When I awoke on that morning, it was as if I had crystalized into a new person. The miserableness and negativity had cycled out of my being. Not once from then on did I feel I had made a mistake by coming or reconsidered my choice of going, I enjoyed myself every second from that moment on. I had finally found my trail legs and spirit. For the first time I had my breath taken away, well actually I was out of breath most of the time but metaphorically speaking, it was the first time. I saw the vistas not as a certain amount of steps or minutes until the break, but for what I believe they are, the souls of the Earth. Plus I ate oatmeal for the first time ever! Grant it, I was starving and probably would have eaten pine cones, but this was a huge breakthrough for me, one I will never forget, or do again.

The next few days on the trail were actually wonderful! They went by quickly but not fast, the conversations on the trail were hilarious, heartbreaking and humbling while the views were just as equal. My pack was still super heavy, but 50 pounds of gear will always be heavy. Just as I began to experience what I thought and hoped I would, it was all taken away.

Those allergies I had, well they were actually a severe cold that I had gotten from the plane ride. Hiking up one of the passes on a sandy trail in 108⁰ weather, I had my first asthma attack in years, and then just a mile from out evening camp, I had my second one. That night across a bridge, far from the laughter around the fire, I was told I would have to leave. Asthma attacks are cause for immediate evacuation. My heart broke. I felt an ache I had never felt in my life. It was so deep I knew it would stay with me forever, in some shape or form, a regret and hurt you remember well into age even if you don’t remember what it is from. The next day was supposed to be our group toughest yet. Over 11 miles up Avalanche Pass and down the other side comprised of a dizzying staircase of stone.

I set out early before the rest of the group with two of the group leaders. A thunderstorm pursued us the entire way up the pass, but it never caught us. I suppose there is a metaphor or a great analogy to life in there somewhere. Summiting the top of my own little Mount Whitney, I felt I had done what I came there to do. Yes, this was an infant compared to the real thing, but it was the best I was going to get, and I couldn’t leave this place empty handed or hearted.

I spent the July 4th weekend alone at a campsite while the others celebrated together in the wilderness. But just because I was in civilization doesn’t mean my time was any less wild. I had three days to get from the middle of Yosemite National Forest to the Fresno Air Port. Armed with no cell phone, no previous knowledge of the area, no idea how to get there and a handful of quarters, I set out to go home. This is where I should mention that I typically am a very composed person and hardly ever cry to strangers.

I was able to book a hotel room and shuttle for the night before my fight with the help of the wonderful people at the Cedar Grove Lodge, and I had a bus ticket to go from the edge of the park into the city. The only problem was that I had to get out of the park to a bus station over 30 miles away from a place where the closest thing to Uber is a donkey. Only one option: hitchhike. After $7 worth of quarters were eaten by this horribly antiquated contraption called a “pay phone”, I finally go through to Ohio. Now just to put into perspective, I am a 20-year-old, 115-pound girl, in a strange place, all alone, disgustingly sick and had to ask a stranger for a ride to a bus station. This may actually be the definition of unsafe. My mother also decided to remind me of this. After the pay phone had cut off our run around I-can-yell-louder, no-I-can-yell-louder phone call, I went to a bench by the river and sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed. Oh yeah and I sobbed some more. I was in a full three-year-old missing their teddy bear meltdown. And that my friends, is when it happened, like an angel sent by God himself, bathed in the golden midday sun of the river bank, Mamma Weasley asked if I was alright. Just like a three-year-old finding their teddy bear, I was shocked into calmness, for about five seconds. Once I tried explaining my situation I began to sob again; it is amazing she understood any of it at all, to be honest, or that I hadn’t died of fluid loss yet. But somehow that yellow haired ethereal spirit did understand my incoherent bawling babble and she spoke to most wondrous words to ever be spoken aloud: “We can give you a ride if you’d like.” Well, that was easy, I didn’t even have to put my thumb out, only cry and lose the little remaining pride I had left.

At 8 o’clock in the morning, the real life Weasleys picked me up. When I say the real life Weasleys, I mean it. First there were a million of them, all boys, one girl. Second they all had bright red hair and adorable faces covered with freckles. Now I know I am no Draco Malfoy, but they must have been Weasleys, Mormon Weasleys from California, who like to give stranded hikers rides to bus stations.

After a sickening bus ride up a winding road, an awkward shuttle ride to the hotel, an evening of nonstop showering, two long airplane rides and a billion tissues, I was finally home, again, after only being gone for 13 days.

I expected to use my STEP money to go on an amazing journey of pushing my physical limits, discovering the parts of myself I had never known existed, and to meet amazing people I would never forget. And, you know what, I did just that. Though it turned out much differently than what was on the itinerary, I had an amazing time that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I still feel that deep ache, I still wish I could have done what I originally set out to do, but I see this as an excuse to return one day to summit that great mountain, and to fill that ache that’s still there. This was not the journey I expected or wanted, but I feel like it was the unexpected journey that I needed.


Name: Allison Noonan

Type of Project: Leadership


My STEP project focused on developing leadership skills in conjunction with holding the position of Daily Operations Manager for Summer Conference Housing at The Ohio State University this summer. Using the funds I was able to improve my leadership and management skills.

I really enjoyed my time being employed by Summer Conference housing. During my three months of being a Daily Operations Manager, I have learned so much. Learning how to lead a staff of forty-five and maintain a professional environment was challenging but yet very rewarding. I have learned a great deal about how to handle complex situations, confronting a problem, and maintaining staff morale. Each day brought new changes and overall it was a very rewarding experience.

Although I had training that I had to do to work for Summer Conference Housing, I feel as though I learned more through the everyday experiences than through that training. After every situation that I handled I would always ask myself if there was a better way to handle that situations. If there were a better way I would implement it into the next time. I learned that sometimes things may not work out perfectly but if you take time to review everything that happen you can figure out what went wrong and change it for the next time.

With this experience, Summer Conference Housing has changed me through the experiences that happened and the wonderful co-workers that were there to help if need. From this I learned that you have to go with what you have and to be open for new experiences or change. Since this summer I have been looking into adding a minor. The minor would be in leadership.

I have been going back and forth about this because it would mean staying at Ohio State for an extra semester or taking summer classes. I have looked up the classes that I need to take for a minor. It would require a minimum of 15 credit hours. I will make the decision of adding a leadership minor over break when I will be able to talk to my parents about it.

The skills that I have learned will help with me future career in engineering. The leadership skill along with some others like working in a group and problem solving will be necessary for a career in engineering. When applying for internships this would be a huge help in showing the skills that I have learned over my years at Ohio State and my time working for Summer Conference Housing.

STEP Reflection Post

Tricia Nagy

Leadership Experience

My STEP project entailed me taking a trip to California with a few of my other sorority sisters to our national conference. While there I went through leadership workshops and other workshops to help my grow as both a college student and a sister of my sorority.

While on my experience, my view of both myself and the world around me changed. My view on myself was altered as I met other sisters and was given the chance to be who I wanted to be while in a different state. I met so many people for the first time that I was able to choose what version of me they were going to see. My sisters have a saying to give the best version of yourself, and as a Columbus native, it is sometimes hard to change the perception of people who I have spent my entire life around, but in California I was able to be myself and people took that for what it was. I was able to give the best version of myself with no pre-conceived notions, and that allowed me to be a happier version of myself. I was able to connect with people from all over and was able to better learn how to be myself, and to even return home a better version of myself. As someone who cannot wait to leave the state after graduation, this trip allowed me to see how much else was out there, and even lead me to return to California later in the year to explore my options for after graduation.

This experience changed my view on the world around me as it showed me just how much more is out there. I was able to travel to the other side of the country and see a whole new lifestyle. I was able to connect with people from all over the United States and parts of Canada and it helped me to realize that there is more than just the small college town in Ohio where I have spent my entire life. It also made me realize that things could be much worse, and allowed me to step back and appreciate the life I live, no matter how bad I want to leave Ohio it is a place that has given me the opportunity to be able to leave and live a life that is pleasing to me once I leave. Overall this trip changed my view on myself and the world and gave me a reality check while also making me excited for my future.

As I discussed a little bit above, the new relationships, new atmosphere, and the overall event are what led me to these changes. The relationships I formed with sisters both new and old allowed me to experience life through different lenses and learn from them. I was able to hear how other chapters do things and that allowed me to come back and help my chapter to evolve into more. I was able to gain insight on what works and what doesn’t, and to also learn how people have used organization not only to help become a better college student but to transform into the working world. I was able to better appreciate my organization, as more than just a social aspect to my four years here at Ohio State, I was able to learn how to utilize it and become a better person overall due to these relationships.

The new atmosphere also allowed me to change as it allowed me to be myself and see a city so much greater than what Ohio has to offer me. It showed me new job opportunities, living opportunities, and the opportunity to live a life that is so different than the one I currently live. The atmosphere allowed me to be myself and pushed me to always show the best version of myself. It gave me an opportunity to experience business like situations and brought me closer with the members of my chapter in a way that changed our day to day interactions with one another.

The overall event led me to this change as it is what gave me the opportunity to grow. Being chose by my chapter to attend the conference was a dream come true and and opportunity that I will always be thankful for. I was able to go live a different life for a week and experience things that I had only dreamed of with some of the greatest people in my life. I was able to meet the executive board of my sorority and to grow not only as a member of my organization, but as a college student and as a person overall.

This change is important to my life because it gave me the drive to come back and be a better student, to live a more positive life and to enjoy everyday of my college experience. It gave me an outlook on life that has changed my day to day life, and my goals for my future. This trip changed my entire life and I have STEP and my sorority to thank for it. This was the opportunity of a lifetime and I got more out of it than I truly thought was possible. Because of my experience I am a better student, daughter, friend, and person.

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Matt Davis’ STEP Reflection

For my STEP Signature Project, I selected to pursue leadership development.  Throughout the course of the year, I have had the chance to attend leadership development conferences throughout the country in Chicago, Richmond, Nashville, Chicago again, and even right here in Columbus.


My view of the world was profoundly impacted through my year of leadership development.  I really learned a lot about others from all of these opportunities.  The most profound realization I have found is that I must encourage the heart of those I lead.  It is necessary to take the time to say thank you, to express appreciation, and to celebrate small wins with your team.  People will not continue if morale is low, so it is essential to encourage the heart of your team members in order to continue pushing forward.


At the Ruck Leadership Institute in Richmond, VA, I met two of the best men I have ever associated with.  Brad Nahrstadt and Adam Seiber have had a very large impact on who I am and how I lead.  I am honored to have been mentored by them at Ruck over the course of 5 intense days of 18 hours of daily programming.  They asked me to take a step back and assess my team instead of charging head first into the fray.  I learned that I am different from the vast majority of people and cannot base my leadership style off of purely my own experience; I must draw from the collective experiences of those around me.  Despite that fact that I enjoy working even without praise, breaks, or celebrations, the rest of the world does not operate that way.  I must take the time to celebrate small wins in order to keep my team moving forward throughout my life.

One of the activities I greatly benefited from was the Resume 201 workshop at Life After College – Chicago.  I knew that my time at LAC was not about me.  I spent nearly the entire session mentoring other young men on how to put together a resume and how to make it look professional.  It was a different experience for me because I am only 20 years old yet I was teaching others that were my own age.  I have never formally taught a class or anything of that nature so it was odd to take the majority of the time in the session to teach those around me because the facilitator could only help so many people per hour.

Even though it is not necessarily related to the change in my perspective, I forged two important relationships at Sigma Phi Epsilon’s 54th Grand Chapter Conclave.  I had the honor of meeting Jay Hurt and Bill Tragos at Conclave.  I had never met either of the two outstanding men before and had only heard of Bill.  It was a privilege to get to know them and hear about a vision for the future of SigEp.  I cannot help but think about how the shared bond between us, wrestling, played a role in our chance meeting.  Bill’s father wrestled for Greece nearly a century ago, and Jay’s friend and brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon was Frank Rader, a fellow alumus of Davidson and former Board Member of USA Wrestling.  I would not have had the chance to meet both Jay and Bill if it were not for the sport of wrestling.  I now look up to Bill and Jay and aspire to one day be able to give as generously as they have given.


Leadership development is intrinsically tied to my future plans and goals.  I want to be a Regional Director for a year after graduation.  Following my time as an RD, I intend to enroll in an M.D./M.H.A. program.  Leadership is necessary for anyone desiring to enter into an administrative role.  As a result of this past year, I firmly believe I am better prepared to serve my Fraternity as an RD and to serve my fellow people as a leader in providing healthcare.

The Sigma Phi Epsilon - Ohio Gamma Chapter at the 54th Grand Chapter Conclave in Nashville, Tennessee

The Sigma Phi Epsilon – Ohio Gamma Chapter at the 54th Grand Chapter Conclave in Nashville, Tennessee

The Buckeye Leadership Fellows Fifth Anniversary Reception

The Buckeye Leadership Fellows Fifth Anniversary Reception