STEP Signature Project in Winter Park, Colorado

Mary Macleod

Type of Project: Leadership

For my STEP Signature Project, I spent 11.5 weeks in the mountains of Colorado working at a YMCA while participating in a leadership program through my church on campus, H2O. During the program, we met three times a week for session where guest speakers would come in and discuss different topics from leadership to faith. While working at the YMCA, my job was in the food service department working in the kitchen.

Going into my STEP Signature project I knew that I enjoyed being comfortable and that I did not like going out of my comfort zone. Experiencing this summer spent out in Colorado made me realize that going out of your comfort zone and doing uncomfortable things is not that bad and can even be fun. This summer I also realized just how big the world is and how many different cultures there are. Living in the United States, we are a very patriotic bunch that, I believe, are very content and tend to want to stay focused just on the greatness of our own country and culture. This summer I got to experience and learn about other cultures that made me register how closed off and small minded I was. Prior to my Leadership Program and working at the YMCA of the Rockies, I was not a huge fan of international students. I lived in Morrill Tower my freshman year with a number of international students where I did not have a good living situation or experience. After this summer, I can 100 percent say that my opinions have changed.

Over this past summer, I worked in the kitchen at the YMCA of the Rockies as a cook’s helper. My job as cook’s helper was crazier than I expected and one of the hardest jobs I have ever had to do. We prepped for, prepared for, and fed up to 800 guests per meal, three times a day. For a majority of the summer, it was not a great time and I questioned if I had made the right decision going out to Colorado. As I look back on it, the thing I believe made it all worth it was the people that I worked with.

The kitchen staff at the YMCA of the Rockies was one of the most diverse group of people I have ever seen in my life. Snow Mountain Ranch had a program that enables international students to come and work at the YMCA from all over the world. My coworkers were from everywhere; Malaysia, Spain, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, China, and the Philippines just to name a few. I not only got to work with these international students every day, but also got to become friends with them. I got the privilege to experience each and every one of their cultures every day. Every Tuesday night of every week, there was a presentation on a different country given by the students from that country. There, they got to present and show off their countries, explaining their histories and favorite parts of their homeland. It was an amazing time where I got to see the passion and pride that each international student had for their country. They all got so excited to be able to share and teach about what made their own country so special. My favorite presentation was probably the one on Colombia. My close coworker and friend—Andrés—is from Colombia, so he was presenting. During the presentation, Andrés and the rest of the international students from Colombia taught us how to salsa. It was so much fun!

Not only did I just get to experience different cultures at work and on Tuesday nights, but I got to hang out with my international coworkers outside of work too. On a couple of occasions, we would all get together at night and everyone would cook a dish from their country. These were my favorite nights where I really got to experience the different cultures first hand and get to hear about what the international students enjoyed about the United States and what they also missed about their home—mostly they missed the food.

I truly enjoyed getting to learn about the different cultures, but I enjoy the friendships I made even more. I believe that my STEP Signature Project this past summer was vital to me as a human being. I learned more than I could have ever imagined and was submersed in an environment where it was impossible to be closed minded and stay in ones’ comfort zone. Because of this past summer, I will no longer seek to remain where it is comfortable, but choose to pursue opportunities where I can embrace and learn about others and their cultures. I now know how to go out of my way in situations and be better at meeting new people, always keeping an open mind and keeping misperceptions away—a way of life and a set of skills that I would have never gained without my STEP Signature project.

Nate Smith’s Leadership STEP Experience

This summer I was fortunate enough to use my Second Year Transformational Experience stipend to attend H2O’s Winter Park Summer Leadership Training Program (WPLT). This program focused on finding ones vocation and teaching the leadership skills to get closer to the occupational calling – whether in the ministry or not, reading through Samuel 1 & 2 to observe the life of David, and working at the YMCA of the Rockies at Winter Park Resort in Granby, Colorado. I focused on shaping my professional skills to obtain a Co-op for the fall semester in my current major, Industrial and Systems Engineering, leading a life to be a man after God’s own heart, and working 40+ hours a week preparing food for the buffet style dining hall in the resort.


During my time in Colorado, I was very much challenged professionally. I have never been very strong in with professionality since I have always wanted to keep it real with the people I interact with. I have never enjoyed the act of networking to truly network – however, when networking to try and get to know the person and appreciate them for their strengths, weaknesses and abilities, I excel; for I am passionate about people. Therefor the job search, seemingly existing as number oriented and superficial, was not my thing. However, if I wanted a “real-life” job experience, I would need to push through and try with maximum effort for interviews. I applied to 30+ jobs before realizing that my resume had the 4th applications employer still left in the subject line. A rookie mistake.


I was crushed but counted those other 25 resumes as loss and moved on. I reached out to the Engineering Career Services to ask for assistance in the job search. I was hoping to let them know that I was still intensely searching for a position for fall of 2018, even though it was late in the job search, and if maybe they had an employer who reached out again for a late co-op/internship I would be interested. ECS responded telling me they had no other job opportunities and with improvements on my resume. I was once again defeated – I had been through ENGR 2367, Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity new member resume workshops, and multiple teacher, parent and friend resume critics, but once again my resume still had errors.


I was given the advice to reach out to my network, that “the best success comes when you can make a connection at the company as well to try to help get your resume passed along”. This news hurt again, because I have always relationally networked and asking others for assistance seemed to me like I was using them to forward my resume, which lacked connection. I got over my pride and reached out to an engineering group-chat for a little help if they could connect me with current employers or other college recruiters. However, my relaxed informal message was, understandably, taken with the attitude that I hadn’t been trying earlier in the summer. I received a message from a good friend detailing better ways to network with more specific interests. The truth was – I would have taken anything that got me out of school for the Fall 2018 semester.


My Spring 2018 semester was riddled with apathy, waves of slight depression, and over-stressed with no attempts to fix up my act. I received C’s and C+’s in four of my five classes – not comparable to my 3.2 GPA from the three semesters before. I needed a break from school. The lack of major classes, having only taken a single two credit hour Industrial and Systems Engineering class in my four semesters, terrible sleep schedules, and losing my interest in activities which I once found zeal, had left me hungry for an experience that would re-activate my fading excitement at The Ohio State University.


After the error in my resumes, the response from ECS, and the inefficient attempt to use my network – was at rock bottom crying on the ground in my dorm at Winter Park LT. I called in to work and told them I would be an hour late – I needed to gather myself. I called all four members of my family; Nobody answered. I called the WPLT men’s leader and set up a meeting to talk the next day. My mom called back – we spoke, I calmed down, she walked me through my drafted responses to my friends who truly wanted me to do the best I could when reaching out to my network. I thanked them for their responses and took what they told me to heart.


The next day I spoke with Kyle Winters on my job search. After over an hour of discussion, we came to a conclusion. I had talked about what I wanted, what I thought my parents wanted and what I thought was truly best for the long term – but not once did I pray and ask God what their plan for me entailed. I had tried to really take over the professional portion of my life, one of the more insecure aspects of my life. Not once offering myself to my Lord and asking what they wanted for me in the Fall of 2018. The next day I prayed my first of a series of prayers to God. In my prayer I spoke on what I wanted and how I wanted to achieve it but told God to block each of my efforts if it was not the plan for me. I was not going to pray and stop trying for what I wanted to do for the Fall, however if all of my efforts failed, it was not defeat, but rather destined. I would keep my head up, never feeling defeated knowing it was God’s plan.


This was a major shift in mentality. Not only was I reassured in my second strong attempt to search for jobs, but I knew my insecurity was abolished – for if I did not receive and offers, even any callbacks, I knew it was for the better. Luckily, I never had to face that situation to see if I would truly believe it. Within two weeks of my prayers, I had received four call backs, two interviews and potential part time internships for the Spring 2019 Semester when I would be back at Ohio State. I ended up with two offers and plans with a different company for the Spring semester. I accepted an offer and prayed a prayer of thanks.


In this reflection, which is a self-reflection consisting of my own opinions and reactions – which in themselves are justified because I felt them, I recognize that I have been my own vice in many of these times. During the 2018 Spring semester, I was not active enough to change my ways, during the summer I made the mistake of keeping the wrong company name in the objective line, and during the summer I was insecure in my professional skills – leading to hastily made network messages and a defeatist mentality. Although these faults could be others easily assessed strengths I knew them to be my weaknesses. However, I could mask these weaknesses while in the constant movement in Columbus or Cincinnati – surrounded by fun friends and good times. With nothing but work and leadership activities, I had plenty of time in Colorado to critic, observe and assess my attempts at my professional achievements and downfalls. Without the alienation from the norm I would have never recognized what needed to be done in order to address my insecurities. I am extremely grateful for this experience sponsored by STEP.


There have been multiple valuable changes stemming from these realizations. They are as follows: I do not want to have to fake it till I make it. I will remain the real Nathaniel Andrew Smith throughout my Job search and will not be compromising to fit a mold that I believe needs to be fit for a position. If that role does not fit who I am then I am not meant for it.

On the other hand – another change to my mentality is that I recognize I must do things that I will not enjoy in my life time. I will be uncomfortable in certain professional settings and I must remain calm and collected to pass through those tough times. These two realizations are symbiotic. An uncomfortable situation is a moment in time while an entire faking to fit a mold for a position could last the career.

Continuing, I have learned the true value in pausing and reflecting. I prefer to live in the moment without a reflection on yesterday and without a worry for tomorrow. This has benefitted me and been to my detriment. I understand the reality that the future is better with at least a bit of direction – direction which is learned from pausing to analyze past experiences and reflection on actions of the past to plan for better action in the future.

Overall – the Leadership Training workshops, the 40+ hour working experience and the reading of the Bible were informative, exciting and great experiences, but they all fell short to the alienation and challenges that reared their head in the wake of isolation from daily hustle and bustle that no other local or, to my understanding, planned abroad trip could have exposed. I have returned with more time to work and plan for future semesters, re-evaluate my major and set a simple plan for the Spring semester and Summer to follow. I will continue to grow in faith, in professional skill, and confidence that I have a place in the work force, a spot that will openly welcome my desire for innovation and social change.

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Leadership Training Program with H2O Church

Emily Miller

Leadership Project

  1. My STEP signature Project was focused in the Leadership category and was a summer-long Leadership Training Program with my church. This consisted of three nights a week, as well as one entire day a week, where we got to do fun things in community together, like sharing meals and exploring parks around Columbus, as well as bringing in speakers to teach us what it looks like to live a life following Jesus and be a leader in the Church.
  2. I felt that I grew in many ways as a result of my STEP project. One way in which my understanding of myself changed during this time was that I learned that I can handle much more than I previously thought. Because of my project, I had many things on my plate and was forced to learn to juggle them. It was a struggle to not let any of the balls drop, but I feel that I was strengthened in my perseverance in the process. I learned about time and money management, how to balance and maintain friendships, how to take time for myself amidst the chaos, and most importantly pursue Jesus above all else.
  3. One relationship that helped me recognize the importance of juggling all of the areas of my life was with my friend, who I also was blessed with the gift of living with, Alexa. She is a strong woman, one that has tirelessly built into me and pursued me boldly. She has taught me many things about processing life’s hardships and I trust her greatly. I believe that it was God’s grace to me that I got to spend so much time with her and see her every day because, as a result of the Leadership Training Program that was my STEP project, some really hard things came up in my life and she was there to help walk me through things and process things. She is very much an advocate for self-care and she helped me understand the importance of taking time for myself, even when there are many other things going on.One experience that helped me recognize that my life was being transformed during my STEP project was my job as the Supervisor for the Day Camp I worked at. This was the largest source of my constant stress and lack of time, but it was so worth it. Getting to care for and tenderly guide over 700 children was no small feat, but I believe that no better work could have been done. I saw myself learning how to manage the staff under me and I supervised them and I also am certain that I grew in empathy and problem solving skills, as I strove to provide the most exceptional camp experience for every child that would be under my care.

    The most important relationship that led to life transformation during my STEP project was with Jesus Christ. The point of this project was to get to know my Savior deeply and understand more of my Father’s (God’s) heart for me. I can confidently say that I experienced God reach down from Heaven and pull me out of the deep waters that I felt I was drowning in. He rescued me because He delights in me, His daughter, and this was an incredible truth to experience while doing my STEP project. While I was busy with work and the Leadership Training Program, Jesus led me, through the Holy Spirit in my heart, back to Him. Even though my time was limited, He helped me carve out time to spend with Him and in His word, the Bible. Though it felt like I had no time and I usually just wanted to sleep, I chose my King and He was faithful to bless me with peace, joy, love, kindness, and goodness as a result.

    4. All of these transformations are of the utmost value in my life. Getting to grow in close, life-giving relationships with friends, the ability to exceptionally work with children, and my walk with Jesus will serve me exponentially in the future. For example, I desire to be a counselor for children, so my time with the day camp children was an invaluable experience because I got to learn new management techniques and learned more about building trusting relationships with the kids, especially with the ones who had rougher home lives. As for Jesus, I desire to follow Him for all of the days of my life. I want to fight for life to the full and for truth and for genuine love and joy in my life and desire to share this with the people around me. This STEP project helped me create the foundation for a life with my good and kind Shepherd and I cannot wait to see what God does next with me.

Alexa and I

Everyone who participated in the Leadership Training Program

Attending the UNAVSA-15 Conference

Name: Elizabeth Dang

Type of Project: Leadership

For my STEP Signature Project, I chose the leadership route by attending the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA) Annual Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia from August 2-5th, 2018.   This conference brings out college students and young professionals that are involved in the Vietnamese community to come together to network, collaborate on projects, and become more invested in Vietnamese culture.  As part of my project, I presented a workshop on anti-Blackness in Vietnamese Nail Salons and was also a Family Leader for the conference.

I have been very involved within my local Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) community on campus and also am involved in the Midwest.  I have always been one to discuss much need topics with others and had previously presented this workshop at two other conference.  Every group that I present to is different with different narratives, ideas, and emotions regarding this topic.  The group I tend to speak to usually consists of a group of Vietnamese Americans who share the same narrative of growing up with refugee parents owning a nail salon.  Every time I present this workshop, I am able to see the validation I give to attendees who may not have people in their environments to discuss these topics, but here in this space, they are with those who understand and empathize with them.  That is transformational to me- seeing people speak about their experiences and being reassured by others.

I believe that having discussions and opening dialogues are important to first start the spark.  In my workshop, I talk about the history of how Vietnamese people became a dominant force in the nail industry.  I also talk about the relationship between store owners/employees and their customers, specifically Black customers, and why there is always a headline about nail salon fights.  My workshop dives into this complex relationship and gives attendees tips on how to have hard conversations about anti-Blackness with their friends and families.

In the workshop, I show two videos from Anjelah Johnson, a comedian who is known for her stereotypical caricature of a Vietnamese nail technician.  To most, that video is funny, but to us Vietnamese/Vietnamese Americans, we are reminded that ours and our parents’ efforts to make a living are constantly made fun of.  We are reminded that APIDAs (Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans) will forever be perceived as “other” and the “forever foreigner.” In my workshop, I provide a space for those affected to talk about these issues, which in turn, validates their feelings and emotions about portrayals like these.  I then transition into the topic of why when our community struggles with issues like these, our community still perpetuates anti-Blackness.  I give attendees five different tips on how to fight this so that we are not continuing this behavior and further contributing to it.

It is transformational for me to see people from different parts of the Midwest and North America come listen, learn, and speak about an issue that affects them or an issue that their community further contributes to.  It is important for me to start this dialogue because if no one starts the discussion, then the problems will persist.  We do not want to be complicit in issues that affect other people of color and should focus our energy on fighting towards equity and not fighting each other.

This transformation matters to me because it builds not only on my ability to publicly speak and present, but I have a moral obligation to giving back to my community through education and support.  It matters to me personally because no community is perfect- we are all constantly improving and changing. It is important to start the conversations to correct harmful behaviors in hopes of one day living in an environment where all are welcome and included.

Central Columbus Wyldlife

Name: Kaela Gearhart
Type of Project: Leadership

1. My STEP signature project involved me being a Young Life leader in Upper Arlington, and using the funds to live in Columbus this summer to continue my role as a leader in the community. As a Young Life leader, my role is to spend time meeting and building relationships with middle school girls in Upper Arlington, inviting them to Young Life events, and being someone to invest time in helping them understand the Gospel message, and helping them grow in their faith. I spent a lot of time hanging out with girls in the community, planning and executing outreach events and Bible studies, and being a leader at Young Life camp.

2. I think there were many changes in my understanding of the world and the world that occurred as a result of this project. For one, I think that I learned a lot about the power and importance of relationships in the world. I changed my perspective from thinking that I knew exactly what would “work” in getting girls to be interested in hearing about Jesus. I had previously thought that if I made events sound really fun and exciting, that girls would come. I realized that the connection I made with them outside of attempting to get them to just come was far more significant, genuine, and real. I learned that love is the force that drives the world and that I can display God’s love for us not through having a ‘successful’ ministry and high attendance at events, but through genuine conversations, support, listening, and valuing the voices and stories of others. I learned that I have no control over what sort of faith transformations take place in the lives of others, but I do have a responsibility to love, invest in, and show compassion  to others, and that is what draws others to God, not anything I can say or try to control.

3. One event that took place during my project was going to camp as a leader, and having a group of girls come. I got to lead a cabin of 9 girls for one week during the summer at Camp Michindoh. During that time, it was pretty overwhelming. There was a lot of responsibility on me as a leader, and I placed so many expectations on myself to be the best and make sure everyone was having the best time. I learned a lot about surrendering to God’s control during that week. I got to experience the truth that my job is to simply love and guide, not obsess over control or attempt to change people. I think it was a huge transformation into freedom from pressure, and a freedom to love people exactly as they are.

An interaction I had during my project was with my co-leader. During the summer, our relationship grew tremendously in the aspect of vulnerability and accountability. We spent a lot of time together planning events, talking about life, sharing struggles, and celebrating with one another. I think it was a very healthy time for us to get to spend the summer leading together, and our relationship has strengthened and continues to now into the school year. It has drastically changed our whole team dynamic because we are able to demonstrate sacrificial love, servant hood, and community to our team and community.

A relationship that developed during my project was with a middle school girl from Upper Arlington. She attended camp, and we bonded during that time. After camp, we began hanging out weekly, and I got to invest in her life. The connection of trust that was built has continued, and I consider her one of my closest friends. It is so much fun to live life with her, hear about her struggles and victories and have the ability to mentor her, and cast a vision for the rest of her school with her. We have helped each other grow in so many ways, and I will value our friendship forever.

4. This transformation is valuable to me because it gives me a different perspective in the way that I see people, and what my role simply as a human is. I have found so much clarity on my purpose in life: loving others exactly as they are, and stepping into lives to affirm, encourage, listen, and create meaningful connections. I have realized that that is who God is, and that He desires so much to be close to His people. I am thankful for the transformation of learning how to see others through God’s eyes, and valuing each individual. This lens gives me a vision to create meaningful connections in my personal social life, as well as the motivation to continue pursing a career in counseling because it helps me empathize with brokenness but see hope that is offered.

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The Dean’s Leadership Academy

For my STEP signature project, I attended the Dean’s Leadership Academy at the Fisher College of Business. This consisted of a full 15 credit hours of leadership classes paired with a part time internship. I was paired with FST Logistics for this summer.

Coming into this program I was eager to learn as much as I could about leadership and myself. I arrived with an open mind as I hoped many of my preconceived ideas about leadership would be tested and changed. To my surprise I learned almost as much about myself as I did about leadership. The first few weeks were spent looking inward and how as leaders, we need to understand ourselves before we can hope to lead others. That idea has stuck with me as I completed the program and throughout this semester. The 5 classes I took this summer, as of now, have been the most useful classes I have taken at Ohio State, and I believe I will use the lessons learned for the rest of my life.

As mentioned above, a large portion of this program was focused on yourself. The necessity of understanding yourself as a leader before you can ask others to follow you and listen to you is immensely important. Without that key, leaders can lose credibility and as we learned are not effective leaders. We did many different role play examples and mock conversations that helped us sharpen this ability of leading by example and knowing personal tendencies and taking advantage of them.

One role play that sticks out in my mind from this summer was a mock negotiation between a school board and an angry community. I was one of 4 members of the school board and we were tasked with appeasing a group of around 12 angry constituents. This was during one of the first few weeks of classes, so I did not know many of the other students very well or their strengths and weaknesses. We were given about 15 minutes to prepare and plan a strategy before we went into a hostile environment with angry “parents” who wanted to replace us. It was tough as we needed to learn what each person was good at very quickly and how we could use everyone’s skills effectively. We eventually came to a solution and the problem was resolved, but it was difficult and uncomfortable.

This exercise taught me a lot about myself and helped me realize that I have a lot to learn. Many more instances happened down the road in our courses that built on these ideas and expanded my knowledge on my personal strengths and weaknesses and leadership. Overall these courses and the lessons learned have helped mold me into the leader I am today.

I have continued to say that these courses are the most helpful courses I have taken thus far and the lessons taught during them will last throughout my entire career. Using my summer to take classes in the evening while completing an internship is not exactly what most students want to be doing during their summer break, but for me and the other 30 students that accepted this challenge of 5 hour classes and late nights I believe we will all say that it was worth it. Learning about my leadership style and strengths will allow me to use my last two years to build up those strengths even more and continue to grow in other areas as well. Leadership is something that I have always been passionate about and after this summer it is something that I hope to pursue for as long as I can.

Single Pitch Climbing Instructor

STEP Reflection Prompts

Name: Nate Tomm.2

Type of Project: Leadership


My STEP project consisted of three main components. The first was traveling to climbing areas in the West to practice traditional climbing. The second component involved taking the AMGA’s Single Pitch Instructor Course in order to learn new skills related to climbing as well as group management while climbing. The last component was challenging the SPI exam to prove my skills.




I realized that I always have room for improvement. I went in to the exam fairly confident having spent the time before reviewing and practicing. However, I was humbled and shown that someone with more experience can always improve my own knowledge and skills. I not only learned how to build safer, more technical climbing anchors, but also how to build them more efficiently. I also grew exponentially in my leadership in a climbing environment.





Several different factors prompted my transformation into more humility. Climbing out west was really hard at times. The routes are older there and much harder routes than what I am used to climbing on despite being listed as the same difficulty. This made me realize that I have room to grow in my overall climbing abilities and forced me to strive to constantly work harder. When I took the SPI course I was the one with the least climbing experience out of everyone. This also caused me to realize that despite feeling confident there was always more to glean from those around me.


Having a mindset of being in a constant state of learning allowed me to make significant transformation in my knowledge and abilities pertaining to climbing. I thoroughly learned the course material and learned how to create a variety of different climbing anchors that were useful in a variety of different situations. Having people around me with more experience allowed me to get feedback to improve myself.


Finally, and most importantly I was able to transform into being a better leader. The course and exam both had me managing a small group of “clients.” I had to preform all the technical aspects of setting up routes for them to climb as well as teaching them the basics of climbing. I was able to step fully into that leadership role and make sure everything went smoothly. I was able to learn more about leading a group in a climbing environment. My instructor complemented my growth as a leader and said he noticed significant growth throughout the course.





The first application of this transformation is in my current job. I work at OSU’s Outdoor Adventure Center. I lead different trips into the outdoors, including rock climbing trips, in addition to working a weekly climbing instructor shift at the climbing wall. These transformations will allow me to be a better trip leader and better climbing instructor. I will be better at leading groups and managing groups that I take on trips. I will also be better prepared to keep those around me safe with the skills I’ve learned in the course.


Another less specific application is remembering and applying the things I’ve learned to everyday life. I want to always continue to strive to learn from those around me. Even if I think I know a ton about some particular subject I want to remember to stay humble and look to those with more and/or different experiences to learn from them. I also want to continue to challenge myself, be it physically or academically. Finally I want to apply my leadership skills to any number of situations be it school or work to better those around me.

YMCA Safety Trainer



During my STEP Signature Project, my main job was as a Safety Trainer for the Tiffin YMCA.  My job consisted of teaching courses such as Lifeguarding, Basic Life Support, CPR, Basic First Aid, and many others.  I was in charge of supervising all Lifeguards and Swim Instructors and ensuring that they acquired the proper monthly trainings.

I have a stronger understanding for why CPR is being more heavily encouraged for everyone to learn.  I believe it is absolutely necessary for everyone to know the basics of CPR and understand the actions they should take in such a case that someone would need help.  This opportunity has opened my eyes to many issues that are currently affecting this nation; things such as cell phone usage causing distractions which too often lead to drownings.  I have always understood the need for safety around water and why it has been enforced. This opportunity has allowed for me to share my experiences and knowledge with other who have come with a willingness to learn.  

During the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to work for a third contracter through the U.S. Embassy in Japan as a Lifeguard and Swim Instructor.  This experience has been the highlight of my lifeguarding career. It was an experience that I learned so much from and cherish to this day. With a strong language barrier not all rules were as easy to enforce.  Unfortunately with that issue, this summer was the mark for the most water saves I have had to make. Although they were never too serious, they strengthened my understanding for water safety.
Over the last few years as a certified Lifeguard I never had to make a critical to life save.  Unfortunately that all changed this summer during my STEP project. Multiple times this past summer of 2018 I had to perform CPR and more commonly First Aid.  Luckily, for the most part the situations were resolved and the victims recovered 100%, but I did have to deal with an incident that the victim was unable to recover and passed away.  She was a member of the board for the YMCA which I worked, so many people in our community had a hard time with the news of her passing. I did not have an emotional struggle like many coworkers expected me to have, instead I chose to learn from the situation and use this occurrence as a way to explain to others why it is so important to understand how to be safe and how to keep others safe as well.
While teaching each individual safety course, I was fortunate enough to be able to learn something new from each class; whether it was learning an experience from a student or remembering information about the course.  Safety standards are continuously changing. No matter how many classes I have taught there is always something new to be learned from the new standards that are being set.

As a trained Lifeguard, minor and critical injuries are just parts of the job.  I am trained to deal with any possible circumstance that could arise. Even if you haven’t made a save yet, you are always thinking about possible scenarios and how something could go wrong.  You address the fact that something might not go as planned and it is possible for something to pass away no matter how hard you work to save them. You practice how you would deal with a situation and you think that you have an understanding of death because “it is just part of the job.”
 After the incident occurred this summer, “it is just part of my job” or “that’s what I’m trained for” were two of my most common phrases when someone thanked me or asked me how I was feeling.  I always knew that it was a possibility and I understood that it wasn’t mine or anyone else’s fault that we were unable to save her. For the first week after the incident I tried to pretend that the incident never happened and when someone questioned me about it, those phrases were something similar to my response.  It’s not that I emotionally couldn’t handle it, but I wasn’t sure how I was suppose to process the situation. I let my emotions reveal themself when I was alone or working out.
This incident has affected my life in more ways than I can describe.  I think about the incident everyday, mostly about the things I have learned due to the situation and the things that I am able to take away from it.  Some days I find myself thinking about ways I could have responded and if it would have been able to save her. In the end I reassure myself that no matter what, I never would have been able to save her because the issue was much more complex.  As unfortunate as the situation was, I am thankful everyday that I was the responder, due to the fact I have the most training within my workplace and because I learned so much from the incident that I will forever cherish.

A Flying Buckeye

This past summer I stayed here in Columbus to work towards my private pilot certificate. This project expanded upon my Social Science Air Transportation Degree I am working toward here at Ohio State, and gave me a more in-depth first-person perspective of the aviation industry.

Even though aviation has been my greatest passion for the past 13 years, and I am studying aviation here at Ohio State, I did not have a very clear sense of what I wanted to do after graduation. I was trying to decide if I want to become a professional pilot, or work for the corporate of an airline. Pilot is a job that requires major time commitment on consistent flying time, as well as financial support on the training itself. It costs at least $45,000 to $50,000 to complete all the certificates and ratings before one can get paid to fly (usually as a flight instructor or skydiving pilot). Also, pilots are usually away from home 3-4 days every trip they take, which can be a huge challenge if they want to raise a family. And indeed, that is the reason why pilots have the highest divorce rate of all professionals. Because of all these factors, I was doubting my determination in becoming a commercial pilot, and if I actually had what it takes to become a one.

Private pilot is the first task that every single pilot has to accomplish before they climb up the ladder, and it is the training that takes the most time and effort since everything being taught is brand-new. Therefore, getting my private pilot license would enable me to explore my potential as a pilot, and have a huge impact in my decision-making process when it comes to choosing the right career path. Even though I have yet to complete my private pilot training after this summer’s training, I have done the majority of it. I have enjoyed every single second of maneuvering the airplane, and now I do not want to pursue any job other than flying jets for a living.

What makes aviation and flying great is that not a single day is the same. You always encounter different situations every single time you go up and fly. The weather is different, the winds are different, the traffic is different, and so on. The unpredictability of it makes every new flight a thrilling learning opportunity.

Most of my flight training involve practicing maneuvers around the Columbus airspace and improving takeoffs and landings in the greater Columbus area airports. Many of my flights are repetitive for the purpose of mastering them. So naturally I got very excited to do something new every once in a while. I can still remember the day (July 7th) when I did my first cross country flight to Mansfield. Even though it was the shortest cross country flight possible (cross country flight has to be 50 nautical miles, and the distance between KOSU and KMFD is 51 nm), I had the opportunity to learn the procedures of cross country flights and fly to a different controlled airport. Different from a local VFR (visual flight rules) flight, cross country flights are usually done under VFR flight following procedures. It is a relayed air traffic control service provided by multiple air traffic control stations. At the ground at KOSU, I requested a VFR flight following to KMFD. After takeoff, tower asked us to change frequency to Columbus Departure, which is the frequency used for all departing IFR (instrument flight rules) flights in the greater Columbus area airports, as well as VFR flight following flights like we did. As soon as I read back tower’s instruction “Contact Columbus Departure 125.95, Skyhawk 739EU, have a great day,” I suddenly started to shiver. That is because Columbus Departure is the frequency mainly used by commercial airliners, and I have never been on the same frequency with airliners before. I patiently waited for a United departure to finish their conversation with the controller, initiated contact with them. At that moment, I felt like a 16-year-old who just grew up and got his drivers license. It was the best feeling in the world. I learned a whole lot in the whole process, not only how to pick up flight following, but also how to interact in a more professional and fast-paced environment.

That wasn’t the only new thing I learned during that flight. Halfway into the flight, we were relayed to Mansfield Approach frequency from Columbus Departure. And at about 10 miles out of Mansfield Airport, we expressed our intention to perform a touch-and-go, and then proceed back to OSU Airport. However, the Approach controller told us they were having their annual Airport Day on the tarmac therefore accommodating touch-and-goes would be their last priority and to expect a diversion. We acknowledged that and were starting to plan a diversion to the nearby Shelby Airport (12G). My instructor was rather surprised since he had been coming to Mansfield all the time and it had always been empty. So this diversion was totally unpredicted. Diversion is a critical skill for a pilot because it requires fast and independent decision makings while making sure everything is safe. We started our turn to Shelby and was ready to set up the approach. And at that time, Mansfield Approach said in the frequency “Skyhawk 739EU, contact Tower 119.8.” We were very surprised because that meant they would accommodate our request. We turned right back for the Runway 5 Approach, and had a nice and long 7 mile final into Mansfield. I learned about how to make two diversion decisions in a short five minute period, and that quick decision making is one of the most critical character that a pilot needs to have. Airplanes are moving in a very fast speed, a delay in five seconds can cause inconceivable consequences.

There are many more instances during my flight training with unique natures like these, and they all taught me valuable lessons on how to be a better pilot. Moments like these make me fall in love more with flying and make me want to make this not only a hobby but a career.

This STEP project had definitely given me a more better insight of a different branch (flying) of the aviation industry, and helped me find my own potential as an aviation professional and explore the most fitting career path within the industry. I have also increased my levels of self-awareness, as well as leveraged my leadership skills to create change for the common good.

I am beyond thankful to the STEP program for giving me this opportunity to explore my potential as a pilot. I have already made the decision to keep working on my flight training all the way up to commercial, CFI (Certified Flight Instructor), and ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) licenses so I can become a commercial airliner pilot one day. I cannot wait to see what this career will take me (both figuratively and literally)!

SNE and Me: My STEP Signature Project

My STEP Signature Project involved attending a conference called The School of the New Evangelization(SNE) put on by a Catholic campus ministry organization called Saint Paul’s Outreach. This conference equips students from all over the nation to become leaders on their own campuses. I also documented my experience through pictures I took at the conference and a blog.

My assumptions changed drastically because of attending SNE and documenting it. I think one thing that lead to this change was how much I learned about intentionality at SNE. This intentionality was applied primarily in regards to leading a small group, which was something I attended SNE hoping to learn a lot about, but was also applied to individual relationships with people and our day to day responsibilities. I learned that being intentional in the way we go about these things does not remove the passion and care we have for the people or responsibilities we encounter in our lives, but rather it heightens it.

So for example, if I intentionally plan times to meet individually with people in a small group that I want to get to know and lead well, this does not minimize them to “to dos” on a list, but rather it makes them priorities in my day and ensures I can hold myself accountable to giving them the attention that they need and I want to give to them. This has not only transformed the way I am as a leader, but it has also transformed all of my other relationships with family, peers, friends and so many more.

There were three specific parts of SNE that helped this transformation come to fruition. These were: talks, break out sessions and conversations with other students.

Talks were basically presentations about various topics. Each of these talks offered really great practical advice about very specific parts of being a leader. Such as, meeting one on one with people, traits of a leader, invitations, asking good questions and many more. Being able to receive such practical and applicable information about these topics was really enlightening and offered real advice for many things I’d always been unsure about how to really do.

Following these talks there were typically break out sessions. In these sessions we would either discuss whatever topic we’d just heard about, practice the skill we’d just learned about with others or do an activity that was related to the topic. These break out sessions were super helpful because they really allowed you to process through the information you’d just heard. Whether this was through discussing the details with other students or actually practicing asking good questions with someone you just met. It really allowed me to immediately put what I was learning to the test and take it to heart.

Finally, conversations with others students really helped transform me. There were students from everywhere from Arizona to Texas to New Jersey at SNE, so it was really impactful to talk with them and see their perspectives about leadership and the Catholic communities on their campuses. I was able to hear about how intentionality in leadership had affected their lives and helped make them better leaders. I was also able to compare and discuss the differences between what they did on their campuses and what I do at Ohio State.

This transformation of being more intentional in all types of relationships is incredibly valuable to my life. It will not only help me professionally by guiding the way I go about work relationships and my future responsibilities in my career, but it will help me personally by changing the way I go about relationships with friends or even family members. This is something that I can apply broadly to my life in order to create specific changes. I look forward to putting in action the skills and perspective changes I’ve gained from my STEP Signature Project.