Service-Learning & Community Service Reflection

  1. My project was a community service project focused on environmental sustainability. We took on three different projects including: Invasive species removal, native species restoration, and trail building/maintenance.

2. When I arrived on the island, I immediately began walking to my first destination. Upon arriving to the first beaches, I saw many homeless people posted just outside the beach with tents. My project group was primarily people who were in their 50s or older. Our group was also small. We came to Kipahulu national park and began doing invasive species removal. Throughout all of these processes, I learned something new. I learned that poverty is a struggle even in a tropical paradise. I learned that age is not a barrier to a wholesome relationship and friendship with people. People can connect with all people. And I learned that the Earth requires a delicate balance to maintain its biodiversity that we are constantly tampering with. Small islands are among the last places on Earth to have been altered by humans, yet the invasive species were running rampant where we were working.

3. The relationships that I built with my project group were very powerful and impactful. Some of the most impactful moments were after the hours of volunteering when we were just hanging out back at camp. This is when I had the opportunity to learn about the lives of my group members in detail. I will never forget this piece of paper that our group leader Tom gave me. It said: Teachings of the seven chakras: 7. Live in the present 6. Seek only the truth 5. Surrender personal will to divine 4. Love is divine power 3. Honor yourself 2. Honor one another 1. All is one. He gave me this after I showed him the book I was reading. We were discussing our life philosophies. My biggest take away was that, if all these people are this old and are doing ok, then I can be doing ok at that age too. And there is some comfort in that, being as young as I am and still having so much uncertainty about my future.

I spend a lot of time alone during my travels. To get to my campsite where I would begin volunteering, I hitchhiked. Throughout this experience, I met so many brilliant people and world travelers. I met a lot of people who left where they were from because they were unhappy and looking to battle their demons in a better place. I stayed in an international hostel for some of my time on the island as well. This was all a part of the process of being reminded that your problems will follow you everywhere, regardless of where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with or where you’re going. No matter what life looks like on the surface, everyone is always battling their own demons. Everyone always has tension underneath the surface that you don’t always see. It is easy to look at the world from this surface perspective and forget about all of the emotions that people carry. The problem with raw emotion and feeling is that you can’t see them. You can’t physically see them. So many people forget that they exist.

I also met a man named Jim during my time volunteering. The interesting thing about Jim was that he was A LOT like me. We had vast similarities. The only difference, Jim is 60 years old. I learned so much from Jim during my time volunteering in Hawaii. Jim faced many of the same struggles when he was my age. He had a girlfriend that he didn’t know what he was going to about when he graduated because he was moving. He also graduated with a low GPA which is the situation that I am in. But he got a job nonetheless. And now he is the senior vice president of a large private securities company. He said he struggled to get his first job but he got one nonetheless. Talking to Jim taught me a lot. Jim taught me to be patient and let things play out. To make decisions for myself and not let anything get in the way. Observing Jim and all the other people in my group gave me a sense clarity. I often feel caught up in the stresses that come with being a 21 year old but spending time with people who are much older than me reminded me that everything is going to be ok. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and everything will be alright. I can’t let small hurdles keep me on the ground. I can trip and fall, but the most important thing is that I get right back up and keep going.

4. This change is valuable because it helps shape me into a better person. A person who is ready to take on adversity. A person who is ready to face my fears and keep on going. It’s important to recognize that time heals all. With time, everything will play out. And odds are, I’m not going to die. Sure there are many trials and tribulations of being a human being but the only thing that you can do is be you and keep moving forward. It is vastly important to take setbacks as they come and to just keep moving forward. It is easy to get caught up in the monotony and clutter of life. But all you have to remember is to look past it. Live in the now and appreciate life for all of things that are right in front of you. Not look back too far, or forward either. But to focus on right here. There is so much more to life than the things that keep us consumed on the average or typical day. We just need to take those things in stride and use what we have to our advantage instead of our disadvantage.

 

Fresh picked avocado.

Native species restoration/ Invasive species removal.

Trail building and trail maintenance.

Park ranger Matt leading our project at Kipahulu National Park.

STEP Reflection

Naomi Harvey

 

Service Learning and Community Service

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

 

My step project consisted of rescuing a pit bull mix, her name is Ella, and training her to work as an emotional support therapy dog. The training process includes living with, socializing and bonding with Ella, for at least 6 months to a year, while also teaching her basic commands. After she and I had bonded and she knew her commands reliably, the next step is taking a handlers’ class and then testing and registering as a volunteer therapy team.

 

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

 

My view of how animals mentally heal, change and react throughout the rescue process has changed tremendously. As a former volunteer and employee in 2 different animal rescues and a current employee at a veterinary clinic that works with rescue groups and handles rescue cases, I have seen and worked with many different rescue situations. I have seen many successful cases and fun outcomes where dogs and cats are given lives where they can become cozy family pets, can explore the world with their new family and even help other dogs learn to trust again. I also saw a handful of unsuccessful rescues where the dogs and cats are constantly returned to rescues and animals that go from home to home with no stability. Normally when animals are not successful rescues, we often blame the owners for not trying hard enough, but we rarely stop to work with the animals one on one for ourselves.

Throughout this project I have been able to work one on one with a rescue animal with a past we know nothing about. Working with Ella has taught me that even skilled owners and support from vet clinics and groups on campus, sometimes rescue animals need more help and more work than originally thought. Ella has shown me that even in a loving, sturdy home environment some rescue animals need time for a full mental analysis and a lot of one on one training so that the owners and animals can build enough trust to break through any mental barriers the animal might have. I have also learned that it is very important that animals with mental barriers are paired with the right owner/group that the animal can trust, grow and train with for as long as the animal needs the special help. This project has shown me that as hard as it can be to find homes for rescue animals, homing animals is not always the hardest part of rescuing animals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

 

When I started my step project I was very hopeful that the petite pit bull mix who was brought to the clinic where I worked would remain the happy go lucky puppy she seemed to be. Ella was found alone under the porch of an abandoned house early in the morning on January 12, 2017. She was very thin, covered in wounds, scars, fleas and only about have her body had fur. No one in the clinic could understand how such a sweet little dog could have ended up alone and possibly abused. Ella lived in the clinic for 5 months before I could take her home and throughout her time there her demeanor slowly shifted from confident and happy, to a more calm and watchful dog. Originally no one really thought much of this slow shift because she was still a rather approachable dog. As the months continued Ella continued to become more anxious and as I continued to work with the veterinarians to monitor her physical wounds, it was thought that Ella may have lasting mental damage from her previous life or that she could have a mental condition that would have led to her being abandoned in the first place.

Ella and I continued to bond and more of her true personality continued to show. I worked more closely with the two veterinarians at the clinic to explore reasons for her random behavioral changes and increasing anxiety. My relationship with the two veterinarians grew as I asked them questions from a client’s point of view and they lead me in my research in ways to ease Ella’s diagnosed anxiety and hopefully help her enjoy her new life. I found an animal trainer who had experience working with anxious animals and met with her to get some tips and advice on how to expose Ella to new things and people without causing her too much stress and in a positive manner. I learned new ways to bond with Ella and build trust to help ease her anxiety when we had visitors at our house.

I also met with an animal behaviorist to discuss anxiety and other mental issues that affect dogs. We discussed that she actually worked with a lot of rescue groups that unknowingly have dogs with severe anxiety who presented in the same way Ella did. These dogs were often adopted out and then returned to the groups or given to the shelter due to unexplainable aggressive behavior toward house guests, protective behavior of the owners, exhibiting fear on walks or when they hear loud noises and strange voices. These owners would often try calming treats or anxiety medications prescribed by their vets but owners are often not able to put in the one on one time necessary to build trust with these dogs and help adjust them to their new life. Some owners who end up see behaviorist are able to get full assessments of their dogs individual mental states and create plans to build strong relationships with their dogs and help them get the proper treatment and attention base on their individual mental states.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

 

My step project has helped me realize that rescuing and adopting animals is more than just finding them a home. I’ve learned more about the different aspects of animal anxiety and how it affects the behavior of these animals. As I hope to go to vet school after graduating with my biology degree, learning about how mental imbalances in animals can greatly affect animal behavior in ways that is hard for owners to understand is very useful to me. I hope that my experiences now will help me be able to better explain and guide future clients. I also hope to better understand the rescue, rehabilitation and evaluation process by helping owners of newly adopted and future owners of adopted dogs better understand that each adoption case and adopted dog is special and different, each requiring individualized attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Dempsey’s STEP Project at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

1. For my STEP signature project, I volunteered for Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Close to Home Center for Physical and Occupational Therapy. This was an amazing experience, because I was able to meet many children from many different backgrounds and experiences – who all looked up to me with a smile on their faces. During this experience, I was able to facilitate rehabilitation by ensuring that all housekeeping duties were taken care of, allowing physical therapists to provide their utmost attention to their patients at all times. I also shadowed various types of interactions between physical therapists and children, to learn how they deal with diverse physical, emotional and/or mental setbacks.

2. This project allowed me to learn so much about myself. I went into this STEP project thinking that my sole dream was to attend graduate school to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and to then further become certified in animal rehabilitation. Little did I know that I would develop a passion for pediatric care. I have always been thrilled to be around children but have not had much experience with children who have various disabilities. I was both excited and nervous to enter this next step in my buckeye journey, but I am now forever grateful for this amazing opportunity. It has been such an honor to become a member of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital family, and to expand my knowledge of what physical therapy truly is.

My view on the world has changed tremendously because I have seen how much unconditional hope, love, and support people can have for others. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is a place where children strive to achieve their dreams; with the doctors, volunteers, and other faculty members right by their side for every step of the way. The positivity that radiates from the children and their proud family members gave me a new outlook on life; allowing me to be grateful for what I have been given and to always be proud of those around me. This STEP project has proved to me that I am indeed following the right occupational path. I dream to provide families in the future with just as much hope and support as the doctors did who I had the honor to be associated with at NCH.

3. There were many interactions and relationships that lead to the transformation that I underwent, but two of them truly stood out to me most. First, it was very honorable to meet the families of children who have survived cancer. I cannot even imagine the stress and sadness that these families have underwent for ongoing durations of time, and the expenses that came along with a child who had cancer. It was so amazing to me to see the hope, motivation, and driven attitudes behind these families – to get their loved ones back to living a normal healthy life. Regardless of whatever happened in the past, these families constantly looked forward to the brighter days that came ahead. I had the opportunity to speak with parents about their hardships as well as the boundaries that they were able to overcome, and their stories opened my eyes to how grateful people should be for their health, and how much the medical field is constantly improving their practices.

It was also very transformational to meet different families who have decided to adopt disabled children. Having the opportunity to meet multiple parents who have decided to take in a new member of the family who has special health requirements is such an amazing thing. Many of these families have completely changed around the structure of their homes and their lives in order to accommodate their newest family members. The love that these families share with their children is something beyond words, and to see their relationship grow as the child undergoes therapy makes the entire project worthwhile. Everyone has a different story, and it is an honor to get the chance to hear about the stories that people voluntarily share. There are so many inspiring people in the world, and these families truly were some of the most amazing people.

These experiences had the most humbling effect on me. Volunteering in this type of environment gave me a constant sense of purpose and gratitude. I was so grateful to surround myself with the most caring doctors, families, and children. Every single day that I walked out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Close to Home Center in Clintonville, I had gained so much knowledge and appreciation of physical therapy. This STEP project allowed me to want to continue working with Nationwide Children’s, and to explore other areas of physical therapy as well.

4. This transformation was very valuable to my life since it ensured that physical therapy graduate school is the correct path for my future. I initially wanted to attend veterinary school after my undergraduate education, and began to change my aspirations as time went on. As I learned more about physical therapy, I viewed the transformational process as a magical one. I believe that attending a graduate program for physical therapy is exactly where I belong, and I never would have known that if it weren’t for this STEP signature project. Whether I decide to further continue a certification in animal rehabilitation or not is still questionable, but I believe that pediatric PT is an occupation that I never realized I would love so much. I am forever grateful for the STEP experience.

Service- Learning STEP Project

My STEP Signature Project was a partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a volunteer for this summer. I worked closely with hospital staff, patient families, and made incredible connections across the entire hospital.

This summer was very challenging for me. Not only was I taking an intensive set of academic coursework, but, I was using most of my free time outside of studying to volunteer. I have always believed that when you are doing something you love, it will never feel like work. That is exactly my feelings with regard to my summer of 2018. This summer was my first summer living completely on my own. I was living in my FIRST apartment with roommates for the first time since Freshman year in the residence halls. I was learning how to cook for myself and grocery shop. Most importantly, I was learning how to budget and stay within my financial means. This was incredibly challenging going from my room and board paid for as a Resident Advisor to paying all sorts of bills! Towards the end of my STEP project, I had gained so much respect and confidence. At times, I didn’t believe in myself to accomplish all I had set out for the summer. However, with hard work, increasing time management skills, and the financial assistance from STEP, I lived a summer of my dreams! I accomplished so much more than I could have even imagined, and I was so incredibly proud of the growth I saw within myself over such a short amount of time.

STEP granted me the ability to stay in Columbus for the summer and volunteer with an amazing organization. STEP also granted me with incredible opportunities to make connections to health professionals that truly mentored me and ignited a new passion or fire within me for the medical field, with pediatrics at the center. I met doctors, technicians, surgeons, families, patients, and other allied health professionals. Each individual I had the opportunity to interact with truly touched my heart and confirmed that my desire to have a lasting career within the medical field is the right decision for me.

I definitely matured in ways that I didn’t anticipate. Living with roommates that weren’t necessarily my friends, and definitely didn’t have the same standard of clean was challenging. It taught me how to become comfortable with having difficult conversations with those you are living with and how to be mature and civil, regardless of your opinions of them. With that, I also learned new passions I didn’t have a clue that I even enjoyed. I learned that I LOVE to cook, and that it’s actually pretty therapeutic for me. I was attempting to manage a healthier lifestyle, although I was lacking time and resources, and learned about meal prepping and how to balance calories with nutrients. This is definitely a skill I plan to continue improving and learning as much as I can!

Although I initially was elated to begin my STEP Signature Project for the experience to interact with other medical professionals, the most valuable lesson I learned was how to budget. I definitely used Ohio State’s resources when completing an all-encompassing budget sheet. This sheet included everything from rent, utilities, and food, to other things I enjoy doing like dining out with friends occasionally and my Netflix account. This alone has saved me SO much money. I highly recommend using OSU’s financial coaching. I still continue to use this spreadsheet, and I live by it, literally! I was really nervous about being able to afford my stay in Columbus this summer, even with the generosity of the STEP grant, and with the help leading up to my project’s start date, I felt prepared to take on anything the summer was going to throw my way! I learned that it’s okay to grab Dunkin when you need a little pick me up, as long as this is a “treat” and not a regular occurrence. I learned how to use coupons on everyday items I use to save money here and there. Most importantly, I learned if you take advantage of, and manage your resources appropriately, there is nothing you aren’t capable of!

My STEP Signature Project was immensely valuable for my life. Professionally, I made so many connections with doctors, nurses, and patient care technicians that I believe will be unbelievably influential for when I graduate Nursing school next Spring. They showed me that you can be in a profession for years and still look forward to coming to work each day because they love what they do. I want that passion for my career, and now I know I don’t ever have to settle. The nursing field is so vast, and there are so many opportunities to switch around in different aspects of medicine. There is no reason to ever feel bored or complacent within my future career. When I graduate, I believe I will be able to look back on this experience and know that volunteering at Nationwide Children’s truly solidified my passion for children in the medical field.

Academically, I was challenged. I learned how to manage my time between class, volunteer hours, and studying. I had always struggled with knowing how I learn best. I think this is because I always had a little more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I was so occupied this summer, that I had no option but to complete my work and studying within a set time. I learned how to be even more organized than I already was, and how to hold myself accountable. Personally, I saw so much growth within myself. I found purpose, passion, love, and joy within myself. I fell head-over-heals in love with my future career. I learned responsibility, respect, professionalism, and how to be my biggest cheerleader! Without the generous gift STEP granted me, I don’t believe I would be on the same career tract as I am today, and I am so incredibly grateful.

Molly McShannic STEP Reflection

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

STEP allowed me to live in Columbus this summer and work as University Ambassador within the Undergraduate Admissions department at The Ohio State University. During this time, I gave nearly fifty tours of Ohio State’s campus to about 600 prospective high school students and family members. I was also able to be a mentor for a new hire in the program and guide her through the training process.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Working as a University Ambassador over the summer helped me develop my critical thinking and leadership skills more than I could have ever imagined. Prior to this summer, I did not feel very confident in my role as a University Ambassador, because I was still fairly new to the program. I was not given any real challenges while on tour, and I definitely did not feel that I was a leader within the office. By getting more experience as a tour guide, becoming a mentor within the program, and interacting with more prospective students, I definitely feel that my critical thinking skills and leadership skills transformed this summer. After touring this summer, I am much more confident in facing any situation that makes me think on my feet and I feel that I am looked at more as a leader in the program.

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

A key aspect that led to my transformative critical thinking skills was experiencing new aspects of touring that I had not before, from a lack of experience. This summer, we experienced a number of thunderstorms in Columbus, Ohio. Prior to this summer, I had never experienced any severe weather conditions on a tour. I can remember one afternoon specifically, where I was giving a tour and a thunderstorm suddenly began while I was walking my group back to The Union. It is definitely not safe to be walking around campus in the middle of a thunderstorm, so I had to quickly improvise and get my group to safety since we would not make it back to The Union before the storm cleared. Once we were safe in University Hall, there was still a large part of the tour left and an abundance of information that I needed to share with the group. During this time, I was forced to think critically and improvise a way to portray the information to the tour group in a space that was different from my usual route. Once the storm had passed, I was able to get my group back to The Union in a safe and efficient manner. Thinking critically and staying composed in front of this large group of people was very important. I am thankful that I was given experiences like this to help improve my critical thinking skills not only as a University Ambassador, but throughout all aspects of life.

A key aspect that led to my transformative leadership skills was the ability to become a mentor in the University Ambassadors program. At the beginning of each summer and fall semester, The University Ambassadors program hires about 20 new members to begin own their journeys in the program. The beginning of the journey includes an extensive amount of training, that is not always easy to navigate. Therefore, each new hire is given a mentor to guide them through the certification process, before they are able to give their own solo tours. This process allows for Ohio State to keep its remarkable reputation, since the tour guides are knowledgeable and ready to represent the university the best that they can. Since I was hired in the fall of 2017, I had always been one of the “new hires” up until this point. This summer was the first time that I was able to step into a new leadership role.

Working as a mentor is a great way to gain leadership skills, which I did not realize until I met my mentee, Megan. At the very start of Megan’s journey in the program, I knew that she would be a great addition to the team. It was a lot of fun getting to know her and also showing her what it means to be a University Ambassador. Through this process, I was always there to answer any questions about the process that Megan had and assist her through every step of the way. Being a mentor helped me improve my leadership skills, because I had to take more responsibility within the program. I was now able to coach Megan through her certification journey, and make sure that she was able to become the best Ambassador for Ohio State that she could. This was an experience I will always be thankful for, because it allowed me to improve on my leadership skills in ways that I did not know I needed to.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

I am so thankful that I was able to strengthen my critical thinking and leadership skills this summer as a University Ambassador. Both of these skills will help me in my future as a nurse in so many different ways. As a nurse, you are constantly forced to think critically about your patient’s compromised health condition. You must be aware of every possible complication that can occur, and what nursing interventions you must be prepared for. Leadership is a very important quality to have in the field of nursing and in life in general. I do hope to continue my nursing education someday and become a Nurse Practitioner. As a Nurse Practitioner, you are responsible to take more charge in the patient’s plan of care. They are expected to act more as a leader, and they hold more responsibilities than a bedside nurse. These leadership skills will also help me become a role model in the field of nursing someday. I know that the critical thinking and leadership skills that I developed this summer working as a University Ambassador will greatly help me throughout my entire nursing career and every aspect of life.

Image may contain: 16 people, including Rachel Brunello, Michael Engelman, Anya Cohen, Matthew Frederick, Melissa Eperjesi, Catie Mitchell, Maxwell Steele, Alex Vela, Molly McShannic and 2 others, people smiling, people standing

Image may contain: Maxwell Steele, Teja Parasa, Dylan Tuttle, Rachel Brunello, Matthew Frederick, Abbey Chappell, Sam Hodge, Josh Fuchs, Samantha Jerusal and 2 others, people smiling, people standing

STEP Reflection

Name: Caroline Watt

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My STEP project was to work on a research project at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe Germany through DAAD RISE program. I also attended a two week language course my first two weeks in Germany. My research project was to synthesizing and characterizing nanoparticles that could be used for biomedical applications

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I would say this summer led to 2 major changes in way I view the world and my future. One is that my career goals have changed, and another is I have realized how big, diverse, and exciting this world is and I should not limit myself to the United States for travel, work, or culture.

Living and working in a different country for 3 months with a different culture and language that I did not know let to plenty of challenges but so many more rewarding experiences. This summer I worked in a small research lab where I worked under a postdoc and there was only three other people in the lab. My post doc was extremely strict and had very high expectations of me. Since my post doc was so strict it made the office environment extremely tense and no one really spoked to each other. This was a big culture shock coming from Mid-west where we usually say good morning and have the occasionally small talk in the lab. This experience made me realize how important the people that are in your workplace make a job tolerable. I did not mind the actual work I was doing but I realized I did not realize I loved it either and this realization made me decide that I do not want to go to graduate school for a PhD in Organic Chemistry and that I will just get a job for now while I am figuring out what I actually want to do.

Even though I did not love my job this summer, being surrounded by different cultures and learning about the different opportunities for careers in Germany and in other countries in Europe made me realize that I do not need to limit myself to working in the United States for the rest of my life. Something else I realized this summer is how powerful knowing a different language is. I can only speak English and my whole life I thought I did not have to know another language and never cared to try to learn a different language. But most people I met in Europe knew at least 2-3 languages and it is such a powerful skill and opens up to some many more people you can talk to.

 What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

              Working long hours with an extremely strict boss and working in a tense office environment and not enjoying work at all most days and not finding much enjoyment in the research made me realize that pursuing a PhD might not be right for me or at least not a PhD with research focused in Organic Chemistry. Even though my boss was strict, I would get lunch with a couple of my group members throughout the summer and one of them was an exchange PhD student from Taiwan and he was one of the kindest people I have ever met and whenever I was having a rough day with my boss he would believe in me and encourage me to keep going. I also made good friends with people from my group and other groups from Ireland, Germany, and Turkey.

In Karlsruhe, I lived with 11 other students in a dorm on and half of them were Germany and the other were international students. The international students were from: France, Nepal, Romania, and Portugal. It was interesting living in such diverse community with people from different countries because I could hear stories what it is like to grow up in those countries and learn from their culture. Since all of my roommates knew 2-3 languages, it made me feel guilty that I only knew one and how useful it would have been to know German. There were so many conversations I was left out of because I did not know what they were saying.

I also traveled almost every weekend, and this was extremely transformational because I got to experience so many different cultures. I would do a city tour for a lot of the cities I went to and it was really interesting learning about the history of all of the cities. I mostly traveled with other people in my internship program that I either met in my language course or that were in the same city as me. I also did a few weekend trips alone. This trips really made me have to learn how to be confident because I would be walking around a city completely alone and would have make friends with random people either in a tour group or the hostel I stayed at. Traveling alone really force me to enjoy being by myself and to get to know myself.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

This transformation is valuable to my life because before this summer I never really traveled much and never even had a passport before. But this summer I fell in love with traveling and I am going to make a point to travel more and save money in different ways that I have not in the past in order to be able to afford to travel more and look for more opportunities to travel for work abroad. It also was transformational in the sense it made me realize what I do not want to do in the future for a job. I need to figure out what I actually want to do for the rest of my life but I know that traveling will always be a priority for me looking forward.

STEP Reflection

My STEP Signature Project consisted of three volunteer experiences that were combined to create a holistic experience with exotic animals. My first portion was with Buck-I-Serv on a trip to Silver Springs, Florida volunteering with Forest Animal Rescue. At Forest Animal Rescue, I spent majority of my time building enclosure for red pandas and spider monkeys. My second portion dealt with volunteering with two organizations: the American Primate Education Sanctuary in Gahanna and the Ohio Wildlife Center Hospital in Powell. With the American Primate Educational Sanctuary (APES), I partook in general husbandry of capuchin monkeys and gibbons; I fed, cleaned, prepared meals, and engaged in enrichment with the animals. With the Ohio Wildlife Center Hospital, I provide necessary treatments to wildlife animals including: drenching medications, fluid injections, bandage replacements, and tube feeding. I also partook in general husbandry and handling of various wildlife including birds of prey, song birds, waterfowl, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, reptiles, rabbits, and other Ohio wildlife.

As an animal science major, I had many assumptions about working with exotic animals prior to my STEP project. I had taken classes educating me in the importance of the welfare and care of our exotics and insuring that we work as one to improve their lives. In class, I gained little knowledge on how exactly we can work to improve their lives. Upon engaging in my volunteer opportunities, I learned that a lot more goes on when it comes to improving the care of exotics. My view on exotic care completely changed. I now have a much larger appreciation to those who dedicate their time and money to the improvement of these animals’ lives. Understanding feeding habits, social behaviors, grooming, exercise behaviors, body language, and anatomy all play a huge role in insuring the welfare of these animals. This knowledge has helped me prepare for my adventure into veterinary school, by gaining knowledge on animals I may work with in the future.

All three locations and volunteer experiences played a role in transforming my knowledge on exotics and wildlife and better preparing me for my future endeavors. At Forest Animal Rescue, I learned about how much history and knowledge goes into building enclosures for wildlife. Forest Animal Rescue inhabits over 13 different species of exotics including: tigers, African servals, spider monkeys, capuchins, lemurs, wolves, black bears, bats, and tortoises. Understanding animals’ natural habitats, behaviors, and social rankings all goes into engineering the perfect enclosure for a given species. Each species has their own set of standards that need to be set in place to insure their safety and wellbeing. For instance, majority of my trip was spent building the red panda enclosures. For these enclosures, we had to ensure we were following specific guidelines. They had to be tall, over 50 feet, to ensure the pandas had opportunity to climb tall trees like they would in the wild. They needed to be welded together with steel bars, as red pandas are crafty with their hands and can easily open locks. The enclosure had to include natural plant life, native to their homeland. All this knowledge was critical in building the perfect home for these animals and I am thankful to now have gained this knowledge for future use.

At APES, I learned that primates require social interaction to remain healthy. They are very similar to humans and rely immensely on touch. To insure they receive the social touch they need, they are paired in groups and often get time to interact with volunteers. I spent a lot of time simply allowing them to play with my hair, as if I had bugs in it. It took time for me to gain a relationship with them and for them to trust me. Understanding that a relationship must be built between myself and primates can greatly impact my future veterinary work with them. Furthermore, I learned that primates are very intuitive to their surroundings. If you are upset or feeling down they tend to notice and will be calmer and more alert to your emotions. If you are angry or mad they tend to notice and will be very vocal and active. The most important thing I learned about their intuition is to always remain confident! They are very good at detecting if you fear them and will abuse that feeling. If you are scared they will take that time to enhance that and grab at you. Having confidence was the only way I could get them to gently touch me and comb my hair. Once you have confidence, that is when they establish a relationship. Lastly, in this volunteering experience I got to better understand their nutrition requirements. While volunteering, I had to create weekly meals consisting of proper fruits, vegetables, and supplements. This gained knowledge will help me when understanding their digestive system and nutrition in veterinary school.

At the Ohio Wildlife Center Hospital, I gained a lot of hand on experience with ill animals. The Ohio Wildlife Center Hospital is segmented into various wards including: song bird ward, birds of prey ward, flight ward, reptile ward, baby ward, and mammal ward. Each time I volunteered I got to experience a different ward. In these wards, I addressed each animal as diagnosed by the veterinarian and shown on their charts. Most of the time, my volunteering consisted of removing the animal, weighing the animal, cleaning the cage, feeding the animal, and placing the animal back. A couple of times a shift I got the opportunity to medicate or dress an animal. Using a drench gun, administering fluids, giving oral medications, and re-dressing a wound were all parts of my job. Learning how to do these things with various species really widened my knowledge on animal handling and care. These animals are meant to be returned to the wild and for this reason are to not gain relationships with humans. This meant that I had to handle animals who were fearful and flighty. Learning how to grab a red-tailed hawk, opossum, and pigeon out of a cage were all helpful to my future endeavors as a veterinarian.

My STEP Signature project directly correlates with my future academics and employment goals. As an animal sciences major, I plan to pursue veterinary medicine. It is my goal to one day volunteer my free-time to diagnose and perform surgeries for volunteer hospitals and sanctuaries. Gaining knowledge on the general behaviors, nutrition requirements, and handling procedures of these animals is something I will carry into my professional education and career. These experiences provided me with the ability to work with capuchins, gibbons, spider monkeys, opossums, song birds, red-hawks, owls, bats, and squirrels. I can honestly say that without these experiences I would not have gotten the opportunity to work with these animals before veterinary school. I feel that this project has given me the upper hand in my veterinary applications, providing me with extraordinary experiences. I would recommend a volunteer experience like this to anyone pursuing a career with exotic animals!

Being Rela’s Social Media Intern

This photo was taken while I was volunteering at one of Relā’s events (Leadership Prayer Breakfast 2017) the fall before I began my STEP project for them.

 

My STEP Project involved managing a local Columbus nonprofit’s social media, specifically their Facebook page. My main duties included researching and creating images related to servant leadership, scheduling monthly posts, and recording the analytics from the Facebook page. I also created posts to market larger events my nonprofit hosted. The image above is from an event I volunteered at before I began my STEP project with Relā in order to understand what they did. Not to give away too much about my fantastic experience with them, but I am helping them market the 2018 Leadership Prayer Breakfast.

I initially began working with Relā through my involvement in the Nonprofit Immersion Program (NPIP) at The Ohio State University. NPIP allows students to become non-voting members of a local Columbus nonprofit to understand the inner workings of nonprofits, and then create their own hands-on experience that is in-line with the nonprofit’s mission and goals, and addresses an organizational need. For example, through my involvement with Relā, my contact and I realized there was a severe lack of consistent social media marketing for the organization.

I was excited to begin marketing for Relā as I love their philosophy of utilizing servant leadership to positively impact their workplace, and create a better world. After much deliberation with my contact, we decided I would post to the Relā’s Facebook page 3-5 times a week depending on other events they needed to market for as well. In total, this would have been researching and creating approximately 12-20 images per month to post to the page. I vastly underestimated the amount of time this would take me per month. I naively assumed I would only need 3-5 hours a month to work for Relā. In reality, I needed 5-10 hours per month to work on Relā’s social media posts. Overall, this experience showed me how to have even better time management skills, a better understanding of all the factors going into social media marketing, and an appreciation for leveraging social media to market for an organization.

My relationship with my contact, Liz Cooper, at Relā was fantastic. Liz and I had an open and regular stream of communication via email. I knew exactly what Liz expected of me, when she needed it, and why it was important. Before I officially began my work for Relā, I had been under the impression I would only need a few hours a month at most to complete my work for them. However, I quickly learned this was not the case as I began researching servant leadership quotes and articles to post.

I spent an average of 5-10 hours total per month to research, create (if applicable), and post to Relā’s Facebook page. While this may not seem like a lot of time spread out over the whole month, I naturally tend to stay active on campus and busy in general, so carving out time for this extra responsibility was a challenge. The first month or two I ended up procrastinating until the last week of the month to send the media posts to Liz as I thought it wouldn’t take me as long as it did.

By procrastinating my research for Relā, I ended up being extremely stressed trying to find time between my coursework and other activities to complete my tasks, and still give Liz an ample amount of time to give me the go-ahead to post. As a result, I realized I needed to prioritize my social media research for Relā for the future, and manage my time even better than I was previously. I blocked out time in my calendar to work on research, and this allowed me to send Liz the posts well in advance of needing to schedule them on Facebook. By buckling down and doing this, I was able to have fun with researching and looking up servant leadership quotes, pictures, and articles!

This experience was beyond valuable to me! I never realized the influence of social media marketing, nor did I think about how much I would actually enjoy it. Social media marketing became a hobby, and a skill I’ve learned from my project. I had such a good time, that I extended my project not once, but twice! I was planning on being Relā’s social media intern for a few months over the summer, but then I extended it to August, and again to now. To this day, I still am Relā’s social media intern, and enjoy it immensely!

Ghana Trip

    This summer I had the privilege to go on a Buck-I-Serv trip through The Ohio State University to the country of Ghana. Buck-I-Serv is a student organization that focuses on providing service through different projects and issues on a local level as well as internationally. Previous to applying to this trip, I had never imagined that I would have the opportunity to be able to leave the United States seeing as I had barely done a lot of traveling within the states until I attended college. It was always a goal for me to explore beyond the borders of the United States as a fellow educator to second language speakers. It is important for me to experience different cultures and language backgrounds in order to better understand as well as serve my students. It was a privilege to be able to go on this trip to Ghana for many reasons. This trip was the longest from home that I had ever been on especially by myself. It was great for my personal growth as I got to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. It was a privilege mostly because of its destination. I do not know anyone who has gotten the opportunity to go to the continent of Africa. Living within the United States, Often fail to realize that I live within a bubble. Everything that I am exposed to living in the US is filtered through a Western lens. These Western lens has historically created a certain depiction of the continent of Africa often with sick people who need help. The stereotypes have a deficit outlook by grouping the whole continent as well as being underdeveloped. I did not know what to expect when I first got to Ghana. I knew that in order to get the best out of my experience it was better that I not go in with any expectations at all. It was an honor to get to go to a country with such historical context and cultural value especially seeing as Caribbean culture, that which I identify with, was heavily rooted in African culture. I got to physically go ad see beyond the Western lens that I have been under. I was most surprised at how much of Puerto Rico, Ghana reminded me. It was more than the green scenery and bright cement structures. There was a huge sense of community and small town feel that I missed the most. Ghanaians welcomed our cohort with open arms. A lot of people I met were more than willingly to stop their activities to help us out whether it was helping me fetch water from the river or practicing the language, Fante with me. People were friendly and inclined to help as well as have conversations.

     Prior to this summer, I was dealing a lot with personal issues. It felt like life kept bringing upon new hurdles and hoops to keep jumping through. My days were never ending as well fast paced. I did not realize how much I needed to slow down and take the world in before I went to Ghana. The sense of time is not the same when you are out there. People take their time and focu son things often overlooked in America. Activities also become more community and group oriented such as simple things as cooking or fetching water. I was nervous going on the trip with a group of strangers. I would be leaving my comfort zone and not to mention my support system. I was surprised by the vulnerability from the whole cohort group while on the trip. My cohort got to spend a lot of time together working together to not only be efficient when fetching water and completing other chores but as we were experiencing everything as a unit. There were many late nights of playing card games and deep conversations about life not to mention the limited space on many of the trotro rides. As much I talk and reflect on my trip no one will understand the trip like me except for my other cohort members. The days slow down and the things that are often overlooked have more attention there. I realized coming back that I needed to slow down and take in life as well as my experiences. It would be unhealthy for me to continue in such a manner especially for my mental health. The trip was exactly what I needed before starting my final year of college.

     In Ghana I got to work with the Akumanyi Foundation at a children’s home in the small town of Akokwa, Ghana. My time at the children’s home included spending time with the children which for me included learning new games and learning the Fante language. My favorite game was jumping rope except jumping rope has a different context within Ghana for instance there is no twirling of the rope. The jump rope was also made out of recycled water bags that were collected. Other activities were helping out with any chores around the home such as helping bathe the children, cleaning, and fetching water. The children was the best part of the trip. As  a fellow educator, it is no surprise that I love children and the children I met in Ghana are no exception. I bonded quickly with an eleven year old girl who had a wisdom beyond her years. She was a leader and beyond knowledgeable. I learned many games and activities just from spending time with her. I also bonded with a fourteen year old boy who was someone that the children looked up as he was one of the oldest at the children’s home. He was always helping me and guiding me through the town teaching me every word in Fante and then testing me the next day. I cannot describe how much I took away from meeting the children. It was difficult saying goodbyes to the point that I had to leave and pull myself together in private before continuing our final goodbyes.

      My favorite parts of the trip outside of the children were the historical and cultural experiences. The first weekend included a scheduled trip to the Cape Coast. Cape Coast was not only full of amazing beaches and street food but historical value. Right on the coast of the town stood the Cape Coast slave castle. My group got to get a tour of the castle from the dungeons where slaves were held all the way through the door of no return. I was not sure how much of an emotional experience taking the tour of the castle was going to be. The tour guide did a great job at giving a holistic view of slavery especially the point that a lot of countries played a part in enslaving others. It was an emotional experience in walking into the dungeons as we got a tiny taste of the conditions that the slaves had. The dungeons already had no ventilation on top of being super hot and pitch black. My cohort got a tour of the cells were men and women were put when they were fighting back. Our tour continued on through the castle as we viewed parts of the tunnel that lead slaves to the ships eventually through the Door of No Return. I got to take in the final view of the beautiful waves crashing on the beach that slaves would have seen last of their homeland. It was a valuable experience as a got an even closer look at slavery and its significance as Caribbean culture was deeply rooted and influenced by African culture. I had the opportunity to be taught a traditional cultural dance as well as food dishes and shop at the cultural markets to get gifts that will remember my experience there. It is hard to fathom into words the amazing time and everything that I took away from my trip. I got a lot of perspective on my own life. My hope is that I can continue to travel abroad and learn more about myself as I explore the world. 

Trip to Ghana

Through Buck-I-SERV I got my first opportunity to explore a country other than the United States. I went to Ghana with the Akumanyi Foundation, and volunteered at a children’s home in Akokwa. At first, I thought I would be playing with kids all day and helping with their homework, but it was so much more than just that. While in Ghana, my cohort and I were immersed in the Ghanaian culture by not only living as the Ghanaians did, but learning more about Ghana’s history from our trip leaders and exploring different parts of the country.

 

As you can imagine, my time spent in Ghana held many adventures that I have yet to experience during my 21 years of life. Going into the trip, I knew Africa was going to be different from the United States, but I kept my mind open instead of holding assumptions. This was quite hard as some people close to me would put ideas into my head as to how Africa would be due to movies or television shows they had seen in the past. Though some parts are similar to what is portrayed in terms of dirt roads and an abundance of foliage, I can confidently say the depictions of Africa are false. I tried to take as many pictures as possible so that I could take them home to change the minds of my small group of friends, to show the Ghana is a large, growing city filled with many of the functions and amenities that the United States has to offer. By the way many people talk about the United States, I often thought it was more modern than most countries, but in reality it is not. Were we stayed was a rural area with limited running water. Now that may sound odd or even inhumane to some, but there are some rural and even developed areas in the United States that experience the same exact situation.

Though it sounds cliché, I realized how much I had here in the United States that was unnecessary some of the objects in my life are, but exactly how important the people in my life are. For example, most of the trip I chose to not use my phone, therefore I had no contact with my family and friends. I learned two things: 1. I, along with many other Americans, rely on my phone too much, and 2. I also rely on my family and friends a lot which is something I discovered I am proud of. One of the most challenging aspects of leaving the country for two weeks with little or no communication with home is how much I missed my support system. Towards the end of the trip I began to get homesick, so I decided to call my family and just hearing their voices made me feel so much better. I had also thought I was tough, but this trip opened my eyes to how amazing my support system is here at home and how much I truly missed them while I was away. What added to me missing my family at home was the strong sense of family and community the Ghanaians hold, especially the kids. What was amazing about the children’s how is the little family they had. Though not all of the kids there are orphans, some are, but an outsider could never tell by the way they play, love, and even bicker with one another. I was not only touched but their kindness towards each other, but the friendliness and love they radiated towards us, a foreign group of young adults who practice a very different culture than their own. That is problem what I miss most about my time in Akokwa is the strong sense of community that I had the honor to be a part of for a week.

 

Beyond Ghana itself, I could not have been happier with the cohort that I was a part of. The friendships we had while in Ghana were great, and I think most of us can agree we all got along very well! Going to another country with a group of strangers is always a little nerve-racking, but once we had all warmed up to each other, I was so thankful to have them be a part of my adventures. I definitely miss our late night conversations, or playing cards at night until we could not handle the mosquitos anymore, and even the mouse that we had never found running around in the girls’ room. All of this contributed to a trip I could never or even want to forget. Not only did I build friendships with those in my cohort, but learned about their past and how even though we go to the same university, how different we are all for one another. One of the activities we did called the privilege walk definitely hit this home. Though I knew I was blessed with the life I have been given, it was really difficult to see how others are not exposed to this due to their culture, family situation, and outward appearance. Instead of feeling bad about what I had and what others did not, Dr. Mull who ran the activity advised us to not feel bad but to use the privilege that we do have to help those around us. Although it took me going to Ghana to recognize that, it was most definitely a message I took back home with me to the United States with me.

 

I cannot successfully write this reflection without mentioning just how special the time I had spent with the kids truly meant to me. In my future career plans, I had always hoped to work with kids, and being on this trip completely confirmed that for me. Many kids, whether they live in the United States or Ghana, do not have anyone to stand up and fight for them, and I had always wanted to be that person. At the children’s home that was Momma Charity. Momma Charity dedicates her own life to better the lives of all the children that live and visit the home, it truly is an inspiration. She is the voice for those kids who do not have one, and if in my future career I am half as passionate as she is, I know I will be successful in my goal. Like I mentioned, every single kid I met was so welcoming and loving to each and every one of us. They were so quick to show us the games they played, the things they created, and even the “right” way to do some of the chores we were assigned! The kids were so eager to share their own culture with us which is what made me feel so welcome throughout my stay in Ghana. I was told before I met them that I will never meet a child happier than a Ghanaian child, and I can agree with that statement hands down.

 

Like I previously mentioned, being apart of this trip confirmed thatwhat I want to do with my future is the path I need to continue to follow. I want to be an adult that kids can look up to, especially the little girls. I want them to know that with hard work and preservation you can achieve your goals. By immersing myself if another culture, I have no doubt that will help me to be a better in my career field as it has taught me to orientate my view to that of whom I am working with if conflict arises, or to even start out with to insure everything is communicated as it should be. Overall, I am so thankful to have been a part of the adventure, and have learned more than I could ever imagine.