I was a very shy and reserved kid. I had a low self-esteem and felt like I didn’t have much to offer the world.
It wasn’t until my freshmen year in high school that anyone even told me that I could be someone great! My religion teacher told me that he saw tremendous leadership potential in me and that he knew I would go far with that potential. That belief led me to go on a number of leadership retreats, and to proactively work on my own self-development. It was that same belief that ultimately led to me going on LeaderShape.
The format of IU’s spring break LeaderShape program was similar to other leadership retreats. Everyone is introduced to the agenda before the retreat, people are placed in small groups (families), and everyone is encouraged to share in a safe space.
What separated this retreat from others were the challenging activities and reflections. These activities threw me into an environment where I couldn’t just talk about leadership, but had to BE about leadership.
For one activity, the objective was to build the tallest standing balloon tower. My cluster found ways to utilize each individual and arguably built the tallest tower — but the activity was never about building the tower. It was about coming together and working effectively as a team. Each team has different personalities and leadership styles, and it was up to the family to figure out how to best use its members.
Activities like this forced me to react to the activity and then reflect on those actions in the grand scheme of leadership and team work.
In addition, the workshop raised tough life questions. It pushed me to think bigger and to not run away from my big dreams, challenging me to push myself to figure out why I’m are so passionate about my vision, and helping to fine-tune that vision. I was also encouraged to reflect on past experiences and share them with my family. The point of this was to share experiences to give your group a new perspective about life and other diverse groups.
Lastly, Leadershape put us in an environment where everyone put their differences aside and came together as one community. Upon leaving, I walked away with 70 new friends and have established relationships that have already started changing my life. This new community is composed of not only Caucasians, but also foreign exchange students, members of the GLBT community, and people of different religious backgrounds and ethnicities.
To me, this is THE most diverse group on campus and everyone has a genuine love for one another. It is this community and its ability to come together that gives me hope that one day this kind of diversity will become the new normal. That is the belief that inspires my vision.