So before we left, I wrote that we didn’t know much about what we were going to experience at the LeaderShape Institute this week. And coming home, I’m not sure I can relate all I’ve learned. LeaderShape, I’ve found, is one of those things that’s hard to define and hard to summarize. But there’s one thing I can summarize about LeaderShape: it’s changed my life.
Sixty students arrived at the Student Center on Saturday afternoon with no clue of what they were in for. A four hour bus ride later, we arrived at Tuscarora and were split into family clusters. Family clusters were our small groups for the week, and true to the name, they really did become family. Our faculty advisor, Kimmy, who works in the HEART Office, became like a mom to us, and in such a short time became a key mentor in my life. Tears were shed in our confidential, safe group, and I felt like I had found unparalleled friendships in the family.
One of the neat elements of the conference was that we were shut out from so much of the world. We weren’t allowed to bring our phones to the sessions, which ran from 8:30am-11pm, so when someone did, we called it “packing heat.” Being from the city, we usually associate “packing heat” with something totally different, but it was a good laugh. We became compulsive clappers, and nearly every sentence, everyone broke out into clapping. We also picked up each other’s habits. “Praise you!” became our slogan of the week, and we threw our arms up like gospel worshipers, saying “praise you!” at anything we agreed with.
One of my favorite parts of the week was learning the Wobble. Sure, it may have been just a dance, but it brought us all so close together. My family cluster member, Dion, taught me, and we each taught someone else, and before you knew it, every day, multiple times a day, we were cranking the speakers and doing the Wobble. Our final Wobble totaled close to 70 people up on the stage wobbling. It was an incredible collective experience. And I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard, so often in a really long time.
The main focus of our individual work was to create a vision for some sort of social justice. I had trouble with this because I don’t particularly advocate for any kind of education issues or equality or reform. After working extensively with Kimmy, I created a vision of international cooperation through sports. I love England, and I feel I have a connection to that culture, specifically because of footy. My coworker in England, Tom, felt slightly American, even though he’d never been Stateside, because he watched the Steelers religiously. If sports were traded across borders, people would better understand culture, and then better understand each other. I was finally able to combine my sports, journalism, and an element of social justice.
Everyone had told us that LeaderShape creates this safe bubble so that by time you’re ready to leave, you’re terrified of what the real world holds. That was completely true for me. We did an activity about social classes and greed, and everyone acted as they would have acted without four days of intensive leadership training. It scared me that we’d learned nothing, but after debriefing in the larger group of all 60 students called our Learning Community, I felt confident that the transition, while difficult, will work.
I made so many friends and memories this week. Learning about leadership in such an intense capacity was an amazing experience. There are so many things I’ve taken away from this, and I can’t wait to start implementing them in my daily life, my internship this summer, and in my final semester at Temple. Thank you, Temple, for this amazing opportunity! More pictures to come soon!
#YOLO: You Only LeaderShape Once.