Hey CMU… Pop Your Bubble

Central Michigan University is located in the small town of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, where there is no mountain to climb. Mount Pleasant is apart of Isabella County, which is one of the most impoverished communities in Michigan. Many CMU students are not aware of this, because, to be so blunt, most students at CMU live in a little bubble. This bubble does not stretch far into the community. This bubble does not show that almost 50% of the community is living at or below the poverty line. This bubble does not show that there are community members struggling to find their nIMG_7073ext meal. This bubble surrounds CMU’s campus, the various Mission street stores, and the cute coffee shops. This bubble does not go far into the community, and this year I thankfully popped my bubble to expose myself to the high need that this community is seeking.

This semester I am student teaching at Mount Pleasant Middle School, formerly known as West Intermediate. I am teaching four periods of 7th grade English Language Arts and 2 periods of Study Skills for students with IEPs and 504s. Over 63% of my 128 students are living below the poverty line. Over half of my students wear the same clothes everyday. Many of my students are focused on where their next meal is coming from, if their parents are going to be at home, and whether or not they will be walking into their home with fighting or abuse after school.

I have volunteered in this community so much more now than ever before. I seek out local businesses. I stay after school to help students during Oiler Hour (after school tutoring program). My heart breaks for this community. We have had 15 snow days this semester. Many of these students won’t get any food on these days “off”. Many students don’t have heat. And when my heart is breaking for these students, there are people in this same community who have no idea what is going on because they live in this bubble.

I am up every morning at 4:30am, at school by 7am, and then home by 4pm. I am “working” full time, but not getting paid. Student teachers are expected to plan, teach, and do everything that a normal teacher would, but with no income. I’m thankful to be in a school with students that make me want to be up every morning. They inspire me to keep going. They have made me fall in love all over again with my passion for teaching. This might not be considered volunteering to some, but to me, my time I have poured into this community and school is irreplaceable.

I am excited to be serving a similar community in Phoenix, Arizona starting in May. I will be teaching middle school ELA in a community that is 75% hispanic/latinx, 15% black, and 4% white. As a white, female teacher I am figuring out how to best advocate, listen, and help my students feel welcomed and loved. This journey is not going to be easy, but Mount Pleasant Middle School is preparing me to take it on.

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And with a blink of an eye…

 

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My last semester spent on CMU’s campus was spent trying to stay involved while also

 trying to step back. I said my goodbyes to the many RSO’s and committees I was involved in over the years, and began my

student teaching journey in January. The RSO’s that I stayed involved in for my last semester were Alpha Chi Omega, being a Gamma Chi (recruitment counselor), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), Student Government Association (SGA), and volunteering as a Peer Involvement Advisor (PIA).

I said my goodbyes to my leadership roles in all these organizations in December, which I thought would never come. With a blink of an eye, now I only have four weeks left with my Mount Pleasant Middle Schoolers. My time here at CMU was spent creating memories with wonderful IMG_9813people in wonderful organizations. As I passed on the philanthropy torch in AXO, the SGA representative in NCTE, and my PIA position, I am found feeling very thankful for all the leaders and role models that have helped shape me and push me into making my dreams a reality.

As I start to say my last goodbyes before I move to Phoenix, Arizona to teach middle school English, I am finding myself feeling very nostalgic. Everyone always told me these years would go by quickly, but I didn’t quite realize just how fast it would. I know I will always hold these memories close, and I am grateful to have them. But my next adventure is calling my name, and now I must go. It’s been real CMU.

Diversity Committee

This past semester I was very fortunate to represent NCTE at the weekly Student Government Association (SGA) meetings. The National Council for Teachers of English elected me to be our representative and I quite honestly did not know what to expect. I served as the middle-person who would report what was happening with our RSO to other people in SGA and then would go back to NCTE and report wh

27858893_10156308054374994_1641781592374293175_n.pngat’s happening on campus to them. I found the two-hour Monday night meetings with SGA to actually be extremely informative and quite entertaining. As a part of SGA, I also got to sit on the Diversity Committee, which was also an amazing experience. Our committee hosted events, put on panels, supported multi-cultural and diversity organizations on campus, and essentially served as the platform for all organizations that were centered around diverse experiences and events.

 

This committee allowed me to meet mo

29543197_10156433215864994_3516597389594498763_nre people, engage with other organizations that I really had no idea about, and attend events that were cultivating and striving for a more diverse community here at CMU. It was an amazing experience and I am excited to be returning in the fall for one last semester.

LEAD Team

My second year co-leading a LEAD Team has been nothing short of wonderfully chaotic and filled with many Robby Café mornings with my favorite people. Taking on Competition Day for the second year in a row has allowed me to grow even mIMG_5885ore within the Leadership Institute. Bellal and Abbey were amazing co-leaders and I am very fortunate to have created successful changes with them by my side. From grading applications, hosting interviews, and running all the logistics the day-of, Bellal, Abbey, and the rest of the team were phenomenal. I was a facilitator my freshmen year, so this was my third year seeing Competition Day from the other side, however, it was by far the most smoothly ran and most calm that I have ever seen it.

 

 

I owe all this to the wonderful team of IMG_5887leaders, and while I am sad to say that this was my last year leading for the beloved comp-day squad, we went out with a bang. As I will still be around quite a bit in the fall to help, I will be student teaching during next year’s spring semester. However, I have all the confidence in the world that Abbey and her new team will continue to create amazing changes and find the best leaders out there.

AXO Executive Board and More

Serving on Alpha Chi Omega’s executive board for the entire 2017 year as the Vice President of Philanthropy has not only challenged me in many ways, but allowed me to establish myself as a leader for the people and for change. I was very thankful for all my experiences working with ourIMG_4515 philanthropy, Domestic Violence Awareness, and can confidently say that I have left my mark on AXO with the service and commitment I did during my time on e-board.

My committee and I executed another successful fall semester spaghetti dinner raising money for the local Women’s Aid Shelter and also implemented many new ideas as well as spread more awareness on campus. We were also able to be a part of the entire Greek community raising $100,000 for Women’s Aid Services and Special Day Camps this past Greek Week.

With my term ending in December, I have now stepped back in AXO, however, I still hold two committee positions and used my leadership capstone project to re-implement our My Journey program. Essentially, I spent this past semester working to bring back a program that focuses on mental, emotional, and physical health that we lost this past year. I successfully brought it back and it will now be up and running this fall semester.IMG_3676

Since I first joined Alpha Chi Omega three year ago I have always had a leadership role and I am very grateful that when I go alum from the chapter in December I will be finishing up my two committee positions. This organization has supported me and given me so many opportunities to flourish, to create change, to grow, and to be a leader that cares.

Alternative Breaks (Round #2)

The Alternative Break Program here at CMU has not only impacted my time during my undergrad, but has impacted the way I serve others and the communities around me.IMG_5439

I am very fortunate to have been able to go on multiple Alternative Breaks during my past three years, however, the real game changer for me was being able to lead the Survivors of Aggression trip to Greenville, SC.

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Being a part of an organization that educates people on the many social justice issues this world has, and how to help, has impacted me in unspeakable ways. It has sparked conversations about how to create change, has allowed me to broaden my perspectives even more, and led to me living a more minimal and plant-based lifestyle. As of December 2017, I have been vegan and it has honestly changed my life for the better. I also compost with my roommates (shout-out to Nicole Lazzara for her worms), recycle, and no longer use single-use containers, bags, food wrap, and straws. I have reduced my carbon footprint and waste tremendously and I owe that all to the AB program

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OWLS

As previously mentioned in another post, I am an advocate for marginalized groups and those who face adversity. I am an ally to people and an advocate for social change. While I could say that I have always been this way, that would be a lie. I believe I have always, in some form, been aware of many injustices people face, however, I never really found my voice to let others know about these issues. I educated myself, and still do, on various social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, racism, mass incarceration, and many more, however, one that I found myself consistently drawn IMG_5957back to is women’s rights.

After my service trip to Greenville, SC serving the women and children of SAFE Harbor Women’s Aid Shelter, I was persuaded to join the Organization of Women Leaders (OWLS). One of my lovely participants, Emily Jones, sold me on joining during the trip, so as a woman of my word, I did.

I can honestly say that this organization has fueled my advocacy to a whole other level. I got to experience the second annual Women’s March in Lansing, Michigan with a bunch of other kick-ass women. I am a firm believer in the statement “empowered women empower women”, and I hold true to that. Joining this organization has not only taught me how all social injustices are intertwined with one another in some form, but they taught me how to use my voice and to not be shy about it.

Advocacy is so important. Creating change through actions, not just awareness, is crucial to a better society. This world has so much corruption and cruelty, but every voice matters. Use yours for good, for change, and for those who cannot.

Service Reflection

Since I was a little girl I have always been involved in community service. My mother has a servant’s heart and showed me what it meant to give time and help to others. This past school year I have served in more ways than I can count, and I owe that not only to my mother, my passion, or my school, but to the Alternative Breaks Program.

The AB program has been a part of almost every single semester of mine here at CMU, and I am very fortunate for all the opportunities it has given me. This past December I led an AB to Greenville, South Carolina to serve for a week in a Women’s Aid Shelter. I would need much more room to even begin to explain my experiences as a site leader, a volunteer, and an advocate for these women and children. My passion for Domestic Violence Awareness runs through my veins and deep down to my very core, and this service trip fueled that passion in ways I didn’t know possible.

IMG_5508What:
Twelve women. Five days of service. Two shelters. One resale store. Walls painted. Holiday gifts organized & wrapped. Leaves raked. Donations sorted. Unconditional love spread.

So what:
Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. It is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that is only a fraction of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. The devastating physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.
Now what:
Use your voice. Do not let moments of injustice get swept under the rug. Validate people’s experiences. Listen to learn. Become educated on your local and national resources. Be a resource. Become aware, BUT also use your awareness to act. Being aware goes hand-in-hand with being an activist. If you are aware but do not speak up, you are no better off than those who are unaware. Spread awareness. Instill activism in those around you. Bring justice to social issues.
#SoNowWhat #CmichAB #SurvivorsOfAggression

Comp Day Squad

Being on LEAD team through LAS has been one of my favorite experiences of my college career. I was one of the chairs for the LAS Competition Day LEAD team, along IMG_0040.jpg
with David Walter and Bellal Ammar. These two guys made my first year as a chair very enjoyable by throwing me into all the details and showing me all the ropes. This team is on that includes A LOT of preplanning, dedication, and coordination. I was very lucky to work on such a cohesive team that got along well and always had a sense of humor.

Competition Day is where it all begins in LAS. This is the day that really determines who is going to be in the next LAS class, so naturally everyone is jittery and filled with
excitement. I was fortunate to see and participate in all the behind the scenes activity that goes into making this day perfect for potential scholars. While David is graduating this year and leaving the team, I am thrilled to take on another year with Bellal as well as work with Abbey Claes, our newest addition to the team.

My goal for the team next year is to be more organized and work o
n our communication as well. It is really difficult to keep every little detail straight with this event, which can lead to miscommunication between other team members or other LAS students as well. I think Bellal, Abbey, and I will do a really good job with theseIMG_0036.jpg improvements this year. I also want us to work on better advertising and reaching out to high schools that are not fully aware of the LAS scholarship. Encouraging high school seniors to apply to the program is something we really need to work on as well. Overall I am very fortunate to work on such an amazing LEAD team and cannot wait to do it again in the fall. 

The One With The Briefcase

Jacob Sova, mentee, the dude riding a longboard with a briefcase. Words cannot describe this man who has a soul so genuine and kind that it is impossible to not like him. My IMG_8463.jpgmentee keeps me humble, makes sense of struggles, and helps me remain sane. Jacob is a man of character, dignity, loyalty, and honesty. Every time I see Jacob I instantly get a huge smile across my face because I know he is just as excited to see me as I am to see him. Being a mentor to Jacob is one of God’s greatest blessings in my life, and I wouldn’t change my mentee for anything else in this world.

Jacob and I both value our education and involvements, so it has been difficult to make our schedules work together, but we always manage to do so. It may just be as simple as eating dinner in Robby cafe together once every blue moon, but we stay in each others’ lives and let one another know that we can always be there in a heartbeat if we need it. Our relationship is very healthy and positive, which is what one could only dream of having in a mentor/mentee relationship. Nothing makes me happier than hearing from other LAS students “your mentee is THE best!” or “Jacob Sova has a heart of gold and you are so lucky!” He makes me such a proud mentor, and even though I am not constantly there everyday to see him, his phone calls and text message updates will always make me smile.IMG_8460

Being a mentor to someone is a lot of pressure, because you are essentially their role model and go-to person for everything in the beginning of their college career. I did not have a really good mentoring experience, for reasons of just not clicking with one another and schedules being too busy. I always make sure to make time for Jacob when he needs it, and I know it is hard for him to admit he needs help sometimes so I do my best at reaching out and seeing him when I think he might need it. If you ever have the chance to meet Jacob Sova, take it. I promise you won’t regret it, because I know my life has changed for the better due to having him in it.