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.

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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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

Alternative Breaks

As I have previously mentioned, I have IMG_8644.jpgbeen involved with the CMU Alternative Breaks program for over a year now, and I could not be more happy with my decision to be apart of such an amazing program. I went to Immokalee, Florida last summer to volunteer in an elementary school, and this past spring break I went to Omaha, Nebraska to serve at YES, better known as Youth Emergency Services, as well as Completely Kids. Both of these trips allowed me to embrace one of my biggest passions— working with at risk youth in poverty stricken areas.IMG_2447.jpg

After both of these alternative breaks, I finally decided it was time for me to jump from being a participant to being a site leader. After recently finding out that I would be a site leader within this program I was filled with an overwhelming sense of pure joy and IMG_8705.jpgreassurance. Getting this position reassured me that my passions and eagerness to volunteer and serve communities are what really makes me most happy and most intune with myself. Service and giving back to other communities has always given me a warm feeling, knowing I really can help and use my time in a wise and great way. It isn’t always easy for people to find the time to give back, but even if you start by taking a couple minutes out of your day, it r
eally does make a difference. This program has helped me bloom into a person I am proud of and a person who truly does care for the greater good of others.

I cannot wait to see where this opportunity takes me in the fall as well as what break I will be site leading, so stay tuned!

 

Donut Let Love Hurt

IMG_2488.jpgApart of my involvements on campus began last year with sorority recruitment. I’ve mentioned before that I was never even thinking about joining a sorority until I got to CMU, but I sure am glad I did. In the Fall of my freshmen year I joined the Delta Zeta chapter of Alpha Chi Omega, but little did I know what I was really getting myself into.

During recruitment I fell in love with Alpha Chi for a very specific reason― philanthropic passion. Philanthropy day is what sucked me into such an amazing group of women who advocated for the survivors and victims of Domestic Violence by spreading awareness. I knew I wanted to be in a chapter that cared so deeply about something I was, and still am, passionate about.

Fast forward a year and half later and here I am today, as Vice President of Philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega. I was beyond blessed to be elected into this position this past December, and I continue to thank my lucky stars and Jesus for giving me this opportunity. As Vp Philanthropy I was in charge of planning our philanthropy week this past spring ‘Donut Let Love Hurt’ to spread DVA awareness. We raised over $2,000 during the week for the local Women’s Aid Shelter and I could not be any more proud of my sisters. IMG_1055.jpg

While I have had my low points in the chapter this past semester, I am focusing in on the people who genuinely care for Alpha Chi and stick to our values. Regardless of what organization or group I am apart of, I have learned that there will always be struggles and that it is very possible to get through them. I am excited to be recruiting in the upcoming fall semester for a third time as well as be apart of our philanthropy day, the exact day that got me to fall in love with Alpha Chi Omega.

A Service Filled Life

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

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Those who know me well know that my mom is my everything and more. Gina Bastian is more than just a mother of four children, a dedicated worker, and a kind soul that touches the lives of many. No, Gina Bastian is the person who led me to my life of serving others. From a very young age she taught me to be kind, give back, and stay humble. While over the course of my lifetime this is a struggle to always do, I’d like to think that I am doing a pretty good job. But serving others is not about self satisfaction, it is about simply putting others’ needs before your own without expecting anything in return.

I have been involved with the CMU Alternative Breaks program for over a year now, and I can honestly say it has changed my life. This past spring break in March of 20IMG_2447.jpg17 I went with eleven other CMU students to Omaha, Nebraska to serve their community in multiple ways. During our week long trip we volunteered at YES, better known as Youth Emergency Services, as well as Completely Kids. Both of these program centers allowed me to interact with direct and indirect service, which left room for reflection on both.

I have always been a big people person and love directly serving communities and the youth, which is exactly what I was able to do at Completely Kids. In the past I often struggled with indirect service, however, this trip flipped that switch off and clicked on a light that made me fall in love with this specific type of service. With YES my group and I did all indirect service, including painting their shelters, moving offices around, and helping sort the food pantries and clothes closet. Doing indirect work is sometimes difficult because I don’t always see the direct impact it is making on people’s lives, however, this trip allowed me to reflect deeply and truly see how something as simple as painting a wall can completely affect a person.

After this trip I had a revelation that I was called to a life of service, which makes sense as to why I want to teach middle schoolers who are considered at risk youth. Over the past year I have regrown my faith with Jesus and have made these connections with a life filled full of service for Him and for the greater good. I am continuing my journey with the AB program this fall as a site leader and I could not be more thrilled to be apart of such an amazing and soulful part of campus.

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