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.

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.

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.

The Golden Circle

” Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with ‘why’ that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.” 

What. How. Why. These are the three key words that make up the golden circle of great leadership. In the Simon Sinek TEDTalk, he begins with a simple three-ringed circle drawn on flip-chart paper. He starts with the outer most layer and labels it ‘what’, then labels the second most inner layer and labels it ‘how’, and then he labels the inner circle with ‘why’.

Sinek’s TEDTalk made a clear point that people usually know what they are doing, some know how they do it, but often people don’t know or state why they do it.  He mapped out this circle to prove a main point: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He uses this tactic to explain how inspirational leadership and genuinely good leadership comes from starting with your ‘why’, because once you start wit your why everything else falls into place.

Simon Sinek also uses examples like Apple, the Wright Brothers, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because all of these people and companies start with their why to become successful. People believe in you as soon as you stand strong for why you’re doing something or why you’re fighting for a cause or why you want change. People don’t listen about what you want, they listen about why you believe it because it shows that it really means something to you. I really love this TEDTalk because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Believe in yourself and your leadership skills, and so will others.