You are now an adult, are you ready? How are you going to fill the time when you are not in class or studying?
The choice is all yours. I am here to briefly talk about how I chose to spend my free time while at Lehigh. The best thing I did at Lehigh was challenge myself in every way I could. I chose to challenge myself academically, athletically, and interpersonally.
I can tell you without a doubt I learned so many life skills through my campus involvements. I am able to facilitate meetings, manage projects, coordinate with other organizations, work with all different kinds of people, and utilize the tools within my toolbox. One of the most valuable lessons I learned however, is how to move my way up through an organization. This is the most valuable lesson that I have learned because it requires one to drop their ego and use all of the tools in their toolbox. It requires starting out as the low person on the totem pole and slowly working your way up. This sounds so easy doesn’t it. . . . Truthfully, I am using these skill sets right now in Germany as I try to help the Softball/Baseball Club become bigger and better. I am starting as a worker in hopes that one day I will work my way up to potentially be a person in charge.
When I started in SALSC (Student Athletes Leading Social Change) I was just a member of the team, I had no special responsibility. I was solely a worker. As a worker I worked as hard as I could, doing whatever needed to get done. A major part of this organization is to raise money to build schools for the underprivileged in foreign countries. This task required a lot of brainstorming, phone calls, and originality. During this project, I learned two valuable things:
1. Failure is inevitable. Every idea you come up with, or phone call you make, is not going to turn out the way you want it to so if you are afraid to fail then this is not going to work out for you.
2. Question everything! Respectfully of course, get to know the ins and outs of the organization, really understand what is going on and where they want to go.
From here, I made it clear to the people in charge that I was interested in taking over for them once they graduated. Being up front with them was perfect because then they would walk me through the process they were doing so that I had some clue when I was on my own. Taking on extra responsibilities and really showing that I was committed got me the co-captain role, but that didn’t mean I knew how to lead a group…
Leading an organization is a roller coaster, there are times that things are awesome and there are times that people aren’t doing what they need to do and the organization is suffering because of it. I am going to let you in on a little secret. . .just kidding, there is no secret but here are some obvious guidelines I have tried to follow in my attempt to co-run an organization.
1. Have a vision for the organization (I started developing my vision when I started in SALSC. After asking a million questions, I was able to mature my vision and eventually turn that into a reality in my senior year)
2. Earn respect. . . . be the hardest worker and have a plan (for ME I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that my work ethic is what earned me respect!)
3. Ask for help! (Sorry to burst your bubble but you are not a super hero and you cannot be successful on your own. Accepting this can be very helpful, because there are faculty and staff to help you! USE THEM. I could not have done anything without the help of the staff)
4. Give team members personal responsibility (We had teams of 2 people who were in charge of one fundraiser. This gave them the freedom to develop the fundraiser and develop necessary skills of communication, project planning, and execution of a plan. This is not always a success but sometimes failures are the best time for growth! As a leader this is tough because you can’t micro manage or it will really begin to fall apart.
Here’s the real deal, being just a student-athlete can be challenging, on top of all your academics you must also practice 2-3 hours a day morning and/or night and your weekends are pretty booked with competition. So the time you have to commit to other things is slim, but being part of an organization that is bigger than yourself, and bigger than your team is one of the coolest experiences I had in college.
I am not going to sit here and tell you it’s all flowers and roses and everything works out perfectly, and everyone you work with is awesome, because that would not be fair to you. There are days that it sucks having so many responsibilities (8am-9 SALSC meeting, 10-12 class, 12-1 lunch meeting, 1-2 class, 2-4 work study, 4-7:30 practice, 7:30-8:30 dinner 9-10 Leadership development, 10-11 gryphon staff meeting). There are days when you have no free time because of all the meetings, school work and sports. But on those days if you can take just two minutes and tell yourself I am honored to have these responsibilities and the time I spend here you will be rewarded in the end.
At the end of the day hearing a middle school student say to me at the end of a SALSC event “I am thinking that I want to go to college now,” because they don’t come from a place where going to college is normal, is a huge reward. Raising almost double the money after doing a fundraiser for the second time, and hearing about how we made an impact on students, especially when we talked about living conditions in Africa, is extremely rewarding. These are just a few of the rewards I have received since being a member of numerous organizations.
What do you want your legacy to be when you graduate college, how do you want to be remembered? These are the questions that the faculty and staff ask first year students during orientation. They are challenging questions to answer but they are incredibly important and the way you answer these questions will shape your experience at Lehigh. I thought about these questions a lot and decided that my goal in college was to become multi-dimensional. I was already a student-athlete and this label carries a lot of prestige and responsibility. But, I didn’t want to just be labeled as a student-athlete. I wanted to carry a few different labels that were unique to just me but that were going to require a lot of work. But work I was willing to put in.
What do you want your legacy to be?