LAS Grad Ball LEAD Team Chair

This year I decided to become a LAS Grad Ball LEAD Team Chair, along with my co-chair Nicole. I am using this involvement as my second RSO, as well as my role of a leader within an RSO. I had never been a chair for a LEAD Team, so this was a new experience for me. Through my role as a team chair, I was responsible for planning and conducting meetings with the group, making major phone calls when necessary, keeping Angie White and Jesi Ekonen updated on decisions making made via email, and meeting with people when necessary (such as Nicole, Jesi, Angie, and venue coordinators). There were other smaller tasks carried out as well, but those are the main ones.

Coming into this role, I really had no idea what was expected of me and how much went into planning an event. The first semester, our main goals were to schedule a date, find a venue, and get the food choices arranged. We did this all before winter break and accomplished one of our goals of finding a never-before-used venue, which is Soaring Eagle Casino and Resorts. This is an exciting change because no one has planned LAS grad ball to be there before.

The second semester was when the planning details really began to fall into place. The first week back, Nicole and I got together (keeping in mind the meeting we had had with Jesi and Angie at the end of fall semester) and created a rough timeline of when things needed to be done. Examples of things to be accomplished on the list were: create and send out forms for RSVP information and the senior slideshow, get addresses and send out invitations, and create an invitation. It sounds easier than it was, because collecting the information to use for the slideshow and making sure everyone RSVPed was difficult. Some people were not submitting it on time, some registered twice, and there is always the group of procrastinators that won’t fill anything out until they’re reminded twice.

Due to the event not being until April 20th and the blog being due before that, I don’t have photos of the event to share. I did include a screenshot of the agenda Nicole and I created for our first meeting with the team. Similar ones were created for each meeting so we didn’t forget anything and stayed on track! I have learned many important lessons through this position, as well as built upon my leadership skills. Being a LEAD Team chair has gotten me to be better at voicing my opinion when necessary, and has improved my ability to work with a group and keep them on task. I have also learned even more that it is important to be approachable as a leader, so that people can trust you and have more confidence in your ability. I have a greater appreciation for those who plan events often or for a living, because I learned that it can be more stressful than I once thought. It does help when you have a great team to work with and extra people to support you, though!

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Medical Global Brigade: Ghana

Going on a Medical Global Brigade through Central Michigan University offered endless lessons that will stick with me for a lifetime. This year I traveled to Ghana, Africa with 39 other students and worked in clinics in the communities of Ekumpoano and Egyankwa. We were in the clinics for four days (two days at each clinic) and with the help of in-country nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and translators, medically served 743 individuals. We did not simply hand them toothbrushes, soap, and some medicine and tell them “have a good day”, but instead empowered them in a way that allows them to continue a healthy lifestyle long after we are gone.

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We educated individuals on why it is important to wash your hands, use the bathroom in a contained area rather than on the open ground, brush your teeth, and to avoid mosquito bites. We taught them lessons in safe sex, such as limiting the number of partners one has and using condoms during intercourse. There was education on using bug nets to avoid bug bites and Malaria, how to apply for health insurance, and proper hygiene rituals. As it was explained to us while there, the most important part of this trip is the education that we pass on to these people. That is what will keep them healthy for a long time, not the travel sized shampoo we give them. It is important that they learn and remember the things we teach them so they can use it for generations to come, improving their lives on their own.

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During our time in country, we took part in approximately 35 hours of volunteer work/ community service. Packing medications, taking part in education stations, taking vitals, and shadowing the doctors, the whole time we were in the communities, we were doing some type of service.

One of the stations has a particularly special place in my heart: home visits. During the home visit station, a group of 4-6 of us went to the homes of some community members that the nurses knew would be too sick or weak to come to the clinics, or just to inform people that the clinic was open up the road. One person in particular was an elderly man who lived alone and had trouble walking. We went to his home to deliver some medications to him. I happened to be the one to give them to him, explaining what each was for and how often to take it, and the smile on his face was unforgettable. He told our group multiple times “God bless you”, and that he was thankful for us, wishing us a safe journey home when we went. I was fortunate enough that when a girl in our group offered to take a Polaroid photo for him to keep, he wanted me in his photo to remember us by. That photo is pictured below.

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A big thing in the Ghanian culture is that people are named based on the day they are born. For example, I am a girl born on a Wednesday and my Fante name is “Ekua”, meaning Wednesday-born. For each day of the week there is a different name, with female and male names being different for each day. So, a man born on Monday would have a different name than a woman born on Monday. They also have an English name, known also as their Christian name, and those names are for the most part very Americanized. So, when asked my name in country, I would have introduced myself as ‘Ekua Sara’. If your Fante name matches someone else’s, you become brothers or sisters, and this is something all Ghanaians find exciting. Below, you will find a photo of myself with three fellow Ekuas.

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The people of Ghana were all so welcoming of us and thankful we were there. The people in the communities and the healthcare workers that I interacted with taught me many valuable lessons that I will bring back to the states in my future as a Physician Assistant. For example, Dr. Cornelius, one of the doctors I shadowed at the clinic, told me that the patient holds the diagnosis, sometimes just in the way they act, walk, talk, etc. Looking at a patient’s symptoms on paper do not compare to the signs you see when watching how they interact with the world around them. He recommended getting to know your patients as people, not just someone who comes through your office. Knowing the way the person lives their life can be equally important when trying to come up with a diagnosis or treatment.

After we were done with the clinics, the next day we got to experience a cultural day where we visited the Cape Coast Castle, one of the largest castles involved in the African slave trade, as well as going to another destination to experience traditional African music and dance. The experience at the castle was truly humbling and eye-opening. Until going there, I only had a mediocre empathy for those involved in the slave trade, and since leaving there I am stick struck with emotion that I have not yet shaken. Seeing rooms where slaves were held, beaten, and raped is something I can’t get out of my mind. On a happier note, when we went to see the African band, there were a lot of drums involved and the women there taught us some of the moves to dance to the songs. It was cool to become completely submerged in the culture during one of our final days there.

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I thought last year’s brigade to Nicaragua would be the climax of my volunteer career, but I was wrong. Ghana has certainly topped that and my only regret at CMU is not finding Global Brigades sooner. The service trips I have been on through Global Brigades have included many of the most fulfilling moments of my life, and I will not soon forget the many things I have learned while there. I am grateful that ‘item #66: Medically serve in Africa’ became so much more than an item to cross off my bucket list!

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Lessons Learned During my Junior Year That Didn’t Occur in a Classroom.

This school year brought a lot of big changes into my life- some good and some bad. But life is about growth and that is what I have done. I have made new friends while losing others- and that is okay. I made many realizations along the way, one of which is that all learning doesn’t have to be in a classroom.

___________________God works in mysterious ways. ____________________

Yes, I know this is a very cliché statement, but it fits perfectly into my not-so-perfect life. The perfect instance of this being true has its own post, about me going to Nicaragua. I was supposed to go to Ecuador last summer, but it didn’t work out and I am grateful for that. The company I was supposed to go through was being vague in their answers to my questions, and long story short I decided the night before that I wasn’t going anymore. (I, who had no flying experience, was expected to fly into Ecuador’s busiest airport, in a Spanish-speaking country, and they couldn’t send me a picture of who I was supposed to be meeting up with- WEIRD!!) Then I saw the movie Snatched and that fictional film solidified my gut feelings.

So, this didn’t work out but I still desired to serve others in another country. This Ecuador downfall built the path for a better trip and better friends- plus it was service through the medical field, where I will be working in a few short years. You can read all about this in my other post, linked here. There was a reason God didn’t let Ecuador work out and why I backed out that night. I took it as a major sign when my phone came up missing the afternoon before I was supposed to leave. And then again when I found out my flight got delayed and I wouldn’t have landed in Ecuador until MIDNIGHT (scary). I may never know the reason Ecuador wasn’t the place for me, but after traveling to Nicaragua, I know why I was meant to spend my money going to that country instead.

God works in his own ways, in his own time, and as humans we must learn to trust in Him. I learned that, and if you pay attention, you might too.

____________________Busting your tail is important… ______________________

If you have goals that you want to achieve, working hard is the only way to get there. Sometimes it means saying no to a midnight ice cream run or the 8:30 workout session at the SAC all your roomies are going to, but it will pay off. Keep chasin’ those dreams!

________________________…But so it having fun. _________________________

Playing off the previous statement, having fun is also important. Finding the perfect balance is difficult, but definitely achievable. For too long I was solely focused on getting all good grades and doing all my jobs correctly, that I wasn’t enjoying myself. And that is important too. You’re only getting this experience for (roughly) 4 years, you can’t let every fun instance slip through your fingertips. Sometimes it’s a picking and choosing game, but well worth it. Your brain needs a break sometimes.

_________________________Life is not a race.______________________________

This one hit me harder than most. For a while I had been contemplating taking a gap year between undergrad and graduate school. Part of me felt that year would be important to preserving my sanity and mental health, while another part of me wanted to go straight to grad school because “God forbid I get my master’s degree at 24 rather than 23.” However, the idea of a gap year became more apparent when I found out I was only eligible to apply to two Physician’s Assistant programs in Michigan for this year’s cycle. Then I was realizing this gap year might happen whether I want it to or not. Roughly half way through the spring semester I met with a professor about class and ended up having a real conversation with him. He became a human, not a professor to which I am a face and not a name. He went on about his life and his past and just as I was about to give him some story about some fake meeting I had to run to, he concluded with, “life is not a race. We all run it at a different pace. Me, I was the slow one, one of the last at the finish line- but I ended up okay.” For that, I applaud you Dr. Sharma. This spoke loudly to me and I was suddenly accepting of whatever outcome I have concerning PA school (and life in general). I have been trying to keep that in mind, especially now as I am juggling an internship, studying for the GRE, applying to graduate schools, working 3-5 days a week, and completing an online class. It’s a busy life but I wouldn’t change it.

__________________________I’m a trashy lady.__________________________

…which is why recycling is important. (It’s helping to save our planet!) I bet the header caught your eye over anything, but don’t worry mom; it’s only in context. Let me start out by saying that yes, Paige, I did roll my eyes behind your back when you first told us you were going to “make” us recycle this year. But let me also tell you how much it opened those eyes of mine to how much trash 5 girls can make in a week. So thank you for being environmentally informed and passing on the importance to me! The picture under this is the amount of recyclable material we generated in a week’s time. ONE WEEK! And this was a less-than-average week. Not only did it make me glad that we recycled, it made me become more aware of the materials I use, and despise non-reusable plastic water bottles even more. Lesson learned: always recycle if it is recyclable. Our trash is killing animals, and that is not okay! 18738679_10212360072372600_6640947753339430412_o

___________If someone doesn’t need you, you don’t need them.___________

People you thought were your “friends” unfollow you from Instagram, unfriend you on Facebook, stop snapchatting you. You’ll notice if or when it happens. But WHO CARES. At first you’re upset, but then you unfollow them too. If they don’t care about your life, in my opinion that says how much you should care about theirs. Lesson learned the hard way on my part, but it only showed me how much more to appreciate the friends I have made in college.

________________Toxic people have no place in your life.________________

This builds off of the previous one, and yes this sounds as cliché as my first lesson. If someone is constantly dragging you down and dampening your mood, why keep them around? You have one life to make memories through an enjoyable life, don’t waste it pissed off at someone who is always getting under your skin. You have the right to cut people out of your life if you don’t want them there anymore. For me, that included deleting almost 200 people on Facebook. End toxic friendships, stop responding to the person that is only trying to get a rise out of you; it cleared my head and I hope it does for someone else as well.

Medical/ Dental Global Brigades -Nicaragua

Last summer I was supposed to go to Ecuador through a company I found on the internet, but at the last minute I backed out because my gut was telling me it was actually as sketchy as the first part of this sentence sounds. Though I felt I made the right decision by changing my mind, my heart still longed to go to another country to serve others. Coming back to campus in August still a bit bummed about the recent downfall, I soon found Global Brigades. Global Brigades is the world’s largest movement toward global health and holistic development. Their mission is “to empower volunteers and under-resourced communities to resolve global health and economic disparities and inspire all involved to collaboratively work toward an equal world.” They are the largest student-run social movement in the world, and it was in the week that I spent on mine that I felt a true purpose. I selected the medical/dental brigade that was going to Nicaragua during our spring break, and I was ready to leave the day I signed up.

The way our brigade was set up was three days in a Nicaraguan health clinic working with doctors and dentists, two days of public health brigade (building a sanitary station for a local family), and one day of water brigade. This is called a “hybrid” brigade because we got a mix of a few different programs.

While at the Nicaraguan health clinic, we had several stations. There was triage, physician consult, gynecology, dental, pharmacy, and charla (which means “chat” in Spanish) for the children. In each, we worked alongside doctors who allowed us to shadow them and would teach us little things along the way.

Triage is where the community members would come after getting checked in. We would gather their family and personal health histories, collect vitals, and ask them why they were coming in. This station had some difficulty because all the community members spoke Spanish and besides the most basic skills any of us had, we didn’t know much of what they were saying. Lucky for us, we had a script to read our questions off of, and the hardest part was when they would rattle off their symptoms. Then we would have to quickly call a translator over, unless we could tell by their gestures or visible diseases, what was wrong. Those translators were truly amazing and such a help. I could not imagine them not being there and us having to figure out what each person was saying!

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In physician consult, where each of the community members went after triage, they would meet one on one with a doctor, just as would happen in America. The doctor would look deeper into the issues and assess them. If tests had to be done, the doctor would do them. Gynecology was a station where women could willingly go if she felt necessary. Most of them that came through were getting a pap smear to check for any abnormalities. This was one station I participated in and it was very interesting to me because obstetrics and gynecology is one area of study I am interested in. The doctor in this station let us help by holding either a leg up or the light, and would let us see any abnormality she spotted, such as a cyst (which was a great learning experience).

The dental and pharmacy stations are self-17191812_10211633379645736_2743744917929839516_oexplanatory. The dental station is where individuals would get an oral examination, as well as any small ‘operations’ if necessary. Many got fillings in cavities or a tooth pulled. The last station they would go to is the pharmacy, to get any prescriptions filled that any of the doctors prescribed to them. We ran this station, along with one pharmacist. Us running to get the medicines was almost like a scavenger hunt, just matching the letters on the bottle to the letters on the sheet- again, because everything was in Spanish!

Charla was the station where we taught the children the importance of personal hygiene. We taught them how to brush their teeth and why it is important to do so. We also played tag with baby powder on our hands to show to them how germs are spread, and as a good example as to why we should always wash our hands when possible.

Each of the three days in the clinic we worked for about 7 hours, so 21 total in those three days, all unpaid, volunteer work. And I loved every minute of it. Each person I encountered there was so grateful for all that we were doing, and they were willing to wait in the hot Nicaraguan sun for hours until we could see them. I have never felt more refreshed than I did after the week of service in Nicaragua. Those people gave me a new sense of what living a happy life means. They were happy with the little bit that they had and it really pushed me to start being the same way.17155696_1420926004584382_8387574418595908694_n(That’s me, left front row!)17264929_10211644765930386_1089153657293004521_n

After the service days at the medical clinic, we spent the next two days taking part in the Public Health brigade. We were spilt into four groups and built a “sanitary station” for four separate families. The sanitary station included a shower, a toilet, and a wash trough that could hold water. We also connected the toilet to a septic tank that we built, something that none of the families had previously had. The entire project was built out of cinder blocks and concrete. I learned a lot in this part of the brigade, especially how hard of work it is to mix concrete by hand. It is very heavy! By the time the project was complete, this family was so grateful for our hard work. They were so happy to have a fully functioning bathroom that they could now use. Here, we worked about 7 hours a day as well, adding 14 more hours of service.

The last day of service we did was with the Water brigade, and it was definitely the most tiring! That day they gave us pick axes and shovels, where we walked 200 meters up a mountain side and then continued the work on a trench that was being dug by previous groups. This is part of an ongoing project, and the idea is that a trench will zig zag down the side of the mountain, eventually bringing water to the bottom that the communities below can use. It will be an amazing thing to see when it is completely finished. We worked 6 hours on the trench ourselves, with about 40 people from our group, and only made about 200 meters of progress, so it will be a long time coming, well-anticipated outcome. But I couldn’t think of people more deserving of it from all those that I have met.

In one week I played a large part in helping 819 members in communities of Estelí, Nicaragua get much needed healthcare, helped build a bathroom for a very grateful family, and contributed to the digging of a trench that will eventually give drinkable water to people who currently lack it. I learned17264173_10211644709888985_1057806542991651383_n so much in the roughly 40 hours of volunteer work we did, and my heart is so full. I truly will never forget this experience, and I am already ready to go back! On top of this, it only further fueled my desire to end up working in a rural area, something I find desirable, since I came from a town considered “under-served”.

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Student Government Association

Student Government Association (SGA) is a student-led government for the student body, essentially. It dedicates itself to stimulating improvement throughout the community of Central Michigan University by promoting and providing advocacy for all individuals of its constituency, in hopes of developing both a healthy and a diverse leaning environment for the students, while cultivating a positive image for the university. Through SGA, legislation is brought up and passed that will affect the student body and the campus around them. Each general member must commit themselves to one of several smaller committees within SGA. Examples are sustainability, diversity, spirits and traditions, RSO growth and development, and gender and sexuality. I personally chose to be a part of the diversity committee.

In the diversity committee, we put on a couple events this year. One was the week before Halloween weekend, called “Culture Not a Costume”. We stood in places around campus with poster boards saying the name of the campaign, with pictures of individuals in their traditional dress, next to the materialized costume version of the clothing. The event was meant to promote more thoughtful costume decisions among students, so as not to offend others by making fun of their culture.

A second event through the diversity committee that I helped put on was Middle Eastern Culture Week. This was a week-long event during spring semester, where every night was a different event. The four nights consisted of a dance a night, where belly dancing lessons were given; a henna and food night, where traditional Middle Eastern foods were offered and participants could get a henna design on their arm; a question and answer panel where people could ask questions they always wondered about Middle Eastern Cultures; and a story and poetry night, where some individuals spoke about what it’s like to grow up in America as a descendant of Middle Eastern cultures. This week was an interesting one and I really learned a lot.

I joined SGA because I was the representative for Medical/ Dental Global Brigades. Any RSO that would possibly need money from campus for their RSO must have a representative at SGA. Global Brigades is explained in another blog post. I actually got thrown into the position a little bit, but ended up really liking it. I feel like it opened my eyes to a lot of things and taught me a lot about diversity of students, which is something I have always wanted to expose myself to more.14884627_10210233609932368_8134538752293894769_o

Grad Ball LEAD Team

This year as a LEAD team involvement I was on the Grad Ball LEAD Team. This team is structured to plan and put on the Grad Ball event that is at the end of spring semester every year to honor the graduating Seniors in LAS (and the Juniors who are graduating early). The event is typically at a banquet hall or in the banquet room of a hotel. This year we planned to have it at Comfort Inn hotel in their banquet room on April 28th. At our meetings, we would vote on subjects such as where we wanted Grad Ball held, the date and time we wanted to set, the food choices we would offer (since it was a plated dinner because the hotel catered dinner), and how to decorate the room. We also decided what gift we would give to each of the graduates; we picked a framed picture of their cohort.

This LEAD Team was nice because I could actually see the finished result of a year’s worth of planning. Previous years I was on other LEAD Teams and I didn’t feel the same level of productiveness as I did this year. Our group also got along very well both in meetings and outside of them. I feel this camaraderie was something some of my previous teams lacked, and it made decision making a lot easier and more effective because we knew that even if one of us disagreed with decisions there wouldn’t be any hard feelings. I enjoyed this team so much that I applied to be the team chair for next year, and I got the position. I am very excited to be involved more directly in putting on the grad ball next year!

Undergraduate Curriculum Committee

Part of our protocol is to be involved on a university committee either Junior or Senior year. Based on my schedule and when committee meeting times were, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) is what fit best for me. The UCC is a curricular body for the courses and programs of the undergraduate students. The overall committee reviews, makes recommendations on items related to, and coordinates the courses of the undergraduate curriculum. The committee publishes its minutes containing their proposals and can initiate proposals that concern the undergraduate curriculum. The UCC can: consider curricular items for approval; create new programs; delete majors, minors, or concentrations; and create or delete a degree.

Serving on this committee really opened my eyes to how much work it is to get something passed on campus. There were some curricular items we looked at that were sometimes up to three years old. I also got to know details of some courses before the general public, which was interesting. One of the changes to the leadership minor, I knew about weeks ahead of the rest of my Leader Advancement Scholar cohort. This committee taught me time management. Being that the meetings were at 3:30-5pm on Wednesdays, if I had course work that had to be done before or after that time, I had to make sure to get it done because that was an hour and a half of my day that I couldn’t work on it.

Being one of only two students who served on this committee, it was nice that the adults running the meetings took our perspective into consideration. I thought I would end up sitting in a meeting with not a lot to say or do, but they actually enjoyed when either myself or the other student would give our opinion, because we are effectively the ones these decisions will affect. I honestly hope it fits into my schedule next year because even though I only had to do one year of this, I want to do another.