The University of Texas-Pan American Student Union gave two students - one of them being the author of this article - an opportunity to attend the Institute for Leadership Education and Development (I-LEAD) in Boulder, Colorado July 26-31.
"I-LEAD has inspired me to make more of myself and to help others reach their own personal goals and potentials," Odum said.
This intensive six-day institute was housed at The University of Colorado-Boulder. Our days were filled with events from morning to night. Events included ice breakers, large and small group discussions, community service, reflections and hands-on activities. Each discussion touched on sensitive subjects such as, diversity, judgments, assumptions and values. We laughed and cried as we shared our opinions and life stories, each inspiring us in different ways.
"I-LEAD is an important program for students and professional staff with a curriculum that allows you to reflect on your personal style and behaviors," said Jennifer Violett, I-LEAD program team leader. "Having a broad range of experiences within the group benefits the program and makes what we learn at I-LEAD transferable."
Each discussion and activity taught us how to be better leaders within our campus and community at large. We developed self-awareness as individuals, and saw first hand the affect our service has on a community.
"We incorporate a service project into the I-LEAD curriculum because we believe that serving others is an important frame of mind in every leader and encourages participants to model the way," said Justin Rudisille, educational program coordinator for the Association of College Unions International, a nonprofit educational organization that brings together college union and student activities professionals from hundreds of schools in seven countries.
Our community service sites included Balfour Cherrywood Village, Beyond Organic Farms, Boulder County AIDS Project, Boulder County Open Space: Caribou Ranch, Casa de la Esperanza and Community Food Share. Our help touched everyone in the Boulder Community from Alzheimer's patients to children. In turn, they impacted us.
"By volunteering at Caribou Ranch I realized how preserving nature for future generations is important," Odum said.
On the other hand, I volunteered at Community Food Share and came to realize how blessed I am to know where my next meal is coming from. I learned how I can use my blessings to help others.
Students who attend I-LEAD are student leaders who work for the student union, program board, student government or other student organizations and want to give students the best college experience possible. Odum and I were selected to attend after completing the application process and essays provided by our student union supervisors. The selection process varied depending on college or university. However, there is no application process for the I-LEAD program in order to have a more diverse participant group.
"We gave all our student employees the opportunity to show interest and apply so that everyone would be considered in a fair manner," said Delma Olivarez, associate director of UTPA's Student Union. "We selected the students based on their potential to bring back positive change and ideas."
Olivarez said this was the first year that the student union has sent students to I-LEAD and she hopes we will be able to use what we learned to influence the rest of the staff.
I-LEAD has impacted more than 650 students and 140 facilitation team members. This year alone they have touched 73 minds and hearts, mine included. Participating in I-LEAD gives you the opportunity to meet many inspirational people with similar goals who touch your life and change it forever.
For more information on ACUI or I-LEAD, visit www.acui.org.