Tuesday, August 16, 2011

LeaderShape Day 7: Think Different.

It’s been a couple weeks since I graduated from AFLV LeaderShape, and I often think to myself, “Today is Day 7: Now what?” (At LeaderShape, we use the term Day 7 to describe everything after the 6 days we were together.)

Coming into LeaderShape, I was one of those people who perpetually had their “cool cap” on. While I could see things happening that I didn’t agree with, I often turned a blind eye to it. I could hear people saying things that I didn’t think were right, but I would never be the one to raise my voice.  That feeling you get in your stomach when something’s wrong? I ignored it.

My excuse? Next time.

Next time I’ll speak up. Next time I’m going to do something about that. Next time I’m not going to be a bystander. Next time I’m going to challenge the status quo. Next time I’ll be like the people that I look up to.  Next time…

I was afraid to talk about topics I was passionate about because I was afraid that people wouldn’t agree with me. Afraid to take a step forward because I thought someone might stand in my way.

I’m not who I was.

After a week of laughter, tears, and newly found friendship, AFLV LeaderShape changed my perspective on a lot of things. But most of all, it changed my perspective on myself. Through the realization of my weaknesses, I learned that I must overcome my insecurities to be the leader I want to be. The leader I need to be.  The leader I am.

I learned that genuine passion for a cause is contagious. And how social entrepreneurship can be a reality, not just something a select few people are capable of. I learned how sometimes, all it takes is one voice to change an entire room’s opinion. One voice.

I’m not who I was.

Throughout the week I had the time to think about a lot of different things:
How do I question and challenge our actions that compromise our values as Greeks?
How can I spread my love and excitement for dance marathon to others?
Can my vision of global access to quality education for all children ever really be a reality?

By the end of the week, I could feel the change within me. Never in my life had I felt so grounded about who I was, what I stood for, and the things I wanted to change. For the first time, my goals felt attainable rather than overwhelming. My aspirations for Greek Life, dance marathon, and my vision all made sense for once because I had a plan and the resources to make them happen.

But now, it’s Day 7. And what am I doing?

Working 60 hours a week. Packing to go back to school. Getting ready for UConn’s Panhellenic Formal Recruitment. Trying to study for the GREs.

But I’ve also started researching different non-profits in order to decide which one I will use to sponsor a child in Africa or Asia (one of my manageable goals). I’ve been answering questions from my peers about how they can start a dance marathon at their school. I’ve started having conversations about our new Fraternal Values Society and the amazing potential it has for our Greek community.

As the summer winds to a close and I move back into UConn, I will not forget all the lessons learned at LeaderShape, my new friends, and the goals I have laid out. Most of all, I will not be silent. After all, I’m not who I was.

“You’re a leader all the time, don’t turn it on and off.”

Vanessa Ball 
Pi Beta Phi
University of Connecticut

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