Ranked in the Nation

The 2017-2018 Women’s Club Softball season has been, hands down, the most successful softball team that this program has ever produced.  After my third year serving as Executive Board Treasurer, Captain, and pitcher for this team, I can attest to that.  We have come tremendously far as an organization since I started with the team as a freshman here at Central Michigan University.

After being crowned the 2018 Great Lakes East Conference Champions and Regional Runner-Ups, the CMU Women’s Club Softball team also made our first ever trip to the National Club Softball Association World Series in Columbus, Georgia.  We have worked extremely hard to get this far, and it has been such an amazing process.  This year was our organization’s first year with a full-time head coach, Lisa Mayes, who was hired by myself and the rest of our Executive Board in the Fall of 2017.  Coach Lisa and the 2018 E-Board have been tremendous change agents for our team, pushing us to heights that we had previously never thought possible.

Prior to this year, our organization had been consistently improving our record on a year-to-year basis, however we had never beaten Michigan State University – our biggest rival.  This year, however, would be different.  The team rallied around our president, Becca Doyle, who had poured her heart and soul into this program throughout her four years as president.  Knowing that this would be her last year, the team made it a memorable one.  During our triple header against Michigan State this season, we took the series 2-1, beating Michigan State not only once, but twice in a series, coming out on top for the first time in program history.  This was the moment when our team realized how feasible our trip to Nationals in Georgia would become.

After finishing 10-2 on the regular season, CMU Women’s Club Softball took the title of Conference Champions and headed to the Regional round in Elkhart, Indiana, where we would finish second overall, securing us a spot at the NCSA World Series.  At this point we were ranked 16th in the nation going into the National Tournament, which is a phenomenal feat for our club, as we have been unranked every year prior to this season and had never before qualified for Nationals.  During the last week in May, the club travelled together to Columbus, Georgia for the NCSA World Series to represent Central Michigan University and our Club Softball Team.  Beginning the 2017-18 season unranked, our team fought an incredible uphill battle to get to this tournament.  At the World Series, after finishing day one 3-0 in Pool Play and defeating the defending National Champions, Arkansas State, we were seeded No. 1 overall going into Bracket Play.  Finishing 5-2 overall in the National Tournament, we are currently ranked as the No. 5 team in the United States.

I could not be more humbled to be one of the leaders of this organization, and I could not be more proud of my teammates and all the hard work and dedication that has gotten us this far.  I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this upwardly moving organization, and I am excited to say that I will remain Treasurer for the team for my upcoming Senior year here at Central Michigan University.

Softball 2018

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SO College

IMG_0271Special Olympics College is a place that I have found a home over my last three years at Central Michigan University.  This past year brought along many milestones for the organization.  Unified Sports are a large component of what SO College offers for students within the organization.  Unified Sports at CMU are intramural leagues that consist of half CMU students and half Special Olympics athletes from the Mount Pleasant area.  Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.  This last year I was involved with Unified Soccer, Basketball, and Volleyball, during which I had the opportunity to get to know the majority of the Special Olympics athletes, some of which I had known from previous years and some I had just recently met.

In addition to Unified Sports, SO College participates each year in the Mount Pleasant Polar Plunge.  The Polar Plunge is a large fundraiser during which Special Olympics supporters donate money to support the organization.  Plungers then jump into a pool of ice cold water in the middle of February.  All funds raised go toward year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 23,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Michigan.  Alongside the Polar Plunge, SO College also takes a group of its members each year to volunteer at the Special Olympics Winter Games, which are held annually in Traverse City.  The Games include events such as Snowshoe, Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Snowboarding, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, and Outdoor and Indoor Special Events.  Volunteering at the Winter Games has been a significant involvement for me over the years, because it has brought me a sense of community and joy that came with working with the athletes as they competed.  The Games provided me with my first opportunity to be a part of Special Olympics and acted as a catalyst for many more opportunities to follow.

IMG_0252One of the most notable achievements of Special Olympics College is that in April of 2018, CMU was recognized as one of only five Unified Champion Schools nationwide.  The Unified Champion Schools approach incorporates Special Olympics sports, leadership and related activities that empower youth to be change agents in their communities.  Special education and general education students alongside educators and administrators are encouraged to collaborate to create supportive classrooms, school-wide activities and opportunities for growth and success for all.  This honor of Central Michigan University being nationally recognized as a Unified Champion school came with a lot of hard work and dedication from our leaders within the organization, which I am privileged to now say that I have become a member of.  I have recently been elected as Treasurer of SO College for the 2018-2019 academic year, and I am extremely honored to be a part of this organization. I am so proud of all our progress and achievements thus far, and am beyond excited to see where the next years take us.

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Leading the Competition

This year I was privileged to be able to assist the Competition Day Lead Team in selecting a new group of freshmen students at CMU who will be recipients of the 2018 Leader Advancement Scholarship.  Competition Day is one of the most memorable experiences of the Leader Advancement Scholarship simply because this is the day that you begin your CMU experience as a part of CMU’s Leadership Institute.  At the end of this day, whether you have been offered a scholarship or not, everyone who attends is invited into the LI.

As a part of this Competition Day Lead Team, we completed many hours of planning and training to make sure the day ran smoothly and that we put on a fun and meaningful event for the incoming freshmen.  The day-long event consisted of a speech from the Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute Director, Dan Gaken, as well as a panel discussion for both incoming students and their parents, during which current members of the Leadership Institute were able to provide insight about the organization and its unique contribution to the CMU experience.  Following these discussions were breakout sessions which consisted of small-group team building events, during which the students’ communication skills, leadership styles, and overall attitudes were observed.  To end the day, the new students participated in a large group challenge, which I was chosen to facilitate, where the group would have to unanimously determine how to survive in the event that they were stranded on a deserted island.  This gave the review team an idea of how each student was able to lead a group in making difficult decisions.

I strongly believe that our Competition Day Lead Team was successful in planning and executing the 2018 Competition Day.  The Leadership Institute has selected a talented and energetic new cohort of incoming freshmen to join the organization in 2018, and I hope that the LI is a place that they will be able to find a home during their time at CMU.

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Mentee & Me

fam on iceWhere do I even begin?  When I took up the mentor role, to be quite frank, I didn’t even feel like I knew what I was doing yet myself.  I still reached out to my mentor consistently, whether it be asking for advice, trying to schedule classes, or just going to half-off apps at Applebee’s to de-stress.  And now all of a sudden, I have someone who’s looking up to me, thinking that I know all there is to know about CMU and life in general.  But I don’t…  What I’ve learned so far is that life is a process – you’ll never know everything.  Anyone who claims to has never tried hard enough to fail.  And thus began the dysfunctional sisterly relationship between myself and Katie Heller – the best mentee in the game.

I met Katie on her LAS Competition day back in 2016.  I couldn’t even tell you how many people came up and said, “Kendall, if you haven’t met Katie yet, you need to go do that right now.”  They were right, it seemed like a perfect match.  Draft day came, and Katie became my mentee, though she didn’t know it yet.  Then began the tricky part.  Once I picked Katie to be my mentee, I didn’t want it to be obvious that I was her mentor right away, so naturally I waited until the last possible second to do my reveal (I’m pretty sure that she’s still annoyed at me for causing all that suspense).  While Katie was at school, I dropped off a gift her at her house, which also included a baseball with both my name and my mentor, Connor Ewald’s name.  She actually left school early once she found out that her mentor had left something for her, and that’s when I got her text letting me know how excited she was to be starting this new journey.

mentor menteeKatie and I have a great relationship that has formed and strengthened over the last year.  From mentor-mentee retreat, to the all-LAS picnic, to family tree nights at Applebee’s and everything in between, it became clear to me that I had made one of the best choices of my life by choosing Katie as my mentee.  And our relationship is just going to continue to grow – my mentee and I just signed a lease together for next year, fire up!  One thing that I love about LAS is that acquaintances turn into friends, and friends turn into family.

Katie, I love ya girl.

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Communication is Key

“I want you to look back at this class and think ‘I enjoyed going to Moore Hall at 2PM.’” –Elizabeth Carlson.

In Elizabeth Carlson’s Communication in Leadership class, my cohort studied a variety of concepts including leadership theories, leadership and influence, leading groups, teams, and organizations, public leadership, leadership and diversity, and ethical issues in leadership.

We also participated in “fishbowl” discussion activities frequently.  Fishbowls consisted of one small group of students in the class sitting in the middle of the classroom and having a self-guided discussion amongst themselves about a case study having to do with a particular area of leadership, as the rest of the class observed the conversation.  When the group in the middle was finished speaking, the whole class split off into several small groups with each original member facilitating the new conversations.  Following this, Professor Carlson would bring the class back together with a wrap-up discussion to consider different ideas that were brought forward from each separate conversation.

I really enjoyed this process, and I think that it significantly impacted my ability to apply topics that we had learned about in class to “real-life” scenarios.  Through the fishbowls, our class was presented with such a variety of issues and a multitude of perspectives on how to solve each of them, which led to great conversations about leadership, personal values and beliefs, and challenging ourselves and our classmates.  I believe that it is through these types of conversations that we are able to grow as individuals, and for that reason, I am very appreciative of the concepts and skills that I learned in COM 461L.  With that being said, I can honestly say that I enjoyed going to More Hall at 2PM.

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