The last two years I have been a part of LAS in the D have been experiences that I will never forget. This trip was slightly different than last year, however. This year, I was on the LEAD Team for the trip. As a member of the LEAD Team, my job was to facilitate the trip for the underclassmen. This included facilitating leadership activities at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, guiding group reflections at night, and volunteering with the group at Cass Community Social Services.
We began our service at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, where my group of LAS students, along with my co-facilitator, Garrett Ritterhaus, was paired with a group of six JRLA students. When we first met with our groups, we were given a challenge of coming up with a team chant and participating in ice-breakers to get to know each other. Following this, our group went off to a classroom to teach the JRLA students about facilitation, which was a blast! We did two leadership activities – Gutter Ball and Carpet Maze. Gutter Ball is an activity in which the objective is to get a marble from one side of the room to the other by using small wooden “gutters.” For Carpet Maze, the objective is to get the whole team through a tape maze by following a specific predetermined pattern. What makes these activities so much fun doesn’t lie within the activities themselves, but rather in the frontloading and challenges that progress as the games go, as well as the debrief session at the end. Frontloading is essential to facilitating an activity well. To illustrate my point, imagine these two scenarios for Carpet Maze:
1) Your facilitator has designated a path through the maze that your team has to figure out and complete in order to successfully finish the activity;
2) It is 84 million B.C. You and your team are being chased through the jungle by a pack of wild dinosaurs. To successfully get through the jungle and outrun the dinosaurs, you must find a path through the jungle, avoiding all of the quicksand and lava. It’s impossible to hear anything because the dinosaurs are screeching so loudly behind you – therefore, you cannot talk! Help your teammates get through the maze as quickly as possible!
Obviously, the second scenario sounds like the more fun one. And as the game progresses, throwing in challenges can make the activity even better. For example: Oh no! The wind just blew quicksand into two of your teammates eyes! You must complete the rest of the course while wearing a blindfold! The JRLA students had a great time going through each of these activities, and it was amazing to see how much they were interested in learning about facilitation through the questions that they asked, and how substantially they contributed to the debrief discussions which tied the activity back to how to apply what they had learned through the questions What? So What? and Now What?
Following our visit to the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, we were taken to Quicken Loans for dinner, which I was looking forward to because I had great things about the company. We were given the opportunity to network with Quicken’s staff, as well as touring their offices. After dinner, we were then able to spend two hours at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
At night, we stayed at the DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center in Downtown Detroit, just as we had done the previous year. The building itself has a very rich history, but was newly renovated in order to better serve its purpose for the DNR bringing “up north” to downtown Detroit. We were given time to relax and explore the building, which was then followed by and intensive debriefing session, led by myself and Garrett. I think that this was a great opportunity to not only hear the what the freshmen had to say about their experiences from the day, but enrich and expand upon the conversations by relating these experiences to each individual’s passions.
The next morning, LAS went to Cass Community Social Services. Cass is an organization that does many things for the community, but one thing that I think is absolutely wonderful is that Cass employs people who are homeless and people who have gotten out of prison, providing each of them with food, jobs, skill training, and places to stay, allowing people to get back on their feet. Among the service that my cohort did at Cass were making mats and shoes out of recycled tires, and working at the paper recycling center, and volunteering at the food and clothing donation center, which is where my group and I volunteered. Cass had just received a few very large donations, and it was apparent that there was a lot of work to be done. We sorted nonperishable items and clothing that were to be taken by Cass and given to those in need. I really enjoyed volunteering at the donation site because my group had a great bonding experience, we made our work a lot of fun, and we knew that we were making a difference.
The key to having a successful service trip is not only going into it with an open mind, but also remembering on a daily basis the service that has been done. So easily we allow ourselves to slip back into our daily routines and become comfortable with what is familiar to us instead of challenging ourselves to grow and continuing to give back. We need to remember our challenges, feelings, relationships, actions, and take-aways that have resulted from our service and continue to grow and challenge ourselves through a continuation of service. A service trip is not meant to be a memory of an experience we have had, but a constant reminder to put others before ourselves and continue to do more by giving back to others, and I am beyond blessed to have facilitated what is, arguably, the best LAS in the D trip to date.