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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

Mountward Bound and Beyond

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(2/2015) My time at the Mount has been dedicated to becoming a leader. Though this transformation was impacted by multiple factors, the greatest impact has come from the Office of Social Justice’s leadership development program: CORE. CORE is a group made up of student leaders who are passionate about addressing and educating others about issues of social justice. The CORE leaders within the Office of Social Justice lead service experiences focusing on a current or past social justice concern. Throughout my past three years at the Mount, my weekends have been filled with long days and early mornings learning about group dynamics and facilitation. I have learned about safe food preparation and first aid as well as a vast array of silly icebreakers. It has taken me a while, but I have found that at the root of leadership and the desire to help others is self-awareness, being mentally aware of where you stand emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and gaining an understanding of your strengths and gifts as well as places in which you need to grow. It is through acknowledging and keeping in mind all of these aspects that you are able to truly find yourself and develop into a good leader.

My freshman year in CORE consisted of training to develop strong leadership qualities and logistical aspects of leading students and service experiences. After my training I was given my first trip that would put all of my skills to test. I was to lead Mountward Bound, the pre-orientation trip for the incoming freshman class. This was the same experience that I had gone on as a freshman, an experience that had awakened the love of service within me. I found out that as a sophomore I would lead twenty-four freshmen on a similar weeklong experience. Since I had already attended Mountward Bound, I knew what to expect as a participant, but I was unsure as to what to expect as a leader. Like most new experiences, I was both nervous and excited. I was excited to play an influential role in the lives of freshmen students but worried that I wouldn’t have the skills I needed to be a good leader and to make sure that everyone had a beneficial experience.

When I arrived on campus in the middle of August, I was filled with excitement over the start of a new year. I settled into my new dorm room and eagerly met with the other CORE leaders in the office. We went over all the details that we had discussed throughout the summer and got everything ready for the arrival of our participants. When Sunday morning rolled around, I woke up bright and early, ready to meet members of the incoming freshman class. In the afternoon the twenty-four Mountward Bound Serve participants all filed into the Mount Café carrying duffle bags and pillows. They sat down at the booths with their parents and younger siblings, smiling timidly at one another. After discussing the important information regarding the trip, we loaded up the three white vans and headed off to Summit Lake.

I was worried that they wouldn’t, but my leadership skills kicked in and soon enough I was helping students with their adjustment while incorporating the importance of service to others and meaningful discussion about college life. It turned out that all of those weekends I spent working to learn and improve my leadership skills had paid off. With the support of the other leaders, I helped to lead a successful pre-orientation trip.

That first year leading Mountward Bound was definitely a learning experience. It is easy to talk about how you would handle a situation, but it is much different when you are meeting that situation face to face. Within the first week of leading a trip I came to realize that leadership is made up of a bunch of different traits and it comes in many different forms. A leader must be confident, yet vulnerable, funny, yet firm. Leadership is a balance and a constant adjustment process. Leadership takes practice and determination but it can be one of the most rewarding roles that one takes on.

Reflecting back on my three years at the Mount so far, it is interesting to look at my leadership development through my role with Mountward Bound. During my freshman year I was only a participant. I was actively involved but unsure of myself and the traits I possessed. My sophomore year was my first time being on Mountward Bound as a leader and I was hesitant, unsure I would have the skills I needed to make it a success. Much to my delight, I helped to lead a meaningful experience and gain confidence in myself along the way. When the start of my junior year rolled around I was planning to lead Mountward Bound for a second time. This time was much smoother since my courage, self-assurance, and leadership skills had grown tremendously. Next year, I am expected to help lead Mountward Bound for the final time. This will be bittersweet for me, but I will be able to look back on Mountward Bound fondly for helping me discover my passions and enhancing my leadership capabilities. Mountward Bound has challenged me to take on many roles, and it has taught me various skills that I have used beyond this pre-orientation trip and will continue to use in my daily life.

One of the many things that the Mount has given me is the opportunity to realize my leadership potential. The Office of Social Justice and the CORE program continue to challenge me to be the best leader that I am able to become. Every day, my leadership role further develops through the situations and experiences that I face. I am consistently asked to put on my "leadership shoes" and help to establish a path for myself and for others. John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, once said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." Adams sums it up well. A leader does not have to be someone who goes out and changes the world, impacts hundreds of lives, or leads a weeklong trip; a leader is simply someone who encourages others to flourish. Helping others to discover their inner potential and assisting them in their journey to reach it is leadership at its finest.

Throughout the month of February, and the rest of the months of the year, let us try to be an inspiration for others through our thoughts, words, and actions so that they may desire to dream, learn, do, and become more.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen