(Photos courtesy of Jeanice Vacarizas)
This past week I had the opportunity to attend LeaderShape, a program which the University of Florida selected 60 students to partake in.
The mission of the program is “to transform the world by increasing the number of people who lead with integrity and a healthy disregard for the impossible”.
On May 4th, students from diverse backgrounds arrived at the grounds of Camp Kulaqua. Students chosen to attend the event included members of Cicerones, Warrington Diplomats, Savant and Senate, to name a few.
If you are wondering what LeaderShape is, the best way to explain it is to say that it is unexplainable. It is something that I can’t even begin to describe. I left the exhausting and challenging week with a new outlook on life, a new understanding about myself and a diverse new family.
“Aside from the fact that we’ve gained tools that will help us enact positive change, we’ve also gained friendships,” said participant Sharein Wilson. “I’ve never experienced such authentic conversations with strangers, and that’s one of the reasons why these friendships are so special.”
Days lasted from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and were filled with a rigorous curriculum. Students shut off their cellphones and social media in order to get all they could out of the experience.
“It helped me realize that I was burnt out and needed rejuvenation,” said participant Valery Raymond. “I found myself continually frustrated for no reason, but LeaderShape, being six days, extricated me from the cacophonous noise of society that I found myself drowning in.”
Over the course of the week we tore down our personal barriers. We learned how to efficiently work as a team while simultaneously learning what makes each individual valuable. We discussed the discrimination we have faced, as well as discrimination we have been bystanders to without realizing or thinking to speak up. We realized how quickly power can manipulate a previously cohesive society.
One of the more concentrated topics of the week was developing a vision, then planning tangible steps to bring that vision to reality. Students were asked to choose a vision: something bigger than their own personal goals, something bigger than their lifetime. The vision was to be something that would make the world a better place for generations to come.
Within our community the visions were nothing short of beautiful. They were full of passion and positive impact. Something that only phenomenal leaders would be able to accomplish, and truly good-hearted people would pour their time into working towards.
To give you a better perspective, some included: eliminating racism in institutionalized organizations, a world free of gang violence, reducing animal abuse and neglect, etc.
“LeaderShape not only allowed me to bond with other amazing student leaders on campus, but provided me a myriad of invaluable tools to help realize my vision for the future.” Narayan Kulkarni
The interesting part of the program is that it never really ends. The students remained at leadership retreat for six days, but the program itself is seven. Day seven is every day after the retreat. Day seven is how you take the different topics and visions you developed throughout the program and foster them within the complexities of your own personal and work life.
“To put the LeaderShape 2014 into words is a challenge in itself,” said participant Ellis Lamar. “The experience was one that taught me things about myself that I never would have imagined. I also became part of a family, a family that I hope will assist me in reaching my goals as I will assist them in reaching theirs.”
For more information, please visit: http://www.leadershape.org