I-LEAD® 2016

It has been five weeks since I finally zipped up my suitcase to head west for my first I-LEAD® experience. It was also my first time to the west coast. Time to find out what the whole jet-lag thing was about.  I-LEAD® is the premiere leadership institute for students created by ACUI. My love for the Association of College Unions International has been consistent since 2008 and my love for it only continues to grow. All this to say, my experience at this program was amazing and borderline indescribable.

When I applied to be a facilitator, I knew that this was going to be an experience that would stretch me, that would require me to go outside my comfort zone, to learn something about myself.  Those reasons alone were enough, but I also applied because I was looking for a new way to volunteer for the association and this seemed like the best option.

My introverted self knew that I was going to have to push beyond my impatience with small talk and my anxiety of meeting new people and making a fool of myself. But then I got to Tacoma, WA and I found my people. I’m serious, I couldn’t have found better people to spend 10 days with.

I met colleagues who became fast friends.  We laughed together, cried together, were frustrated and compassionate together. I felt challenged and supported all, at the same time. These beautiful people helped me to sort through, and clarify, my thoughts and feelings about leadership, social justice, and what it means to balance the personal with the professional. These folks are brave, intelligent, and so, so kind. I felt empowered and strong around them. They helped me to be a better professional, and a better human.

IMG_2259In addition to the wonderful professionals, I had the privilege to meet and work with fourteen students who amazed and humbled me.  They committed to being vulnerable and honest. They were focused and dedicated to growing and working through the concepts we challenged them to explore. To see these students develop over the course of five days was an honor. I know that they will go on to do amazing things on their campuses and eventually, in the world. In a time when the world seems less than hopeful, these students restored my faith in the good of humanity.


The week was not without its challenges and puzzles, and the lack of sleep was enough to make anyone delirious. But, in the end, I walked away with an experience that I will never forget.  Michelle told us during the training that “For those who experience it, no explanation is needed, For those who haven’t, explanation is impossible.” Or something like that. Let’s just say I paraphrased.

When I got on my plane to come home, the first song that started playing on my iTunes was Make Something Beautiful by Ben Rector.  It is a short song from his recent album Brand New and it could not have more perfectly summed up what that experience was for me. That week was making something beautiful for the rest of world.

The lyrics:

Please let me make something beautiful
The thing that reminds us there’s good in the world
The thing that reminds us there’s still something out there worth fighting for
Cuz it feels like the world has gone crazy
Spinning faster and cheaper than ever before
And it feels like there’s nobody giving a damn, that it’s getting worse
ooohhhh ohhhh ohhhh
Let it be something wonderful.
oohhhhh ohhhh ohhhh
Let it be something beautiful.
Please let me make something beautiful
The thing that reminds us there’s good in the world.

Read more: Ben Rector – Make Something Beautiful Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Click here to hear it: Make Something Beautiful

Did I mention there was a lot of crying?



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