Retreat 2-1 pictures and my Serve to Lead Program
Serve to Lead/Lead to Serve Proposal
Community service is a key part of my life, and it functions as an opportunity to grow selflessly while leading others. In any community, regardless of the size, there are always countless opportunities to help improve and give back to the community. From installing an exterior irrigation system at a community garden, phone banking for the Young Democrats in my town, restoring rooms in historic society museums, and so much more, community service has been a consistent part of my life since I was in first grade. Although these were all different areas of service, they helped me grow as a leader and as a productive member of society. Nonetheless, there is always room to grow and become a better leader, and I am excited to keep finding new strategies to improve upon. The Pioneer Leadership Program, and more specifically, my serve to lead position at Cafe 180, continues to catalyze my growth as a leader.
Although I have had many different community service experiences over the past twelve or so years, one of my favorites was my Boy Scout troop’s annual Ziti Dinner. With the exception of my junior year, I have worked as a waiter once every March since the fifth grade. I would serve drinks, salad, bread, ziti, and a plethora of desserts to several families at the Congregational Church on my town green. My troop thought it was a fun way for us to give back to the people of the community while cooking and serving food from local businesses. I would interact with dozens of people each year, ensuring they have a delicious meal and a night fun for the whole family. Although I would occasionally serve a customer who was unhappy with the selections or simply wanted to give me a hard time, I learned that it was always a good idea to treat them with kindness and respect regardlessly. For the most part, I was making smiles and memories for my community. This was definitely worth sacrificing my Saturday evening. The feeling of pleasing a customer with a warm smile and a warm meal resonated with me when I selected Cafe 180 as my Serve to Lead program. I have never heard of a restaurant chain that allows one to pay however much they want for a meal in order to give back to the community and feed the homeless. It is such an ingenious idea that I had to sign up. So far, I have seen so many faces light up when I bring out their plate, granting me the sensation of improving their day. This satisfaction from serving people through community service is certainly unparalleled.
Through my Inclusive Leadership class, I have had the pleasure of reading chapters from Nene Molefi’s A Journey of Diversity & Inclusion in South Africa. In this book, Molefi has written her fascinating memoirs from Apartheid South Africa and all the racism and inequality that came with it. While her entire story was inspiring, her message on “The danger of labelling” stood out to me the most. Molefi encouraged, “Instead of labelling, I learned the importance of seeking to understand why a person is in the situation they are in, and how one can help get them out of that situation. Labelling, excluding, and judging people usually digs them in deeper to whatever situation that is causing problems in the first place” (Molefi 2017). After carefully reflecting on this statement, I have found myself subconsciously reading people and determining their socioeconomic status. I never really judged them or thought of them as better or lesser people because of it, but I would catch myself being almost condescending to people less fortunate than I, which is what I spent my entire life trying not to do. This is obviously rather unfair, and I decided to start getting to know the stories of the people to whom I serve food at Cafe 180. In fact, one of the homeless people I met was an upper-middle class working husband less than two years ago. One day, his job had to cut him off and his wife decided to get divorced as a result, keeping both the kids and the house. He had to start his entire life over again and work his way back up to where he left off. Not everyone deserves to be where they are in life, and I have a lot of respect for this customer after what he has worked to overcome. I definitely need to start learning the stories of people prior to forming any sort of opinion on them more often.
After taking the Insights Discovery Personal Profile test, I have learned that I am yellow dominant. This means that I am approachable and outgoing, know how to enjoy the journey as well as the destination, adaptable, considerate, adventurous, and versatile with people skills. I work great in groups, and I love being friendly towards people I care about. However, aside from these key strengths, I also have a few weaknesses. My greatest weakness is that I find it difficult to focus on a single topic or task for a long period of time. While at Cafe 180, I am given a few different tasks, such as serving food to customers, retrieving ingredients from the freezer, or taking out the trash. But despite these seemingly plentiful tasks, about 90% of the time I am washing, drying, or putting away dishes. This is very repetitive and not the most captivating task I could be doing in a kitchen, but it has to get done, so I willingly assume this role. I find myself constantly sticking my hands in the grimy water, wasting rolls of paper towels to dry the dishes, and aimlessly wandering the kitchen, hoping to find where each dish is supposed to go. I do it well and in a timely manner, but I frequently find myself eager to change tasks and go deliver food to a table or check the bins in the restaurant for more dirty dishes. I have learned that this is prone to happen to me for the rest of my life based on my personality and leadership style, so I just learn to cope with it and make it work. Even in Cafe 180, occasionally delivering a meal to a customer is a great way to keep my mind active, giving me just enough time to stop drying dishes before getting back to it. This constant change of pace definitely allows the shift to be more fun and interesting, which is the reason I want to keep coming back in the near future. Sometimes, recognizing and embracing my weaknesses can be my greatest strength as a leader, allowing me to ensure no one makes the same mistake.
Community service undoubtedly leads to the formation of a good leader. My community service experiences, including my time with Cafe 180, taught me the pricelessness of putting a smile on someone’s face, knowing that I contributed to making their day better. I have learned to hear the stories of people I meet or lead prior to making any type of judgment. This way, I can give them the chance they deserve to explain their situation and work with it to determine how to best lead them. I have even embraced my strengths and weaknesses outlined by our Insights tests to figure out how to make sure my part, and thus everyone else’s part, gets done without obstacles interfering with the process. I cannot wait to continue improving my leadership skills through my services at Cafe 180 in the near future.
PLP and ELLC Memories
PLP Fall and Hallowen festivities