We're eight students from Drury University participating in the Summit Park Leadership Community. Our project is to serve Pipkin Middle School by working with Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
The months of April and May were the busiest two months for our group. April marked the beginning of our “Guy Talk” and “Girl Talk” sessions at Pipkin and the execution of our big project, multicultural night, was on the last Tuesday of April. April was a huge success for our group I feel like and we all got to experience what it is like to work with middle school kids from various different backgrounds. We also got a glimpse of some event planning and seeing those plans go to work which was really exciting.
Guy and Girl Talk was a series of talks that were done with specially picked students that would gain the most from having the interaction with older college students. Guy Talk was done by Matt Armstrong and Aaron Tucker and they talked about things like shaving, hygiene, studying habits, and drug and alcohol prevention. There was a lot of positive responses about this installment our volunteer experience-not doing it last semester. “The kids were really excited to see us. One day in particular was when Aaron and I got there a little early during passing period and one of our students came up and asked if we were coming to class today. After we responded ‘yes’, he gave us a high five and scurried away.” This is just one account, given by Matt Armstrong of the impact they made. Girl talk was essentially the same thing, just tailored more towards girls (obviously) and was carried out by Taylor Rice this semester.
Multicultural night was our big project and it turned out to be a success as well. So much planning went in to it from organizing when international students at Drury could cook sample meals in our kitchens and figuring out catering from restaurants, to setting up the tri-fold boards with all sorts of fun facts to inform our visitors about Africa, the regions of Latin America and the Middle East, and the countries of Spain and China. It took a lot of creative effort and Alexis, our fearless manager on this project, did an outstanding job of organizing. The idea for this event was to give kids a culture snapshot of each region listed above. We had food samples, information, activities, and the beloved Chinese dragon performers that grace us with their presence in the commons every year around the Chinese New Year time. Everyone had a great time it seemed.
By the time May had rolled around, the chaos had settled in 633 East Calhoun apartments A and B. For our open house, we simply used the tri-fold posters from multicultural night and threw a slide show together to show all the people visiting our stand all the work that was put into it. Summit left everyone on the team with a lasting impact of what it means to work with a team and the trials and tribulations experienced. Communication is the biggest hurdle to jump when working with several different groups like a non-profit, school, and student group. There needs to be regular, established communication between every single person in order for things to run smoothly. This was our biggest challenge. All in all, it was an excellent experience had by all and it will be something we remember forever.
Written by the guest blogger, Aaron Tucker.
Contributions by all group members.
Our group has just now really getting on a roll. We have had a wonderful group meeting to discuss this semesters big project; which will be a large multicultural night with Pipkin middle school, occurring April 23rd. And our groups are all now finally starting to get underway. Kevin has started Leadership club back up and he is very excited to resume activities with them. He cannot wait to see what this semester holds for him and the kids! Taylor and Emily have now resumed their Girl Talk groups with Pipkin and they are very happy to start up talks again. They cannon wait to see what kind of impacts they can make on these girls lives by educating and being there for them. Jacy and Alexis are excited to resume meeting with their groups. They are also very excited about multicultural night which is happening April 23rd. They are very busy getting performers, guest speakers, advertisement and food coordinated. We as a group are very excited and cannot wait to see what the turn out will be. Aaron, Matt Armstrong, and myself (Matt Lytle) are all extremely excited to begin Guy talk. It finally starts Tuesday and after our groups all fell through last semester we cannot wait for a fun and successful project. We hope to make and impact and hopefully be educate and be good role models for these young kids that may need someone to look up to. So, overall the status of our groups progress is much better than when we made the last blog post and we cannot wait to the what the remainder of this year has in store!
-Contributions by all group members (Kevin Abernathy, Matt Armstrong, Emily Dicus, Alexis Dutt, Matt Lytle, Taylor Rice, Jacy Shaw, and Aaron Tucker)
Written by: Your resident bloggers, Matt Lytle and Taylor Rice!
This Semester has begun with all different experiences thus far; as far as our service projects go. Some of our groups, clubs, and activities at Pipkin have already gotten the ball rolling. And for a few some work and final approvals still needs to be done with our projects in order to start them. Both Alexis and Jacy have gotten off to a great start already this Semester as they just recently helped with the NJHS Talent Show. On February 28th, Alexis and Jacy were judges in the Pipkin National Junior Honor Society’s Talent Show. They were both involved from the very beginning when the idea of a talent show was being tossed around. Each meeting attended they were asked for advice and ideas on how to proceed with the execution of the show. After, both mentioned how rewarding it was to arrive on the night of the show and see it put together by all the kids. As judges, they were both somewhat hesitant to have to score the contestants, some of which are seen at every NJHS meeting; however, if was exciting to see the different acts and creativity some of the students have. Although the show did not make as much money for fundraising as originally planned, the kids had a blast and the show was still a success which in the end is all that matters! Taylor, Emily, Kevin, Aaron, Matt Armstrong, and myself have all gotten off to a bit of a slow start. We are all waiting for our clubs. Taylor and Emily have begun putting together their GirlTalk information, so they can get started this upcoming month. They have a lot of great information that they look forward to sharing with the middle school girls of Pipkin. This semester of GirlTalk will be more of a challenge than last semester because they are now on their own without the help of a female adviser They are excited for this chance to take part in more independent leadership and to become a more personal mentor to the girls. Matt Armstrong also has not been able to complete any service hours yet as him, Aaron Tucker are all in the same position with GuyTalk and its awaited approval. But Matt said, While this month has not brought much action in our group has planned quite a few activities. At the end of last semester, Matt Lytle, Aaron Tucker, and myself compiled a set of notes for a new program called “Guy Talk”. It is modeled after the girls’ “Girl Talk” group and will involve the three of us meeting with interested students and discussing various teenage issues ranging from relationships to shaving. We plan to do this group with the wrestling coach overseeing. We have also met with our new community partner, Eric to plan other activities. The start of the semester has gone well, but hopefully, this month, our plans will begin to be executed. Aaron is in the same position as Matt A. and myself right now and he said, Not a lot of progress made because of miscommunication between our group and Community Partnership, and within Community Partnership. MAP testing is happening in March so April will be the best time to complete our service hours and do the guy talk. We are helping put on a multi-cultural night which will be very exciting I think. This won’t happen until May though. Trying to communicate with Community Partnership is really difficult with all of our schedules being so busy with school, extracurricular activities, and work. Personally I am very excited in the GuyTalk program we are about to complete. I am excited to make an impact on these kids lives and maybe make a difference in their lives by providing information, support, and guidance that might help them succeed in the future. Kevin will continue to work with leadership club as soon as they get back under way and a schedule is provided for him. He is very excited to resume Leadership Club because as a strong leader he can provide a lot of insight that will help the kids for their future.
Written By; Taylor Rice & Matt Lytle
Contributions by all group members.
This semester was full of ups, downs, twists, and turns! It really taught be that not everything always works out the way that you may hope or expect. This goes for both living with your best friends and in reference to the service projects that we were working with. As predicted, there will always be problems with living with people, even if they are all your best friends. People will do little things that may get on your nerves and the same goes for yourself doing things that may get on others nerves as well. But, I think that any problems, disputes, or pointless arguments that may have arisen throughout this wonderful semester; have made us all stronger people in a leadership and friendship sense. I really think that the Summit class helped us live with each other and handle any disputes we may have had. Whether it be with the personality tests or conflict management skills; I really think those classes have a better understanding for the people we are living with and also gave us a new earned respect for our close friends.
Next, Summit really taught me that not everything will work out as planned. I expected lots of interaction with the kids at Pipkin and kind of being a sort of role model and someone that they can look up to and ask for advice. But, our club didn’t work out as planned and got cancelled directly after the first meeting, which was very unfortunate. This led to a majority of my hours spent helping out with Leadership club and planning for “Guy Talk”. Although the miss-communication and cancellation of our club was a big downer, it also brought about a very fun and exciting new activity, which is what I previously mentioned, Guy Talk! I am so excited for this activity/club because I think it will really bring our group what we set out to do with this community project; which is really have an impact on these young kids lives and be role models as well as someone that they can confide in with any troubles, questions, or curiosities! So needless to say I am looking forward to carrying on with this Summit project next semester and I cannot wait to see what our future endeavors and activities hold in store for us! :)
- Matt Lytle
This semester has FLOWN by! It seems like yesterday that we were all finally moved in and hanging out in our living room talking about how fun this semester is going to be and now we are talking in the living room about how fun it was. Funny how time does that to us….anyways!
This semester proved to be full of surprises and accomplishments as well as a few short comings. One huge accomplishment I think our whole group achieved was the success we have had from working with Community Partnership of the Ozarks and the wonderful staff that we worked with there (Sherri and Danelle). Some individual accomplishments that I have achieved include finding a new club to work with and learning to handle communication fall outs between parties.
Communication skills is something I think we have all learned more about and we have all honed those skills relatively well this semester. We had a lot of issues with not getting through to teachers to get the ball moving on some of our clubs (or maybe that was just me) but Sherri Campbell was awesome and she made accommodations for myself, Matt Armstrong, and Matt Lytle to work with Kevin in the Leadership Club which turned out to work out well and to be a lot of fun!
For next semester I would say that my main focus is on communication with our new community partner, Eric, as the rest of the guys and I prepare to do the guy version of “Girl Talk”…..”Guy Talk”. We have some stuff planned and some cool ideas that I think the kids will like a lot. I think that since we have established communication with Eric already, next semester will go a lot smoother for us on the guys side and we can have a lot of fun being solid role models for the kids at Pipkin Middle School.
Today, I completed the first semester of our yearlong Summit project. It has been quite the adventure so far full of ups, downs, and surprises. At times, it’s been joyous, and at times it’s been frustrating. But, in reflecting at this midpoint, I am happy I choose to do this, and I am looking forward to a much better second semester.
With the individualistic nature and here-and-there nature of our project, specific key accomplishments are hard to pinpoint. However, I would say my key accomplishment was relationship building. So, it was not a particular moment, but a process that played out over the months. This was primarily—and most importantly—with the students, but also with Sheri who was in charge of Leadership Club.
Honestly, I would say that it was more allowing the students to build a relationship with me. It was hard for me to remember who was who with having a handful of students at the same time and only seeing them once a week. But, they all knew exactly who I was and were always excited to see me arrive Monday afternoon. I was always positive, engaging, and enthusiastic. I showed that I cared about and was interested in them, and they responded by opening up and being a lot of fun. I talked to the boys about football—I’m not particularly interested in football. I talked to the girls about Justin Bieber—I’m not particularly interested in Justin Bieber. Yet, that’s how you build relationships, especially with kids.
As for something more concert, I think of today (maybe because it’s the freshest in my mind?). At today’s Leadership Club we celebrated a great first semester. I baked brownies and they were a hit! It was so awesome to get such a great response for my simple action. One boy even said that they were better than his mom’s, but asked that I didn’t tell her that. I told them at the end of last month that I would make them brownies and I had to follow through on my promise. I used that as a teaching point about the importance of leaders following through on their promises and commitments. I enjoy baking and make things semi-often, but I don’t think I’ve ever had anything so well received.
Relationship building was not unique to me; I know some other members of our team also made great accomplishments in that realm. However, I think our key accomplishment as a group was the way we came together for our mid-year evaluation. Everyone kind of did their own thing (or with one other person) all year. So our presentation and paper were the first time we collaborated since working on our proposal last year. I remembered why we all decided to go in on this together, and I thought it turned out well. We had our issues during the year, but all that was cast aside.
Along with that, we have a renewed spirit and vigor for next semester. It seemed like we were getting frustrated and worn down, but everyone is ready and excited for next semester. That is both huge and noteworthy.
I biggest thing I’ve learned so far is the value of adaptability. Our semester hasn’t really gone as planned. The vision in my head from last year is not how the project actually happened. It was necessary to adapt and change and approach that with a positive attitude and the same desire that started you on the path. I think this lesson with be beneficial when I graduate from college. Things may not go as I plan or hope. If I can adapt and continue forward, it will make that turn in the path that much easier to take.
I think there have been a number of positive outcomes, but I also think I am not the right person to ask that question. This project is not about me but about the students I’m working with. As far as I can gage—and from what I’ve been told from Sheri—the students have really appreciated and enjoyed my presence and work. There’s the important positive outcome. For me, it’s been a pleasure. I’ve meet some neat kids and taken advantage of an opportunity to give back. It’s nice to take some time out each week and step away from thinking about myself and school.
My focus for the spring is to simply get better. I feel so much more comfortable with how things work now so that will definitely help. If my schedule permits I would love to interact with (and hopefully impact) more students. That would be awesome. I think I can make some improvements on our group’s teamwork. We have a big group event to plan and run next year and we will need to do a better job cooperating. I believe I can do more with a blog by recording more my experiences.
I am still climbing on this adventure and working my way to the summit. Next semester will be full of challenges and excitement. It’ll be awhile before we get started, but I am looking forward to it!
This semester has been a positive learning experience for a number of reasons.
First, myself and the rest of the group have learned to work together in conflicts and to plan activities for future dates as a team. This is an essential skill to be developed in future relationships, be it career-wise, or family-wise. We have also learned the importance of communication with our partners. This semester, the school was sometimes difficult to schedule activities with, as two of the planned activities fell through for one reason or another. These were often a result of poor communication between the group and the activity supervisor.
Individually, I feel that I have accomplished getting to know and working with kids and feeling comfortable around people much younger than me. Today was the last day of leadership club, an activity that I have been helping with for only two weeks. Today, I truly felt like the kids were having fun right along with me as we played games to celebrate the end of the semester. Learning how to work with kids takes time and patience. One cannot be afraid to act a little silly every now and again and one should never take themselves too seriously. This develops trust and friendship among the children. Looking into next semester, we plan to start a group called “Guy-Talk”. This will allow four of us to go and simply talk to kids who may not have a father-figure at home about anything that may be on their minds, be it grades, personal hygiene, and even how to shave! This semester has been a great learning experience for myself and all other members of the group and I cannot wait to see what is in store for next semester!
These last four months - holy cow it’s been four months?! - have been quite the adventure. It’s good to stop and take a moment to reflect on what all we accomplished. There were moments of fighting, crying, and many of laughing, but overall, we all really grew as both individuals and as a whole.
What’s a blessing and a curse about our group is the size; we were able to really reach a lot of kids, but rarely were together doing on big project together. I am really looking forward to next semester when we take on the Multicultural night. It will be a collaboration of everything that is great about every single one of us.
As far as personal accomplishments go, mine really have to do with those little moments that I got to have with the kids. Middle schoolers are like flowers: they will really flourish with just the smallest bit of attention. It was amazing to see how they would light up just from the smallest compliments. The days that really stand out for me this semester usually just involved talking to the kids. The first day that Jacy and I went to Pipkin, the kids were obviously a little uncomfortable with these two strangers walking into their little universe. However, one particularly bold Nerd Herder named Levi came right up to us, and as bold as anything, asked, “Which of you two lovely ladies will be assisting ME?” It’s just great to think about the bright futures that some of these kids have. I can’t wait to see they grow into! Finally, on the last day of Nerd Herd, I got to spend an hour just hanging out with the kids. I went and sat with a group of girls who were knitting and crocheting - yes, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. It was the coolest thing to watch one girl guide her friends through the basic steps. They were all loving it! That day I had an opportunity to really get to know the girls. I’m excited to pick up where we left off next semester with those relationship that I’ve started to form. Additionally, with NJHS, I’m REALLY excited for this talent show we are going to be a part of. I’ve really grown to love the Pipkin community, from the eccentric students to the fantastic teachers. I’m honored to have been a part of their small world and am eager to give even more in 2013.