What makes you a Difference Maker?
I don't think there is one thing I could name that makes me a Difference Maker. A big part of being a Difference Maker is knowing that the world is so much bigger than myself. I know that not everyone is given the tools they need to succeed and thrive in life, and I want to change that. My parents raised me to think beyond myself and to help others whenever I have the ability, which I’m extremely grateful for. The morals and values my family instilled in me are a part of what makes me a Difference Maker. My passion in life is helping children and families. Everyone has a voice, but so many people's voices go unheard. Children and families deserve to have the tools they need in order to create positive social, emotional and institutional change—I strive to give the children and families I work with those tools. I think that my ability to have empathy for someone's situation and meet them where they’re at in their life also makes me a Difference Maker. I’m fully aware that I’m walking in the footsteps of other people's past experiences when I engage with them. I don't consider what I do work—I consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to foster emotional, social and behavioral skills in children that they’ll be able to use long after we’ve finished working together.
Highlight your campus achievements:
I’ve been on the Dean’s List over several semesters and I’ve received several scholarships from the university. Last year, I was awarded the Dr. Carole A. and Mr. Anthony C. Fielek Endowed Scholarship, as well as the General Merit scholarship based on my academic performance and my role in the UM-Dearborn community through student organizations. I’ve been a member of Mentors for a Brighter Day (MBD) since my freshman year. During my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to become president of the Mentors program and have been serving in that position for a year now. Through MBD, members visit local elementary schools and mentor children who are in need of a positive adult role model in their lives. Being a mentor is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I’m also a part of The Michigan Journal—the school newspaper. I’ve been writing for The Michigan Journal since my freshman year. Writing news articles has provided me with the opportunity to hear a variety of people’s experiences and share their stories. I had the honor of interviewing President Schlissel and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Zahara. One of my favorite aspects of writing articles is being able to connect with people I may not have otherwise met.
Highlight your leadership experiences both on and off campus:
Everyone deserves a voice and a chance to succeed. Not all children are given the opportunity or the tools they need to succeed. I love being a mentor and being president of Mentors for a Brighter Day because we provide children with the tools they need now, but will also need for the rest of their lives to succeed. I’ve worked with the same two children for three years now and the coping skills they learned in third grade are still being used now, in fifth grade. The difference is they are using their coping skills without thinking about it. As the children transition out of our program, the goal for them is to no longer need their mentor—we work with them to build coping skills that they can use throughout their entire lives to succeed and further their journey. Being a mentor means being a leader to the children I work with. I believe in leading by example. When I ask the children to work on breathing when they get angry, I do it with them; learning new skills is more powerful when you do it with someone and learn together. Our motto is that we "try to make a child's day a little brighter," and I strive to make this happen every time I interact with the children.
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to take on a leadership role at a camp for children with serious health challenges. I volunteered with a SeriousFun camp, which provides children with serious health challenges a camp experience that they otherwise wouldn’t get. I volunteered during solid organ transplant week and was a camp counselor for eight girls, aged nine to eleven years old. Camp was a new experience for the majority of girls in my cabin. Activities such as archery, canoeing and fishing were brand new to the children; some of these activities were new to me too. Leadership to me means that, in situations like camp, I do everything with a positive attitude. Attitudes are contagious and children pick up on that. One of the girls in my cabin was fearful of the new activities, so we had a deal—I would try them all first and if it turned out okay for me, she would try it next. A few days into camp she came up to me at archery and said, "I think I will go first today and let you know how it is." This was a huge moment for her; she no longer needed me to go first and she now had the courage and confidence to try something on her own. Sometimes all children need is to know that someone believes in them.
What is your dream career and/or long term life goal?
My dream career is to open a center in an underprivileged community that offers food access, behavioral health services and education classes to children and their families. I don't want to create these services on my own for people, I want to create them in conjunction with the people who need them. If someone needs a service, they should have a voice in saying how the service is run and what they want to gain from it. I hope to create a community dynamic that empowers children to make their own change. I want to provide children with all the resources they could ever need to create positive change in their communities and lives.
What was your most defining moment at UM-Dearborn?
Choosing a major was a real challenge for me. I always knew that I wanted to work with children, but I could never pinpoint a career that quite fit what I was looking for. My most defining moment at UM-Dearborn was when I found a major that worked for me (well more like two). Making a difference in the world is a major priority for me. I was looking for a career path that would allow me to make a positive impact on the world in some way. When the university announced they were offering a public health major, I instantly knew it was for me. Public health is a broad field that has a wide range of opportunities. I wasn’t sure how working with children fit into the equation though. After a lot of thought, I settled on a double major in public health and psychology. This was one of the more challenging decisions I had to make, but I felt so relieved after. Picking a major is so much more than paperwork—it means you are setting yourself on a course for what you hope to do for the rest of your life. Public health and psychology spoke to me because it combines the macro view of public health and the micro view of psychology. Having a micro and macro background means I’ll be able to work with children one on one, but I’ll also have the ability to write and implement programs they need. Once I chose my major it felt like everything else fell into place.