Students Reflect on Their Time as Leadership Safari Guides

Story by Paige Sheffield
Photo Courtesy of Central Michigan University

Leadership Safari is a program for incoming students to learn how to be successful at Central Michigan University, get involved on campus, meet other new students and develop leadership abilities. Groups of new students are led by returning students who volunteer their time to facilitate activities and aid in the transition to life at CMU.

With Safari 2016 in the books, individuals who give life to the impactful week reflect on what the program and its mission means to them.

Becoming a Guide

Senior Katie Neu was never a Leadership Safari participant, but said the program changed her life.

After struggling during her first two years at CMU, Neu applied to be a guide when she wanted to remind herself of who she was and why she was so passionate about leadership. She applied to be a guide and has continued her involvement with Safari for several years.

“I was in an incredible depression and had completely lost myself due to some things I was going through in my life when I applied to be a guide,” Neu said. “Being around people who pushed me to see the good, incredible things about myself and my life reminded me of the reason I was at CMU – I wanted to make a change. I wanted to be a positive influence for incoming students and fellow guides.”

Senior Tanner Hecht said participating in Leadership Safari changed his outlook on CMU and life in general, and he wanted to help impact other students, so he decided to become a guide.

“My favorite aspect of being a Safari guide is the ability to finish out the week knowing that I helped multiple students with their transition into the most important part of their lives so far,” Hecht said. “Receiving feedback about the impact I’ve had on them inspires me to always push to be a role model and leader wherever I go.”

Alumna Michaela Wright was a guide for four years. She said seeing the social change through people’s actions and the development of friendships kept her coming back.

“The change I made from being a participant to a leader was my ability to apply what I had learned in Safari to my everyday life and continue to educate my peers, as well as lead and motivate them,” Wright said. “This was a clear sign that I need to take those skills back to Safari and repay the program for all the amazing things it brought out in me.”

Rewards, Challenges, and a Lasting Impact

Neu said the most rewarding part about being a guide is seeing how the participants change from the beginning of the week to the end of the week. She thinks many students go into the week expecting an orientation program, but get a valuable leadership experience in return.

Though the week reaps many rewards, sometimes there are challenges along the way.

Hecht said the most challenging aspect of being a guide is accepting that everyone in your group might not connect. It is the guide’s job to create a positive environment and help the group bond and work together, but at the same time, guides also have to know they can’t force bonds between people.

Though some people might not connect, Neu said she loves seeing the connections that form between all those involved in Leadership Safari, whether they’re participants, guides, core guides, runners, C-Team or office staff.

Safari is a program that pushes people out of their comfort zones and allows leaders to shine, she said.

Though Safari inevitably comes to an end, the lasting effect the program has on its participants and guides are visible for years to come.

“It’s those messages from a participant two years back at 3 a.m. thanking you for being an influence on their life,” Wright said. “[And], knowing that you changed someone’s life before they embark on one of the biggest self-motivated tasks of life – completing college.”