2014 Class Blog

Interview with Student Mentor Randon McNeil

Hanna Malak, Ysen “Tico” Dalipi, Zachary Sollie, Bryan Palmer, Randon McNeil
Arrival night! From left to right: Hanna Malak, Ysen “Tico” Dalipi, Zachary Sollie, Bryan Palmer, Randon McNeil

How the Program has impacted you personally?
The Red Cross/NAIA program has been an eye opening experience for me personally. Volunteering for an organization whose sole mission to serve others is an experience like none other. I have had the privilege to connect with individuals from all walks of life, each of them bringing a unique perspective and the opportunity to learn from each other. I have made friendships that will last for a lifetime and for that I am grateful. This program has shown me what it truly means to be grateful. Seeing blood donors willingly give up their time to selflessly donate for others is a humbling sight. We really are in the business of saving lives.
How the Program has impacted you professionally?
The Red Cross/NAIA program helped me develop from a raw college sophomore to an experienced young professional with the desire to make a difference. I have been privileged to learn from established professionals in board meetings, community outreach events, and training sessions. This program also expanded my networking reach further than I could have ever imagined. I am constantly trying to improve my leadership presence and this program has provided the guidance I was looking for. The Red Cross/NAIA program helped build my resume with relevant experience that helped me acquire a job immediately out of college. The possibilities are endless after participating in this prestigious program. This program truly is what you make it, the ball is in your court.
Why you would come back and support the Program?
When Brian Hamil asked me if I was interested in returning for a 4th year to support this program, I had no problem saying yes. This program has provided me with more opportunities than I could have ever imagined and my role as a student mentor positions me in a great place to “pay it forward” to our students. I am very passionate about this program and our student-athlete participants. I find myself continually learning new things from the leadership team at the Red Cross HQ and am anxious to see what wisdom they have in store for us.
What are your expectations/hopes for this year’s class?

I am hopeful that this year’s class would be one that embraces the true meaning of teamwork and grows together throughout our two weeks together. I hope they will be defined by their eagerness to learn, ability to have fun, and willingness to embrace the mission of this program. The American Red Cross and Washington D.C. have so much to offer and I hope they will be fully aware of all that is going on around them. These two weeks hold so much value, and I hope the students realize how important what they will be doing really is.

I can’t wait to see what is in store for the Red Cross/NAIA Class of 2014!

Day 1 by Tico Dalipi

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Red Cross/NAIA 2014 Class
From left to right: Kelley Cohron, Kayla Day, Haylie Gutierrez , Ja’Keisha Haynes, Nicole Gill, Julia Tyree, Zachary Sollie, Bryan Palmer, Madalyn Smith, Jerica Drago, Ysen “Tico” Dalipi, Kaitlin Pontikes, Megan Mosiniak

Hey everybody! My name is Ysen “Tico” Dalipi and I am currently participating in the American Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program in Washington D.C. I was born and raised in Dearborn Heights, Michigan which is a city located roughly 25 minutes outside Detroit. After graduating from Crestwood High School in 2010, I then attended Concordia University of Ann Arbor my freshmen year, then transferred over to Marygrove College, which is located in Detroit. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor in biology and a minor in chemistry. I hope that after graduating with these degrees, I will be accepted into Optometry School at Ferris State University located in Big Rapids, Michigan. Some things that I enjoy doing on my free time are playing just about any sport, however soccer otherwise referred to as “futbol” is my true passion. Truth be told, without soccer I probably would not be participating in this wonderful program because soccer is what introduced me to the National Athletics Intercollegiate Association (NAIA). The ability for any student to effectively perform in the classroom and on the game field, while maintaining friendships is no easy task. Personally, this is why I feel the Red Cross and the NAIA have partnered up and chosen 13 student athletes to participate in this program; simply because of their ability to lead themselves and potentially others into making wise decisions.

Although it was our second day together as a group, today marked the beginning of the Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. After several weeks of excitement and anticipation for this program, the other participants and I made our way to the American Red Cross Headquarters where we began learning what the American Red Cross is set out to accomplish and how leadership skills of the entire staff affect the overall success of the organization. After we all entered the conference room, we found a binder including a complete and detailed itinerary of our next two weeks. I thought it was awesome that each of us had our own work station, binder, and ID that were labeled with our names. This made me feel like we were important and respected by this organization that is recognized worldwide. After getting settled in, Mr. Brian Hamil entered the room. Brian is the man that drives this program through pure determination and selflessness. After few minutes of introductions, I could instantly see how enthused and excited he was to meet us and make 13 new friends.

After having the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hamil, Ms. Stephanie Millian came into the room to give us an overview of Red Cross communications. Ms. Millian provided a number of interesting facts about the American Red Cross’ overall mission and daily/ yearly accomplishments. One thing that I found to be most intriguing was the fact that the American Red Cross responds to a home fire every nine minutes. Another interesting fact was that the Red Cross has nearly 400,000 volunteers and on average they collect 15,000 blood products every day. Another thing that caught my eye was how dynamic they are in terms of the variety of programs they offer such as CPR First Aid, AED, Aquatics and even babysitting training. This just goes to show you exactly how important this organization is for cancer patients, disaster crises, etc. In fact, during Ms. Millian’s presentation she provided a picture of a lady who has so much hope and relief in her eyes, while being covered by a Red Cross blanket. This picture perfectly describes what the Red Cross is all about.

Our last speaker of the day was Mr. Shaun Gilmore, who many know as the American Red Cross President of Biomedical Services. He came in to discuss some leadership qualities that should and should not be expressed, as well the basic overview of the Red Cross. His presentation was mainly geared toward an overview of the Biomedical Services part of the organization. We learned that the Red Cross collects plasma, red blood cells and platelets, which is why we normally hear that a person has the potential to save up to three lives with a donation. Mr. Gilmore then showed us a flowchart that depicted how blood is collected and then transferred into a patient who is in need.

Mr. Gilmore then provided us with some knowledge regarding leadership and how many individuals tend to abuse it. Some things that Mr. Gilmore mentioned that as a leaders we must follow are developing an ideal career path at an ideal time, seeking out help from an executive mentor, being optimistic when new assignments are presented, determining how to use our strengths effectively and lastly, surrounding ourselves with people who strive to be successful or have already succeeded in their career objective. Some things that he mentioned that are bad leadership qualities are acting like you are better then everyone, not seeking advice or counsel, trying to rush through everything, ignoring significant data and being a jerk. I am really trying to take this advice and use it in everyday life because Mr. Gilmore is a highly successful person who is highly experienced.

Roughly two to three weeks before we were scheduled to leave for the program, a book was sent to each of us and we were asked to have it read it before we came. This book is called “Winners Never Cheat” and was written by Jon Huntsman. The amount of insight that this book provided me was breathtaking. What I really enjoyed about this book was that Mr. Huntsman not only made doing business sound so easy, but also made tackling tough situations sound easy. How? By instilling honor, integrity, common decency and good morals/ethics into himself and others. After reading this book, I instantly wanted to become a better person, better leader, better friend, better son and a better brother regardless of the situation I am in. Mr. Huntsman stated in his book “The adherence to an ethical code is best defined as how one honors a bad situation or bad deal.” I immediately thought back to how many situations that I dealt with without using the daily values that I was taught growing up. From here on out, I will begin to assemble a leadership code of behavior that I will attempt to follow for my whole life, because I feel that if everyone goes about their business using good ethics, morals and values, we can all become leaders in our own way.

After our first day at work, we made our way back to the dorms where we had the option of relaxing, working out, basically free time. After that time, we all met up and went out to eat at a delicious restaurant that was promoting the World Cup in Brazil this summer, so I found that very cool. After our meal, we then stopped at Trader Joe’s, which is a food market that is very popular. We then made our way back to the dorms, and during our walk and even during the dinner, I was able to have some conversations with people I have not talked to too much since we arrived, and found out some interesting things. Everyone in the program has been extremely welcoming and considerate and if today was any indicator for the rest of the trip, we are in for a sweet treat!

Day 2 by Nicole Gill

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Red Cross/NAIA 2014 Program Class with Gail McGovern
From left to right: Randon McNeil, Kayla Day, Tico Dalipi, Kaitlin Pontikes, Nicole Gill, Ja’Keisha Haynes, Haylie Gutierrez, Julia Tyree, Gail McGovern, Megan Mosiniak, Jerica Drago, Kelley Cohron, Madalyn Smith, Bryan Palmer, Zachary Sollie, Hanna Malak

Hello there everyone! My name is Nicole Gill and I feel so privileged to be reporting from Washington D.C. about my experience in the American Red Cross/ NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. I am from Lansing, Illinois, which is less than five minutes away from the Western Indiana border. I graduated from Thornton Fractional South High School in 2012, and then attended Aurora University for my freshman year. I transferred from Aurora University to Calumet College of Saint Joseph, which is located in Whiting, Indiana. I am majoring in Life Science Pre-Professional, and I plan to attend a school of nursing. After that, I plan to obtain my nurse practitioning license from Rush Medical Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. I played volleyball for Aurora University and now I currently play for Calumet College of Saint Joseph, which is an NAIA school.

Today is the third day that the thirteen of us have been together. We have meshed so well in just 72 hours! I like to tell my friends and family back home that I am spending time with twelve other “me’s”. We all gathered at our desks around 9 am and we recapped on our speakers and lessons from the previous day. The thirteen of us discussed what we thought about leadership presence and shared some principles that will help us create our own personal leadership code of conduct. As we finished up the recap, our first guest for the day entered the room.

Anna Maria Larsen manages executive searches for up and coming small business or for Fortune 500 companies. She also serves on many local and national non-profit boards. Mrs. Larsen is a master of first impressions. She walked into the room and met each individual person and introduced herself, followed with a firm handshake. At that moment, she had earned so much respect from each one of us. The information she shared focused primarily on leadership. The first thing we learned was how important it is for us to lead ourselves, before we focus on leading others. In order to be a successful leader; we must first find out who we really are, then utilize that information to lead ourselves and others, and at the same time keeping a mindset that allows feedback from others. Another great point she emphasized was smiling at yourself, even though you may be going through a tough time. Tough times do not justify beating yourself up. Instead, you should stop, smile at yourself, and try to realize how many positive things are going on in the “big picture.” Personally, my favorite part about our session with Anna Maria was the quote that she uses when she completes any interview she holds, “Is there anything that I should have asked you that I didn’t asked you?” The reason why I like this question so much is that it opens up a door for the individual to share something they think might be important.

After Mrs. Larsen’s presentation, we had the opportunity to meet with Katie Maloney and Margaret Cieslowski from the Red Cross Training and Development department. They presented a “True Colors” personality test to us. They made it clear to us that this test was not the typical personality test due to the fact that it allowed individuals to be more than one color, or personality type as an outcome. The four colors consisted of orange, gold, blue, and green. Orange captured the more active and straightforward individuals, whereas gold included the more purposeful and procedural people. Blue stood for the individuals who like to be personal as well as interactive, and green were the people who were mostly objective and strategic. Out of 13 student individuals, our two mentors Hanna and Randon, and our fearless leader Brian Hamil; we had all four colors represented. We learned from Ms. Maloney and Ms. Cieslowski that even the most opposite of colors can relate to one another, as well as work well with each other. It all depends upon the individual’s understanding of the characteristics behind each of the different colors.

Shortly after the True Colors exercise, we had the privilege of greeting a very prestigious guest, none other than Gail McGovern, the President and CEO of the American Red Cross. She began her presentation by educating us on the importance of being a team player and that there are different roles that each of us assume on a team. Some of us start out as hard workers, some move up to the next step as delegators, then advance to an influencer, and finally rise to a leader. The process is not always easy; an extraordinary performer does not always possess the right skills to manage as a supervisor. President McGovern stressed to us that it is very important to be disciplined, because without being disciplined President McGovern would not have been as successful a mother that she has been. She encouraged a lot of us through her own life experiences that it is possible to achieve great things, but they rarely come without time and effort. One thing that really stood out to me during her presentation was how much she emphasized the importance of staffing. President McGovern is an enormous believer in her team. She makes sure that her team brings in a diversity of thought so that her team can be more productive, as well as successful. After President McGovern’s presentation, she was kind enough to take a few extra moments to take a picture with our group as well as give us a chance to thank her for her time and even express how grateful we were to have met her.

To end today’s presentations, John Taylor, the Senior Vice President of Regional Operations, met with us to discuss the data behind blood drives, and why each of us is so important to the American Red Cross. Mr. Taylor expressed different ways in which we can get individuals around our campuses excited and actually wanting to give blood, while understanding the importance behind donating. Personal connections are the key to ensuring a successful blood drive. People love to feel appreciated, and one thing that the American Red Cross is trying to do is send out letters to donors as to inform them that their blood was used to make a difference in a stranger’s life. After hearing Mr. Taylor speak, I know that I felt more confident in running a successful blood drive as well as feeling anxious to get started helping increase the number of units of blood collected.

It may seem that we are in an uptight, formal setting all day, but I assure you that all of our speakers have been warm and engaging. We have the opportunity to ask questions and connect with them on a personal level. Yes, we are preparing for the business world. Yes, we are learning a lot about leadership. Yes, we are required to look the part as a professional. After a day full of meetings, as well as taking notes, and actively listening to different individuals, we set out to do even more do activities with our group.

When it hit 6pm, our group decided to visit Georgetown. We grabbed some Chipotle and explored the city a bit. Some of our group made a point to visit Georgetown Cupcake to see where the TV show was filmed. After our Georgetown excursion, we walked to the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. My point here is that even though we do sit through meetings during the day, we do get to be relaxed and have fun with each other afterwards. I would have to say the one thing that is the biggest thing that I have learned thus far during this trip is learning about how you can lead a successful professional life, while still managing to have a life outside of work. The key to everything is discipline and time management as President McGovern shared with us. It is very important to have a leader that possesses the discipline to manage his/her time in an effective way so that one can achieve success. At this point, the trip has offered nothing but great opportunities. I have had the chance to meet extraordinary individuals, see national monuments, and have a blast with 12 of my new best friends. I have no doubt that there is more in store for us and I ABSOLUTELY cannot wait!

Day 3 by Zach Sollie

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Red Cross/NAIA Class of 2014 out for an outing in Washington DC
From left to right: Brian Hamil, Haylie Gutierrez, Bryan Palmer, Kaitlin Pontikes, Zach Sollie, Nicole Gill, Julia Tyree, Megan Mosiniak, Hana Malak

Hello! My name is Zach Sollie, and I am a student at Auburn University at Montgomery. I was born and raised in the great town of Auburn, Alabama. In early high school, I developed a passion for the sport of Cross Country and Track and Field. My love for running ultimately led to me being offered a spot on the AUM men’s cross country team. Naturally, I accepted the offer and began my collegiate cross country career in the fall of 2012. Little did I know that coming to AUM would lead to this incredible opportunity with the 2014 Red Cross/NAIA Leadership Program.

On a more personal note, I have a special appreciation for the services of the Red Cross, especially blood donation. Backing up to my early days of life, I was diagnosed with cancer as a seven month old baby. Throughout the treatment process, I received several blood transfusions. Without the generous blood donations of several individuals I may not be here today.

Now that you know a little about me, it’s time to share a summary of our events for today. Where to begin? These past few days have been incredible—to the point that words cannot even describe. As you have heard from the posts of previous days, we have had the opportunity to meet and converse with numerous Red Cross executives including the President and CEO Gail McGovern. Today the adventure continued.

We began the day by hearing from Senior Vice President of Qualitative and Regulatory Affairs, Kathy Waldman on a topic titled “Blood 101.” This presentation took us through the donation process, blood manufacturing and processing, and the distribution of blood products. While most of our presentations focused on the concepts of the Red Cross mission and various leadership qualities, this session got down to the general science involved in the blood donation process. We began by discussing the three different blood products that can be produced from one whole blood donation (red blood cells, platelets, and plasma). Then, we moved on to an overview of blood typing and testing for potential hazards. This session was interesting to me because of my particular interest in the medical field.

After lunch we had the opportunity to Facetime with Erica Newhard, the program manager who conducted our initial interviews for the program, and meet the Executive Vice President of Biomedical Services, Chris Hrouda. He spoke to us about the importance of being flexible in accepting new challenges when advancing in a career. Sometimes we are required to exit our comfort zone and take chances in order to advance. Additionally, he stressed the importance of seeking mentors in the business field that we can rely on to assist us when problems arise.

Our last session of the day featured a former Red Cross/NAIA Leadership Program student and now blood region district manager, Cam Branock. He presented practical ways to implement strategic plans for successful blood drives on our campuses. This advice was helpful in expanding our ideas about how to motivate the students on our campuses to donate blood. Following this presentation, we broke up into smaller groups to discuss specific details that applied to our particular regions.

This day was jam packed with quality information that will be of significant value as we take our skills into the field.

After we had a full “day in the office,” we broke up into different groups to explore the city. The group I was a part of chose to explore some of the various sites downtown including the Washington Monument, The Old Post Office, The Ford Theatre, and many more. The other group went to the mall at Pentagon City to find some Washington Nationals gear in preparation for tomorrow’s game. This experience has been surreal. Just being in the nation’s capital is an emotion that one cannot describe. I would like to extend a special thanks to all the speakers that have taken the time to share their knowledge and experiences with us. Also, I would like to thank Brian Hamil for making this whole opportunity possible. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you as the program continues.

Day 4 Part 1 by Ja'Keisha Haynes

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Red Cross/NAIA Students at Nationals Park
Back row left to right: Zach Sollie, Ja'Keisha Haynes, Megan Mosiniak, Haylie Gutierrez, Bryan Palmer, Nicole Gill
Front row left to right: Madalyn Smith, Jerica Drago, Kaitlin Pontikes, Julia Tyree, Kayla Day, Tico Dalipi, Brian Hamil, Kelley Cohron

Hi Everyone!

My name is Ja’Keisha Haynes and I am so excited to be a part of the American Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, I am the only child, but I was raised with my cousin who is one year younger than I am. I attended C.E King High School, there I played basketball, volleyball, and I ran track. I graduated in 2010 and from there I attended Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I then transferred to an amazing HBCU, Wiley College in 2012. Wiley College is in Marshall, Texas which is four hours away from Houston. I am a Criminal Justice major with a minor in Spanish. At Wiley I am involved in Student Government Association, Emerging Leaders Program, I became a cheerleader, joined Gamma Elite Community Service Sisterhood Incorporated, I was a campus queen (2013-2014 Miss. Sophomore) and I have just recently become a part of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. After I graduate I plan to attend graduate school to get my master’s degree.

Well, it is day four and I must say this has been a challenge for me since I go to an HBCU, and I am the only African American in the program. Today I got the pleasure to meet Tim O’Malley, who is an Organizational Development Consultant. Mr. O’Malley spoke about the perfect topic “DIVERSITY” and he had my undivided attention. Instead of just doing a power point, he made it fun for us. The first thing we did was go around the room and introduce ourselves to Mr. O’Malley.

After that was out the way, we each wrote a poem. I know you guys are wondering, “What does a poem have to do with diversity?” Well, the name of the poem is called “Where I am from.” The point of writing the poem is for everyone to understand that we all have different backgrounds, and that we all grew up differently. We all presented our poems and I have to admit that the emotions were very noticeable.

Next, Mr. O’Malley numbered us off one through four and we separated and sat with our groups at different tables. There were cards on the table, and then he passed out the instructions. He also gave one verbal rule; we could not talk to each other. So the game begins, and we had 2-3 minutes to get all of the cards out of our hands. I have to be honest, I lost! The winner of my group moved up a table and the loser moved down a table. The next game starts and I am with a different group. As we are playing I am noticing that the other players don’t know how to play (well that’s what I am thinking). We played about three rounds, and I lost all three rounds. After the game was over he asked us how we felt about the game. We all expressed how we felt and then Mr. O’Malley explained to us that we all had different instructions. The moral of the story was to not assume that someone is like you, we all are different and we all have different ways of doing things.

The last exercise we did was just as interesting as the others were. We split up in different groups again, he gave us different scenarios and we had to express what would we do.

Mr. O’Malley was awesome. Today I felt like this lesson was just for me and I loved every minute of it. He really helped me understand diversity. Lesson the day: Before you judge a person, get to know them, you would be surprised at how much in common you have with someone.

Thanks Mr.O’Malley!!!!

Day 4 Part 2 by Julia Tyree

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Red Cross/NAIA Students at Nationals Stadium
From left to right: Bryan Palmer, Madalyn Smith, Kaitlin Pontikes, Julia Tyree, Zach Sollie, Kelley Cohron, Megan Mosiniak, Nicole Gill, Tico Dalipi, Haylie Gutierrez, Ja'Keisha Haynes, Kayla Day

I’m the little girl that people would smile at as I ran after every foul ball at my brother’s baseball game. My name is Julia Tyree and I have a passion for softball. I am originally from Benicia, California, but now am attending school at Concordia University in Nebraska. I was blessed enough to have been recruited to travel half way across the country to find a home away from home. My softball team is now my Nebraska family while I maintain an extremely supportive home life from afar. Yes, Nebraska is way different from northern California. I am majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. I am currently working on adding another minor in Spanish. Yes, I am a little insane. I have plans to go to medical school and do missionary work abroad one day. In my spare time I love to cook and bake with my best friends and family. One of my best friends and I are starting up a cupcake business, that I hope will be a success, to keep me busy this summer. I have been blessed to have a wonderful family, great friends, and priceless opportunities.

My latest blessing is being a part of the 2014 Red Cross/NAIA Leadership Program Class. Everyday I have been building new relationships as well as learning new lessons and skills to bring back to my communities in both California and Nebraska. Today was a busy but wonderful day here in Washington D.C. We had a Diversity and Cultural Competency Workshop by Tim O’Malley which was amazing, but I will let Ja’Keisha tell you all about that one. However, I will tell you about our other two speakers as well as our adventure to the Nationals vs. the Phillies baseball game.

The first speaker I am going to talk about is Hanna Malak, also from northern California, who participated in this same program in 2010. We instantly bonded over the fact that we both have great taste in baseball teams. We both happen to be die hard San Francisco Giants fans. Besides having fantastic taste he also is incredibly knowledgeable! Hannah is our mentor that will be with us for the entire two weeks. He is definitely a trooper. He has a fantastic capability to be a calm leader and an excellent example to thirteen excited participants. He laid out a road map of how to get people excited and involved with our cause. His career as a successful recruiter makes his advice truly priceless. Anyone can hear the passion and enthusiasm in Hanna’s voice as he speaks about the Red Cross and all of the wonderful things they do for people. We all can experience a giggle hearing about his stories about his year in the program. Whether is was the binder clipped pants that were too long or the simple mispronunciation that makes a huge difference, the stories brought life to the group. His moments of vulnerability allowed for all of us in the group to open up about our embarrassing stories, resulting in a cohesion that was completely unexpected. I know that each and every person in the group is extremely grateful to have Hanna as a mentor.

The second speaker I am going to talk about is more than a speaker to us; he is also a supportive mentor for the first week of this trip. His name is Randon McNeil and he comes from the heart of Ohio and he also participated in this very program in 2011. He happened to be the first person to greet me with a warm smile as I walked in through the door of our building the first day I arrived. Randon was incredibly helpful inspiring all of us to dream up ideas for our future blood drives. He was able to inform us about strategies that worked for him in the past as well humble enough to admit what wasn’t as successful. One specific idea that he had was to put numbers on the stickers you give donors so that there is more of an order as they wait. That is one small detail that can make a huge difference. Away from the business side of things, Randon is fun and very patient with all thirteen of his newly adopted little ducklings. He only rarely has to use his “dad voice” to realign us when one is wandering away. Although he may look a little strange in his crazy colored shirts and fanny pack, he is still well loved by everyone in the group. I can speak for all of us in saying that we are truly thankful to have Randon as a mentor.

After our fantastic speakers we immediately jumped on the metro and headed to National’s Park. Being a baseball/softball player and fan, I was like a kid in a candy shop. The field’s atmosphere was everything that we could’ve hoped for. There were enthusiastic fans, great weather, and the Nationals won! What else could a girl want? Before we even made it into the stadium, I think each of us had at least 2-3 free samples of smoothies out in front of the stadium. Every part of the baseball game experience was fully documented by countless amounts of pictures. We were lucky enough to have Hanna, Randon, and Brian accompanying us. We even had a guest appearance and were able to enjoy the company of Tim O’Malley (our first guest speaker of the day), who was unfortunately a fan of the Phillies. Besides the game itself, I loved seeing all of us with our arms around each other’s shoulders singing “take me out to the ballgame.” As Rafael Soriano struck out John Mayberry Jr. for the final out of the game, the fun was just beginning.

The Plain White T’s were having a concert in National’s Park right after the game, free with admission! All of us ran to get a better view of the excitement that was about to unfold. We all stood side by side singing some of our favorite songs, myself quite out of tune if I may add. We clapped and danced as the concert went on. About half of the group ran down to get closer and were so enthusiastic that they made it on the jumbotron! It was a very proud moment for everyone. We even got it on camera, of course. The cherry on top was when we were able to take picture with Tom Higgenson and Tim Lopez who are the two main vocalists for the band. We were all a little star struck. We were a slightly embarrassed when we realized that we mixed up who was who when we were yelling out “Tim” and he came up to us and stated, “My name is Tom,” whoops. They were both very polite and friendly even with the mix up.

This experience has been everything I wanted it to be and more. I honestly believe that I will be leaving this experience as a better person with a wider range of knowledge. I will be forever grateful to the Red Cross and all who are working hard every day to make this happen. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything in the world. I will tell stories about the two weeks that I spent in Washington D.C. for years to come with a big smile on my face.

Day 5 by Haylie Gutierrez

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Red Cross/NAIA out to dinner!
Left side, front to back: Megan Mosiniak, Jerica Drago, Kayla Day, Nicole Gill, Julia Tyree
Right side, front to back: Kaitlin Pontikes, Kelley Cohron, Ja'Keisha Haynes, Madalyn Smith, Haylie Gutierrez

Hello Everyone!

My name is Haylie Gutierrez and I have the honor of writing about today’s experiences with the Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. I was born and raised in Fort Myers, Florida where I lived with my family of eight. Sports have always been a part of my life and growing up I competed on the track, court and field. In high school I played tennis and soccer. After graduating in 2012 from Riverdale High School I moved to Montgomery, Alabama where I attend Faulkner University. I choose to stay with the sport I completely love and currently play soccer for my university. I am a legal studies major with plans to go to law school and later join the JAG program in the military.

Today marked the completion of our first work week together. We started the morning off with a discussion led by Brian Hamil about personal accountability and behaviors of inspiring leaders. The discussion emphasized the importance of a leader taking responsibilities for mistakes and obstacles, even when they are not necessarily their fault or within their control. Leaders are also meant to be an inspiration to their team, but that is easier said than done. We talked about the many characteristics an inspirational leader needs to have, but the one that stuck out to me was having the ability to do what’s never been done before. Faulkner University has not held a Red Cross blood drive before, so I will be bringing this important event there. There is no plan of action established with the school and this year’s blood drives will set a precedent for future classes. I will need to be able to inspire my peers to get involved in this cause and do what my campus has not done before.

Next we dove into a discussion about how to go about creating a strategic plan to ensure that our blood drives were successful. Each of us has to consider the different challenges of our campus and create ways to tackle them. One source that will be invaluable to us when planning our blood drive will be our DRD, who will be our local contact with the Red Cross. We prepped to call our DRDs today by checking academic and athletic schedules, organizing our ideas that are bouncing around in our heads, and noting our concerns and questions. Once we were well prepared we called our respective DRDS. I talked to Sara Alter who was very friendly and extremely helpful. With her advice I was able to pin down a date and resolve some of my concerns.

After the calls concluded we had lunch with Dr. Richard Benjamin who talked to us about how donating blood impacts athletes. My campus is largely made up of athletes, so this is something I need to be conscious of when planning my drive. Dr. Benjamin was very knowledge about the effects that someone may experience when they donate blood. He also went into detail about the recovery time that will be needed afterwards and how this can affect athletic performance. The information that he gave us will definitely be helpful when having to answer any questions about donating that the athletes on my campus may have.

One of our wonderful mentors Hanna Malak then took us through his personal experience with the Red Cross/NAIA Program and his journey to becoming a Red Cross employee. He shared details about his path, which led him to be a member of the National Youth Council. He gave us some great tips on how he ran his blood drives, telling us what worked for him and which things we will want to avoid. Hearing from someone who had been through the program and has firsthand experience in running successful blood drives is unbelievably helpful and encouraging.

We were then joined by Chris Andrews who gave us some fantastic advice on how to search for a job, what to put on a resume and how to prepare for an interview. Mr. Andrews also spoke to us about the importance of building a resume and how to choose the right opportunities for ourselves. We learned how to properly tailor our resumes for each job that we may apply to and how to make our resume stand out among all the others. His advice will certainly help all of us in the future.

Our next speakers were Amy Daly and Portia Obeng who covered how to go about setting up a Red Cross Club on our campus. They took us through the steps and requirement that we must meet to be able to register as an official Red Cross Club. Having the knowledge to properly create a Red Cross Club will be essential in having a successful blood drive. The Red Cross Club will be how we build the team that will help us make our blood drives a success. Also having an official Red Cross Club will put us in contact with other established clubs nearby so that we can share ideas and support one another.

To end our work day we debriefed on week one. We talked about what we enjoyed, both in and out of the office. Throughout the discussion stories of the many moments we have had made us laugh, think and really appreciate the fact that we have such an amazing opportunity. To finish the night we all had dinner at Tonic, along with Jennifer Lourie, the former Red Cross/NAIA Program Manager. Our group was also joined by Julie Graf, who will be a mentor to us throughout the next week.

These past five days have been packed with inspiring speakers, constant learning and endless fun. The days have flown by so fast that I can hardly believe it. The group was gotten so close and we’ve made lasting memories.

Day 6 by Maddie Smith

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Red Cross/NAIA Class of 2014
Back row, left to right: Megan Mosiniak, Haylie Gutierrez, Kayla Day, Maddie Smith, Tico Dalipi, Julia Tyree, Kaitlin Pontikes, Bryan Palmer, Nicole Gill, Jerica Drago
Front Row left to right: Zach Sollie, Ja'Keisha Haynes

Hi Everyone! My name is Maddie Smith and I am from Granger, Indiana, a small town right next to Notre Dame. I attend Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. I have been a softball player since I can remember; there has never been a time in my life where I have not had a bat in my hand or a ball in my glove. I am a catcher and first baseman at Judson. Currently, I am studying Elementary Education with endorsements in English as a second language and middle school. One day I will get my Master’s Degree and administrative license and become a principal, and hopefully even my Doctorate to become a superintendent. Like all of the other student-athletes involved in this program I have set very high goals for myself.

I am very blessed to have Becky Pearl as a softball coach; she introduced me to this life-changing program. The Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program has shaped me in so many ways, and we are only wrapping up week one. Today was the first day we got to spend the entire day out of the “office” with each other. Today was also the day that I realized I have made 12 new friends for life. The people that I get to work with here are beyond amazing. They challenge me more and more everyday, and help me strive to be my very best.

Today began at 9am, like every other day. However, nothing about today was like any of the other days we have spent here. We began our journey outside Thurston Hall and started towards the Metro. Randon may or may not have told us the wrong stop, so we ended being a little late, but hey, it all worked out! We arrived at Union Station downtown where we met Jennifer and Basem. Jennifer works for the Red Cross and she was going to be our tour guide for the day. She gave us each a sheet we had to read to the group when we reached a certain destination. This allowed us to really dive deep into the history of Washington DC.

The first thing we learned about was the architecture and history of Union Station. Union Station was constructed in 1908 and was known as the “gateway of the city.” Outside Union Station is a fountain of Christopher Columbus. There are many significant meanings behind this fountain. Beneath Columbus is a ship prow that features a winged figure and it represents discovery. There is a globe that represents the Western hemisphere that sits atop the shaft that has four eagles on each corner that are connected with garland. The left and right side of the shaft have two male figures on each side. The right side male is an elderly man and it represents the Old World, and on the left side there is a Native American man and he represents the New World.

After we learned about Christopher Columbus we walked to the Supreme Court. We did not get to go inside, but just from looking at it from the outside it looked like a very beautiful building. We learned that in the pediment of the Supreme Court there is a sculpture titled, “Liberty Enthroned Guarded by Order and Authority,” and in the middle of the sculpture is Lady Liberty. After we spent some time at the Supreme Court we went to the Capitol. We did not get to go inside, but again it was a remarkably beautiful building. At the top of the Capitol stands a statue titled, “Armed Freedom.”

The Library of Congress was next on our list of places to visit. We actually got to go inside! All of us we awe-struck at the pure beauty of the inside and outside of this building. If you have not been there it is truly impossible to describe how amazing this place is. The Library houses over 155 million books, and on average receives 10,000 new books a day. It is seriously impossible to even imagine those kinds of numbers. The Library of Congress houses Thomas Jefferson’s library. His library has its own separate room where visitors are allowed to view the books that were once in the hands of Jefferson. While his library collection was quite remarkable, the “reading room” was even more amazing. The architecture and detail that went into designing that room is completely mind-boggling.

Once we completed our jaw-dropping experience at the Library of Congress we headed over to the Botanical Gardens. I have visited DC before, but had never been here before. The Botanical Gardens was really neat because you got to experience the environment and actual climate of the area you were in. I spent my time exploring the jungle and looking at all of the interesting plants and trees that encompassed it. After the Botanical Gardens we walked to some steps that were near the Capitol. We had some group pictures taken on the steps and held up signs advertising the program and donating blood. By that time we were all getting pretty hungry so we headed to the National Gallery of Art and ate lunch. After we ate lunch we were able to look around the gallery and look at some beautiful pieces of art. By this time it was 1:30pm, and we had one last stop.

Our final stop was a little bit of a hike, but we made it on time. We ended our day at the Holocaust Museum. From the minute we walked into the building we were just completely taken over by emotions. There were signs that said, “Never Again,” everywhere. That simple slogan tugged on the heartstrings of all of us. The first thing you do when you walk into the museum is grab an identification card. This card has the name of someone who experienced the Holocaust firsthand. As you go through each floor of the museum you are supposed to follow along in the identification card booklet. By the end of the museum you find out if your person survived or died. The museum was split up into four floors. Each floor was a different part of the Holocaust. The minute you get off the elevator and witness the pictures and videos that encompass the fourth floor you are immediately taken over by emotion. As we made our way through we broke up into small groups and some even stayed by themselves. It was very emotional for all of us. There are no words strong enough to explain what was on the walls of that museum. I have been to the museum, but coming back as a young adult I was able to better understand the meaning of everything.

After the Holocaust Museum we all recognized that we were pretty emotionally drained. Some of the group decided to go back to the dorm to relax after our long day. Eight of us decided to do a little more sightseeing. We hopped on the Metro and headed to Arlington Cemetery. We figured that we might as well keep our emotions on high. We were all very excited about seeing the changing of the guard. We started our walk up the hills of the cemetery and got stuck behind a tour. We listened in to the guide and took in some of the information that she shared. We learned that there are more than 474,000 people buried at Arlington, needless to say our jaws-dropped again. After a long walk we made it to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Every 30 minutes a new guard comes in and guards the tomb. I think I can speak for the whole group by saying that it was truly a life-changing experience. The guards are trained to not bat an eye, or flinch at anything; their job is to protect the tomb. Bryan did some research while we were sitting there and we found out there the guards actually live in barracks underneath the building that overlooks the tomb. The guards are Army men who have dedicated their life to protecting the tomb. We all walked away with goose-bumps from what we had just witnessed. Arlington Cemetery is also home to the “eternal flame.” The “eternal flame,” is home to the burial site of John F. Kennedy. We explored Arlington a little more, and before we knew it the cemetery closed. As we left Arlington we took a minute to just take in everything we had just witnessed. Watching the changing of the guard made us realize how truly grateful we are for this experience.

Six days ago we all walked in strangers, and today we end the night as best friends. Each stop today on our tour signified something remarkable about our capital. As we walked along the streets of DC we kept saying to one another that there is absolutely no other people that we would want to share this experience with. I thank God everyday that my coach gave me this application. I am six days in and my life has been changed forever.

Day 7 by Bryan Palmer

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Red Cross/NAIA Students at the Zoo
Back row, left to right: Julie Graf, Randon McNeil, Jerica Drago, Nicole Gill, Haylie Gutierrez, Julia Tyree, Hanna Malak
Front row, left to right: Megan Mosiniak, Kaitlin Pontikes, Kayla Day, Tico Dalipi

Hello Everybody! My name is Bryan Palmer, and I hail from Elmwood Park, Illinois. Depending on where I park my car in front of my house I could argue that I am from Chicago too. I started my collegiate career at Northern Illinois University and quickly discovered that a big university was not for me. A few years prior to college I went on a school trip to Walt Disney World and as I recalled one of their college-aged cast members advised some of us to apply to intern for Disney as soon as we got in college. Fate would have it that I got the internship and headed to Orlando to work at Magic Kingdom for four months. As you can imagine, Disney was a fantastic experience for me. Looking back, this was my way of buying time before finding the right college for me. That college is Goshen College, a small faith based college located in the middle of Northern Indiana. I just finished my second year there as an American Sign Language Interpretation major with a Business minor. One of the best parts of being at Goshen is that every day I get to play baseball. We doubled our wins this year from the year prior…we were 8-40. Our struggles can be difficult at times, but when it comes down to it I play because I love the game of baseball. My dad always taught me that any situation in life can be exemplified with baseball, and that is what makes it great to me. Now that you know a bit about myself, let me tell you about this outstanding leadership program I am currently taking part in.

Today is Sunday and luckily that means a day of rest. I woke up at 10:30 today and believe me it was wonderful! I say this amusingly, but it has been an action packed seven days for us. A group went to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in the morning, and from what I heard the orangutans were quite a sight to see. We all eventually converged back at the George Washington University dorms to say farewell to one of our mentors, Randon. Unfortunately, he had to go back to the real world. Randon set a fantastic example for us all week, and was a joy to be around. The fact that he took his vacation time to be with us says a lot about him, but also about his belief in this program and us.

Shortly thereafter, the group headed over to Bertucci’s, which was just up the road from us. There we met up with Mrs. Kristin Gillette who is the Director of Champions of Character for the NAIA. She couldn’t have been friendlier which is a good thing because we will spend the entire day with her tomorrow! I am certainly looking forward to her presentation, and how to connect sports with life lessons.

Since today was relatively laid back, I wanted to write some of today’s blog along the lines of what this program has meant to me. I knew that getting chosen for this program was impressive, but I had no idea the kind of opportunity it would be. Yes, this program offers lessons in leadership. Yes, we have met and networked with incredibly distinguished representatives of the American Red Cross. However, if I could sum up these first seven days with one word it would be professionalism. Remember back when you were going on your first date, and your parents taught you formal table manners. I’m talking about elbows off the table, napkin on your lap, and above all always pull out the chair for the lady. At least the way I remember it, I listened to my family and soaked everything in like it was top-secret information. The reality is what we have learned is far from top-secret; rather, our advantage is that we are learning this years before our peers will. Better yet, we are learning it from people who have spent a lifetime being professional at the highest levels. People who have had an opportunity to be in a great situation often recollect and mention that they wish that they had appreciated their opportunity more while in the moment. I think these blogs keep all of us appreciative in our moment of incredible opportunity.

Fitting with the end of a busy week, many people have asked me what has been the highlight of my program thus far? All the guests have been brilliant. They have brought something unique and important to each of their presentations. It would be impossible to use words to describe the value of their presentations to me. Another highlight of this week has been learning from Brian Hamil. He has created the path that we have followed throughout the week, and he truly is someone who leads by example. I am definitely appreciative of all that he has done, but I know that as my life continues the real value of his time and effort this week will show. Nevertheless, the highlight of my week has been my twelve new friends. I have spent the last 170 hours with these leaders, and I genuinely wish that there wasn’t a finite number of hours left. Every one of us has a story, and every one of us is unique. Learning these stories has been a joy. There is something special about this group of individuals that in a few days time have become my favorite team. In fact, if we were a baseball team Brian would be our manager, with Hanna, Julie, and Randon as his assistant coaches. The thirteen of us would make up a team that has timely hitting, great starting pitching, solid defense, and a shut down bullpen. We have the ability to win the World Series, but nothing is handed to us. The Red Cross /NAIA Leadership Program has given us the tools and knowledge we need to be successful in life. We still have to hit the ball, but we now have the best bats and gloves there are to offer. We will be in the Fall Classic, and we have this program to thank.

See, any situation in life can be exemplified with baseball!

Day 8 by Megan Mosniak

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Red Cross/NAIA Class of 2014 Touring Washington DC

Off to another busy, fun filled week here in Washington, D.C.! Thank you for keeping up with all the fun we had last week, and get ready for another week full of fun activities and incredible speakers! I am Megan Mosiniak from Swanton, Ohio, a small country town just outside Toledo. I went to Evergreen High School where I played softball all four years. That following fall I received the honor of being accepted to Lourdes University. Through Lourdes, I get to live out my dream on a daily basis by playing collegiate-level softball and running cross-country. Weird combination, I know. This fall I will be a junior where I will continue studying Marketing and Business Administration.

Today, we had the pleasure of having Kristen Gillette speak with us for the entire day! Mrs. Gillette was an All-Star athlete in high school, earning 15 high school letters in volleyball, basketball, soccer, and academics. After high school, she continued to play volleyball and basketball at Hannibal-LaGrange. She completed her junior and senior year at William Jewell while playing basketball. She transformed her love for sports into a career by becoming the Director of Champions of Character of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). She has been promoting and presenting the Champions of Character to numerous schools in Kanas City since 2005.

Mrs. Gillette began the day by telling us the history of the NAIA. The NAIA was formed in 1937 by three men, Dr. James Naismith, Emil Liston, and Frank Cramer. The NAIA was the first to integrate black colleges and the first to have both men and women championships at the same time. Presently, the NAIA consists of 275 colleges and universities and has over 20 sports. In collaboration with the Red Cross, the NAIA supported and sponsored this astounding program that dozens of students all over the country, like me, have had the honor to attend.

As I stated previously, Mrs. Gillette is the Director of the Champions of Character, but you may be wondering what exactly is the “Champions of Character?” Great question! The NAIA prides itself on five core values that make up the Champions of Character: Integrity, Responsibility, Respect, Sportsmanship, and Servant Leadership. These five values shape the culture and core that are to be displayed on and off the field by NAIA student-athletes.

Throughout the day, Mrs. Gillette had a series of activities planned for us to complete. For the first activity Mrs. Gillette had us answer 15 questions that focused around the Eligibility Center where student-athletes have to be cleared to participate in athletics. The questions were driven toward why we chose the NAIA, how we chose our universities, and possible strategies aimed towards attracting future students to the NAIA. All the answers seemed unanimous around the room, as we all love our respective schools and what the NAIA has to offer student-athletes. Mrs. Gillette then transitioned into how the Champions of Character is exemplified on campus and on the field.

This past fall, the NAIA released a training video for student-athletes to watch called “Learn 5.” This introduced the five core values of the NAIA and had interactive activities for student participation, which helps the students understand the meaning of the values. Coming this fall there will be three more videos released. “Learn 5” will act as the freshman introduction video, “Master the Fundamentals” is being created for sophomores, “Live 5 and Learn” for juniors, and finally the senior video will be “Live 5 for Life.” The senior-level video will teach seniors how to apply the core values to the real world, and doubly acts as a guide for them to use for the rest of their lives. For me, I know I will be looking back at these values for years after graduation.

One of the most impactful activities we participated in today was learning how to apply the Champions of Character Core values to our blood drives. In our groups, we created a poster with each of the five values listed and described how we will implement them on our respective campuses during blood drives. In addressing the first value, Integrity, we decided on the phrase “Integrity by resilience.” This means being able to maintain composure and respond positively through initial success or failure. For the second value, Respect, we decided on the phrase: “Respect by consideration of values and cultural standards of others.” In addition, be attentive to the guidance and leadership of those who have gone before us. For the third value, Responsibility, we decided on the phrase: “Responsibility by understanding the impact that your decision will have on those around you.” For the fourth value, Sportsmanship, we decided on the phrase: Sportsmanship by contribution of your best efforts to your team while distributing equally among members and volunteers.” For the final value, Servant Leadership, we decided on the phrase: “Servant leadership by motivating future generations and fellow students to continue serving others and serving lives through blood drives.”

While learning about these core values, I noticed that Respect and Servant Leadership are the same values Lourdes University was built upon. I am blessed to say that at Lourdes, we hold great pride in our values and demonstrate respect and servant leadership on a daily basis. Our softball and cross-country teams have displayed servant leadership multiple times throughout the year through volunteering our time to the Miracle League of North-West Ohio - an organization that gives children and adults with disabilities the chance to play America’s favorite past-time: baseball. We’ve also helped with the local restock drive for families in need, and aided an organization called Feed My Starving Children. These are just a few examples of the impact the NAIA Champions of Character have had off the field and, how it is influencing just one community!

After our busy day, we split off for dinner and a free night to ourselves! A few of us went to TGI Fridays for dinner. Following dinner, we sat in front of the Washington Monument and worked on the projects we plan to present on Friday. It was a beautiful night and a great way to unwind from our busy day. I would like to extend my personal thanks Mrs. Gillette for spending an entire day with our crazy crew! This has been a remarkable experience that I never imagined would happen to the small town girl from Ohio. Thank you to all those who believed in me over the years and thank you for the American Red Cross and the NAIA for helping make my dreams come true!

Day 9 by Kayla Day

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Red Cross NAIA Class of 2014
Back row, left to right: Bryan Palmer, Nicole Gill, Zach Sollie, Haylie Gutierrez, Kayla Day, Ja'Keisha Haynes
Front row, left to right: Brian Hamil, Megan Mosiniak, Julisa Tyree, Jerica Drago, Kaitlin Pontikes, Kelley Cohron, Maddie Smith, Tico Dalipi

Greetings Everyone!

My name is Kayla Day and I am from Ashland, Kentucky. Upon graduating high school I moved to Pikeville, Kentucky because I was blessed to receive a basketball scholarship at the University of Pikeville. As an upcoming junior, I am majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Social Work and History. After I finish my undergraduate studies, I hope to work toward a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology. My goal is to be a Sports Psychologist for college athletes. I think this would be the perfect job because I would be able to help people with their struggles as well as still be involved with sports. Both of which I am passionate about.

Last week when we received a schedule of events for what our stay in D.C. encompassed, we knew that today would be highly anticipated. This morning we had the pleasure of meeting some highly respected individuals that work for the American Red Cross during our networking breakfast. We arrived at 7:45 a.m. ready for an exciting day of meeting new people, learning more about the Red Cross, and more sightseeing in the evening.

To start off our day we were able to interact with people involved with the Red Cross at the networking breakfast. In a casual office setting, we were able to ask questions and share stories that allowed us to be engaged with people such as Mr. Shaun Gilmore, who is the President of Biomedical Services. In addition to Mr. Gilmore, there were many others who attended and provided much insight and advice to help us on our journey to success. Overall, it was amazing to see how passionate everyone truly is about the mission of the Red Cross and how much of an impact this organization has on humanitarian services.

After the breakfast, Tricia Quinn, Chief Executive Officer, Central Plains Blood Services Region, presented us with an informational session on “Maximizing the Blood Region Experience.” Before this program, I was unaware about many of the various services that the Red Cross offers and about how many components are involved with running a blood drive. During Mrs. Quinn’s presentation, she discussed how well thought out the donating process must be. So many factors are considered when setting up such as the time, location and also the quantity of blood needed during a specific time of year. Statistics show that some months require more blood transfusions than others, which is important when planning a productive date for your blood drive.

Our second speaker was Nadia Mitchem, Director, Volunteer Partnerships, who pleasantly provided us with words of wisdom that she has learned throughout her career, and the path she took to reach where she is today. Something that personally stood out to me during her presentation was the topic of how social media can influence someone in the workplace. One evening last week when we were touring D.C. we actually witnessed a man who was protesting in front of the Capital. He had starved himself for 6 days in order to bring awareness to the issue of separation of your private life from your career. He believed that one should not be treated differently in the workplace due to what was on their social media. I found this very interesting since social media plays a big role in today’s generation. Ms. Mitchem discussed topics relevant to professionalism and her advice was very helpful.

Our last presentation of the day was from Marvin Steele, Senior Policy Advisor, who discussed government relations pertaining to the American Red Cross. One of the roles of this branch is to make sure that the congressional relations know when the Red Cross is responding if a disaster occurs. Many people do not realize the importance of the relationship and connection between government relations and the Red Cross.

After a long day at the office we headed back to the dorms for a quick change before we rushed to the metro to make it to the National Archives before closing time. We luckily made it in time to be the last group that was taken into the museum before security guards shut the doors. It was so interesting to see the many historical documents such as the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, etc. that are the foundation of our great country. It was then time for our favorite part of the evening – dinner. We ended up at a burger joint called the Shake Shack, which was delicious. We ended our evening by watching the United States Navy Band Commodores play a jazz concert. At the beginning of their production, they played the National Anthem; it was moving to hear this played by the people who protect and serve our country. Today has been an amazing day and I am excited to see what the rest of our final week has in store.

Lastly, I just want to express how appreciative I am of the American Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. It has truly been a life-changing experience and I cannot thank Mr. Brian Hamil enough. Everyone I have met throughout the past two weeks has taught me something that I will forever hold onto in my life. I feel as though I have gained 12 new best friends as well as some great mentors. I am very excited to take the knowledge I have gained and use it to create new opportunities on my campus to help save lives.

Day 10 by Kelley Cohron

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Red Cross/NAIA 2014 Class donating blood
From left to right: Megan Mosiniak, Kayla Day, Maddie Smith, Kelley Cohron

Hey Everyone! My name is Kelley Cohron and I was born and raised in Buford, Georgia. After I graduated from Buford High School I received an academic and tennis scholarship to attend Brenau University. Through these scholarships, I was able to combine my passion for tennis and also pursue studying to become a physical therapist. One cool fact about me is that I am the only American on Brenau’s tennis team. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a team that can teach me more about different cultures and also challenge me to play a higher level of tennis.

Compared to previous days, today we had a more relaxed schedule because some of us donated blood! The day began a little bit later which gave us a few extra minutes to sleep in. The first half of the day we worked on our final projects which included our strategic plans for blood drives. When we get back from D.C., we have to be prepared to run blood drives on our campuses so Brian thought that it would be a good idea for us to get a head start with our ideas.

Our projects consist of two aspects. The first aspect is about our, “Leadership Code of Conduct.” This part is about five or six values that mean a lot to us as leaders. Some of my values included humility, vision, and consistency. Our PowerPoint explains why these values are important to me and how I will incorporate them into my life as a leader. The second part of our presentation is about how we will market the blood drives to our campus. We have to do an overview of our campus and what we think will work and won’t work for it. I am really excited to share my ideas and values with everyone else.

Around 11am a few people began the blood donating process. Ten people planned on donating today, but unfortunately four were deferred. I have never donated blood before. Actually, only two people had donated before. At noon I went back to the donation center and sat with Maddie while she donated blood for the first time. Hers went very smoothly, so that gave me confidence that I would have a good experience with mine. At 2pm I headed to the donation center and began my blood donation process. I was nervous, but decided to focus on the bigger picture which was helping others. It is such a great feeling knowing that I was able to save up to three lives today. The process didn’t end up being too bad! It all went very smoothly, even though I may have broken Maddie’s hand from squeezing it so hard the first few minutes. After I completed my donation I spent some time at the canteen with the other donors from our group. We were able to sit back and relax while our body processed everything. After we finished donating blood we went back to our office to continue work on our projects. We stayed in the office until 5pm and got as much work done as we could. We also had to stay hydrated so we could get enough fluids back into our system; sometimes it can be a little exhausting saving three lives.

We headed back to Thurston Hall after we finished our work for the day and got changed to head to the Washington Monument. It turns out that tickets are very difficult to get for the monument since it reopened just a few weeks ago. Luckily, Zach, Hanna, and Kaitlin ran over to the monument this morning at 7:30am to stand in line to get us tickets. A few of us were nervous about going up the monument since we had just donated blood a few hours earlier. Turns out we were perfectly fine! The top of monument was such a great experience. It was really neat getting to see Washington,DC from every different angle—we even got to see into parts of Maryland! We spent a little bit of time at the top and then decided to head back down because it was about to storm. We all met up at the bottom of the monument and decided to start walking towards dinner. Hanna and I had made a bet earlier in the week about Chipotle, and I won, so we headed to Chipotle. This may or may not have been my fifth trip there since we got here.

Chipotle was our final stop for the day. We headed back to the dorm and decided to just hangout because we only have a few nights left together. This experience has been invaluable and I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am sad that there we only have a couple days left together, but am looking forward to taking what I have learned back to my campus.

Day 11 by Kaitlin Pontikes

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Red Cross/NAIA Class of 2014 at Georgetown Waterfront
From left to right: Kayla Day, Kelley Cohron, Tico Dalipi, Ja'Keisha Haynes, Megan Mosiniak, Bryan Palmer, Maddie Smith, Haylie Gutierrez, Julia Tyree, Nicole Gill, Kaitlin Pontikes, Zach Sollie, Jerica Drago

Hello! I am thrilled to get the opportunity to tell our followers about how we witnessed history today. But first, let me cover the basics. My name is Kaitlin Pontikes and I am a cross-country and track runner at Oklahoma City University where I am double majoring in Finance and Economics at Meinders School of Business. I started running in the fourth grade and have not looked back since! Running at OCU has strengthened my passion for running and enhanced my college experience. Now, I am beyond thankful it led me to this adventure that is the Red Cross/NAIA Leadership Program. Any expectations I had going into this have totally been blown out of the water. I have gained incredible knowledge on how to be a better leader to myself and those around me. Also, I learned about the humanitarian efforts of the Red Cross that changes people’s lives daily.

Now to tell you about our historic day that mostly took place at Capital Hill; the group was lucky enough to get a private tour from Chelsea Whalen from the office of Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky. We began the tour by going to the House Chamber to see a two hour debate that was concluded with a voting session. We had the opportunity to see them pass HR 4453 S Corporation of Permanent Relief Act of 2014. This bill, sponsored by Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Ron Kind (D-WI), received strong bipartisan support. It will help small businesses that choose to operate as an S Corporation navigate through the tax code without unnecessary penalties. It was a historic day for our group and the House of Representatives. However, I’m sorry to say the bill still has to pass through Senate in order for the rest of the United States to experience it.

Following that showing, we moved onto a detailed tour of the capital. Ms. Whalen took us to the House side and Senate side. On each side, we walked through the original chambers to compare it to the ones used by our present day elected officials. The old House of Representatives chamber is now known as Statuary Hall. This is home to many of the statues dedicated to historic people from each state. Each state is allowed to donate two statutes of their choice to be decoratively spread throughout the capital building. While in Statuary Hall we tested out the infamous “whispering spot,” said to be used by John Adams to eavesdrop on opponents across the room. The main difference in all of the old chambers compared to the ones used today was the size of the main hall and the gallery. Which means, the crowd along with the number of representatives in Washington has increased. I must admit it was moving to know I was standing in the very room where so many changes to the United States of America all began. The best part was seeing the rooms with the restored original furniture. The entire building is beautiful with detailed paintings and statues throughout. The detail that stood out to me the most were the thousands of original floor tiles imported from Italy. These tiles were gorgeously colorful and formed many floral-like designs all down the hallways.

After our tour of Capital Hill, we headed back to the office for some always unforgettable time with Brian. He lead us through a discussion over a couple articles we read then unexpectedly had us write short poems about one another. The poems had us all laughing uncontrollably followed by a few sweet moments to tug at our heartstrings. We finished up with some personal work time before splitting up for a little shopping and dinner. A few of us headed to Georgetown for dinner and dessert, and I must add if you ever need cupcake recommendations while in Washington contact me because we’ve definitely had our fair share of cupcake taste tests these past couple weeks. All day I kept hearing different members of the group say, “I can’t believe tomorrow is our last day.” Hearing this many times made me reflect and truly appreciate the loving relationships I have had the opportunity to form. I speak for all thirteen of us when I say I cannot say thank you enough to everyone involved in making these last two weeks possible.

Day 12 by Jerica Drago

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NAIA Class 2014
From left to right: Jerica Drago, Brian Hamil, Megan Mosiniak, Tico Dalipi, Maddie Smith, Nicole Gill, Bryan Palmer, Julia Tyree, Haylie Guterriez, Zach Sollie, Kaitlin Pontikes, Ja'Keisha Haynes, Kayla Day, Kelley Cohron

Hey Guys! My name is Jerica Marie Drago and I will be writing for the final night of our blog. When I was going through my last year of high school, I was really struggling to decide on a university. After attending the 2010 Homecoming soccer game at Saint Louis University, my decision was made. As the year progressed I hit all my major milestones with excitement and anticipation building for the years I was approaching at what I thought would be my beloved school. However, by the time I walked across the stage, my dream had been shattered and I was left wondering what I would do for my education. I had not needed backup schools to that point and I did not know what I would do. One night while at work, I had a chance encounter with a girl who would lead me to the most amazing years of my life. The conversation we had brought me to Missouri Baptist University, my home. There I became hyper-involved on the campus, cheering-on my teams and my classmates. Additionally, I participated with Student Government, the Pom & Dance team, my sorority, and held an anchor position on MBU Timeline News. Now, at the end of this leadership conference, I look back at the path that has brought me here and I know the greatest gift I have been given in life thus far was a position on an NAIA athletic team, although it may not have been the direction in which I thought I was going.

Today was extremely relaxed and all about enjoying the moment and reflecting. We all had the opportunity over the past week and a half to work on a Leadership Code of Conduct. We really loved the opportunity to work through this because although we may not have been applying these strategies or seeing a need for them to this point, we have learned so much about being a successful leader and wanted to showcase how we planned to do so in the future. As well, we put together a brief overview of our universities, including some strategic tactics as to how we would market our blood drives to our peers. What I was hoping to learn most during this trip was how to encourage other young adults to find a passion for blood donation as my dad had encouraged me. I genuinely feel that what I included, along with what everyone else produced, can help me do just that.

After we presented, we adjourned for lunch and to “debrief” on the past two weeks and what we took away from the experience. Brian wrote an absolutely stunning short piece for us about what kinds of people come into our lives and why. He explained that people could be “reasons,” meant to interact with us on a shorter section of our timeline. Although “short” could mean fleeting moments or full years, their purpose is one, or potentially a small set of lessons to carry us on through life. He went on to describe that some people enter our life for “seasons.” These folks often travel with us through whole parts of our timelines and help guide us during those times. Then Brian described the “lifetimes.” Those are the people you must truly work to cultivate deep, personal relationships with; these are the kind of people who understand your soul.

I know I can speak for my 12 new friends, teammates, and family when I say that we have the potential to touch each other in each of those three areas. I know a lot of us hope we can work towards the same relationship goals with Brian, Randon, Hanna, and Julie.

It is safe to say I knew I would take a lot out of this program, but it is even more accurate to tell you that none of us could have ever imagined how this experience would touch our souls and inspire us to be better people down to our core. I am leaving this program with a heavy heart, as I could truly stay here with these individuals forever. However, I am also leaving with an invigorated spirit and a readiness to change the world. I feel prepared and inspired to encourage other students to save lives with something as simple as a one-hour blood donation, or as miraculous as volunteering for disaster relief.

I have absolutely no idea what is coming down my timeline, but without the NAIA, without the generosity of the American Red Cross, my family, my wonderful boyfriend and his family; without the support of my work, and without the dedication and overwhelming love of Brian Hamil, my future would never look as bright and sensational as it does now. I know I speak for all of us when I say we all have these support systems to thank, and we will never find the words to do so. It will only be in our actions and successes that we can truly show our gratitude, and we cannot wait to get started.