2015 Class Blog

Day 1 by Kat Frickleton

NAIA 2015 students group photo
Group of 2015 NAIA students

Hello everyone! My name is Katarina (Kat) Frickleton and I am thrilled to be a part of the 2015 Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership program. I am from an amazing community that is about a thirty-five minute ferry ride outside of downtown Seattle called Bainbridge Island. I just finished my sophomore year at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas where I am a pre-med student working toward a Biology major and Spanish and Psychology minors. I am a captain on the volleyball team and spend a significant portion of my free time with the school’s outdoor program, LEAP. I have always been interested in humanitarian work, and my desire to serve was concreted during a recent trip to Haiti through a wonderful organization called ServeHAITI. I am beyond excited to be in DC, thanks to this program, and after just one day in the nation’s capital I know that we are going to grow tremendously.

This morning, the group walked over to the headquarters together, already a cohesive unit after breaking the ice last night. We were greeted by a large conference room with name tents and bags filled with the essentials including notepads and water bottles. The walls were covered in inspirational quotes and all were clearly thought out. We were so impressed with the room, but even more impressed with our speakers.

The first to speak was Mr. Brian Hamil, who insisted that we only call him Brian. Brian is the National Chair of Biomedical Services. His smile immediately lightened up the room and as he introduced the program in more detail to the group he instilled pride and confidence in each of us. He urged us to change the question of our circumstance from “why me?” to “why not me?”. I am confident that Brian will be a great mentor and will help us learn how to unlock our potential because he sincerely cares about everything that he does.

Our next speaker was Mr. Peter Macías, the Director of Communications for the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) division of the American Red Cross. Mr. Macías’s greatest piece of advice about communication was to tell a story. Stories bring issues to an emotional level and allow people to empathize. Mr. Macías, like Brian, gave us a question to ask ourselves. The question is, “What can I do to make a difference?” While this may seem like common sense, it is easy to get caught up in the speed of life and run through the motions instead of actively improving one’s surroundings.

Our third and final speaker was Mr. Shaun Gilmore, the President of Biomedical Services for the American Red Cross. When I read Mr. Gilmore’s bio, I was wowed by his influence. Between attending Harvard Business School, serving as President, Northeast States for AT&T, being the Executive Vice President, Global Business Markets at Qwest, and much more, Mr. Gilmore’s history is highly impressive. One of the lessons that Mr. Gilmore taught us was to not act like the smartest person in the room, even if you are, and he certainly exemplified his own advice. He spoke to the group on a personal level and explained topics in a way that each of us could understand. He gave us a list of do’s and dont’s that was simple, yet broad and applicable to any professional scenario. My personal favorite was “don’t be a jerk” which is almost comical , but is undeniably important. He gave us the opportunity to ask questions and we felt comfortable conversing with him.

As the group responded and communicated with each of our speakers today, it was exciting to observe everybody’s professionalism and intelligence. Each individual knew when to bring information to the table, and when to sit back and soak it up. After our work day, we got to switch from fancy clothes to gym shorts, and many of us hit the weights together. The night ended with dinner and a walk through the city. We saw the White House, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, and more. We were even provided shelter inside of the Lincoln Memorial during a storm, which gave us the time to extensively explore and hear from two knowledgeable park rangers.

Today was an exceptional start to the journey of this year’s Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership program. I know that each of us will grow exponentially over the next two weeks and beyond due to the lessons we learn, places we go, and most importantly the people we meet. I can’t wait to see what else is in store!

Day 2 by Sidney Bosley

2015 NAIA class

Hello everyone! My name is Sidney Bosley and I am currently participating in the American Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where my love for running Cross Country and Track grew into a passion that led me to find Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am an upcoming junior majoring in biology with the hopes of doing research after graduation. I serve as the captain of the Track and Cross Country teams and am extremely excited for the opportunity of being part of this program where my leadership skills will be able to see enormous growth.

Today was our second day here at the Red Cross Headquarters in beautiful DC. As you can see in the previous post, our first day here was filled with wonderful speakers and a great introduction to the program, as well as a ton of fun getting to know this amazing group of students.

We started the day out by having a conversation with Brian about the book that we all read before we arrived here, “The Way of the Seal.” We discussed things that we stand for and the purpose of each of our individual lives. It was a perfect kick-start to a day of incredible speakers and activities.

The first speaker we had the privilege of hearing and talking with was Chris Hrouda. Mr. Hrouda is the Executive Vice President of Biomedical Services. He talked about the structure of the biomedical organization and how it basically runs as a pharmaceutical company. He also spoke about what working for the American Red Cross is truly about; it is about helping others and saving lives. He gave advice from personal experience about the start to his career and how he got to his current position. He told us to never be afraid of being flexible, to go out of our comfort zones, and to learn from mistakes.

After lunch we got the pleasure of hearing from Katie Maloney and Maggie Cieslowski. These two knowledgeable women both serve on Talent Organization and Development for the Red Cross. Their presentation was a highlight of learning for all of us as we all learned what our “true colors” were. This involved taking a personality test that allowed us to see which personality color category fit us best. A handful of the group, including myself, was gold. This personality type tends to be more structured and conservative, finding comfort in stability and procedure driven tasks. Other colors included orange, who are energetic, entertaining, and playful people that tend to enjoy challenges. The blue color personality is someone that is passionate, cooperative, and often times the peacemaker and caretaker of a group they are involved in. Lastly, green personalities are people that enjoy solving problems, need data, and finding out the reason for doing a task. We learned that it is important to know and understand your own color as well as knowing the colors of people that you are working with. This will allow you to enhance communication as people with different personalities need to be communicated with through different styles. As we are all leaders on our campus this is an extremely important skill to master.

Our next speaker, Anna Maria Larsen, is the founder and managing partner of Lumenis Partners, LLC. Anna Maria talked with us about her passions, and how it is the driving force for everything that she does in life. She spoke about faith and took the time in her conversation with us to go around the room and chat with each one of us about our calling. She was one of the sweetest, most genuine, and caring people I’ve ever met. Her presence was fantastic and I know that we all learned a lot about what a great leader acts like while talking with her.

After Anna Maria, we were privileged to hear from John Taylor. John is the Senior Vice President of Recruitment and Field Marketing. John’s presentation was very informative; he talked about the numbers behind the biomedical branch of the Red Cross and how the organization operates. He also went into detail about how to host a blood drive and recruit donors in fun ways, with incentives and making sure that the blood drive is a fun event that encourages people to donate. His experience, knowledge, and insight were a great resource for us and answered all of the questions that our team had for him about planning blood drives for our campuses.

Once the day at the office was complete, we went out for a fun filled evening in Georgetown that started with dinner at Chipotle, our student mentor, Randon’s, favorite restaurant. We had a blast talking about the day and walking around Georgetown. On the walk back to the dorm a group of us, including all three of our student mentors decided to take on a nighttime “monumental run.” The run ended up being a bit longer than some had expected (5 miles, not 3), but despite the extra length, everyone had an absolutely fantastic time. The run took us to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and past the White House. The time spent laughing together on the run in between these incredible sites and the time spent gazing at them in awe together is something I will never forget.

Being here at this elite program is allowing each and every one us to experience tremendous personal growth. I personally felt that The “True Colors” session today taught me a lot about how to be a better communicator, which plays a key role in a leader’s success. Leaders get to the status of “leader” because of their ability to encourage a following of people that believe them to be genuine. Learning all of the different personalities and how to effectively communicate with everyone’s unique personality was a huge step in my growth as a leader. Also, learning more about my personality and communication style was important for self growth and will enable me to improve my communication with similar and different personality types.

Today was one that will not easily be topped, but as it is only still the beginning of this incredible experience I am ecstatic for the days to come and the experiences we will get to have as an already close group of great friends.

Day 3 by Sarah Barris

NAIA 2015 students in Chinatown

Hello! My name is Sarah Barris, and I play golf for Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. I am a junior, double majoring in Criminal Justice Administration and Political Science and minoring in Legal Studies. I plan to go to law school after I graduate and would love to work for a non-for-profit such as the Innocence Project. I have a heart for serving others and that is why I have fallen in love with the American Red Cross and its mission.

We just finished day three of the program and have already learned so much information. Each day has offered amazing experiences filled with helpful life advice about leadership, blood drives, and success. We started today by discussing an article entitled “14 Tips for Developing Leadership Presence.” This short read provided us with basic principles for leadership such as being an active listener and allowing oneself to be vulnerable at times. The article paralleled perfectly with the rest of the day’s focus.

The first speaker we heard from was Kathy Waldman, the Senior Vice President of Quality & Regulatory Affairs in the Biomedical Services Department of the American Red Cross. She has been a part of the Red Cross family since 1985. The fascinating aspect of her story is the path she traveled to end up in her current position. Although she majored in Psychology in college, she started working for the Red Cross in the IT department. Her testimony is proof that no one is restricted to a set path and that a person can change his/her future with just one opportunity and one decision. She taught us not to be afraid of unfamiliar opportunities, but rather to embrace unique situations and be open minded to new experiences; even if they fail to coincide with our original path and plan. Not only did she provide us with helpful life advice, she also explained the basics of blood donor eligibility, blood regulatory requirements, quality assurance principles, and general blood donation management. Her presentation elucidated much of the facts behind blood and blood types. It was helpful to hear about the basics of blood as we start constructing our strategic plans to host blood drives on campus.

After a great presentation from Kathy, we went to a separate conference room for lunch. We had pizza, salad, and all sorts of ice cream. Once we finished the break, we returned to our main conference room for the Diversity and Cultural Competency Workshop.

The workshop was lead by Timothy O’Malley, an Organizational Development Consultant and a senior facilitator in the Healing the Heart of Diversity program. He was a truly captivating speaker. He primarily emphasized the necessity in accepting and understanding those with different backgrounds. Tim explained that in order to have effective communication, you must be able to respect differences and overcome them. Tim divided us into three groups of four. Each group was seated at a different table and handed a deck of cards and rules to a card game. We played the game at our table, but we were not allowed to speak. The winner from each table was then told to move to a different table. I quickly noticed that the new person at my table was following a different set of rules to the game. We continued to play, but had so many different conflicts, especially since we were not able to talk and clarify the rules. When the winners of the second round switched tables, even more confusion ensued. After we experienced the third round of competitors non-verbally arguing over the rules, Tim allowed us to finally communicate. We learned that each original group had been provided with the same game but different rules, which explained why no one was on the same page. Through this activity we realized that it is impossible to have effective communication and interact with a person without recognizing and considering his/her background. We were all raised with different rules and in different cultures. The key is to adapt to each other and overcome diversity in order to achieve positive results. He also taught us to treat everyone, despite differences, with appreciation because that is what motivates people to accomplish goals.

Once we heard from the two influential speakers, we headed back to the dorms to change out of our professional clothes and walked to the Smithsonian and National Portrait Gallery. We spent about an hour looking at all the paintings and then decided to go check out Chinatown. In Chinatown, we saw some pretty talented street performers and were all amazed by the culture. We ate dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, which was an awesome experience. We ordered the “family dinner” which included soup and appetizers for everyone. The dinner came with ten different entrees, which we shared and passed around the table. We all tried a bit of everything. It felt like a big Thanksgiving family dinner, and everyone had a great time talking and hanging out. It is amazing how closely knit this group has grown after only three days. All twelve of us are so different from each other, yet we all love one another. One of the best parts about this experience is the people with whom I am participating. I know I have already made some lifelong friends here, and I am excited to see how much we grow together in the next nine days.

When I first arrived in Washington D.C., I was unsure how much of a "fit" this program was for me. I am not a biology or science major of any kind, and I have never actually donated blood before. However, after only three days, I can say that this experience is one I will carry with me for life. It has already taught me so much about myself and who I am as a leader. I am excited to take these new concepts back to my campus and utilize this information in my everyday life. I am beyond grateful for this amazing experience and am excited to see what the next few days hold.

Day 4 by Eric Smith

NAIA students at Nationals Park

Greetings, bloggers! Eric Smith here with your daily update of the life and times of the 2015 Red Cross/NAIA leaders! I am from Springfield, Missouri and I go to school at Avila University in Kansas City. I am majoring in Biology and minoring in Secondary Education in hopes to be a high school science teacher and coach, on my way to being an athletic director. I play baseball, making Thursday night's game to see the Washington Nationals play the Chicago Cubs, one of the biggest highlights of the trip so far. Throughout the day, we learned from former Red Cross/NAIA participants that were so fantastic that they came back as mentors for the program.

Hanna Malak kicked off the day and he was as golden as the state he is from, California. He talked to us about some topics that will directly affect us as leaders of a Red Cross blood program. He has not missed his goal for units collected in twenty nine straight months, so obviously we were engaged and attentive to what he had to say when it came to recruiting donors on a college campus. He explained to us that it greatly depends on communication. There are times when he deals with nothing but new blood drive coordinators and the communications between them is the key to his success. It is his motivation to go to work every day and his positive attitude that makes us all want to work together to help save lives.

We then got to hear from Red Cross hall of famers Megan Mosiniak and Randon McNeil. Their presentations consisted of their strategic plan for their campuses; from the planning of their drives, to getting the donors to give blood. Megan shared with us an inspirational story of Tim Berta, a man who was in a bus accident with his baseball team on their way to Florida for spring training. Megan’s first blood drive after she returned from the Red Cross/NAIA Leadership Program was dedicated in honor of Tim Berta. It was a great opportunity to honor Tim and highlight the need for blood. His story attracted many students, faculty, and staff to give blood, exceeding her goal by thirty eight percent. Randon expressed to us the importance of careful planning and communication with campus leaders that can result to a smooth blood drive. Without these factors, a blood drive coordinator may not have sufficient space or resources for the drive. The great thing about these two presentations was that we got a reminder of the little things that we may overlook in a blood drive.

We ended our day at Nationals Park. Seeing the Nationals' stadium was a tremendous experience. When we arrived at the park, we were pleasantly surprised that it was Jordan Zimmerman bobblehead giveaway night! Although, there was a rain delay, we had an amazing time bonding with each other over some stadium food. From chicken strips, to hot dogs to bottomless sodas, we ate and laughed and had the chance to get to know more about each other.

Thus far it has been a memorable experience. We have eight more days in this great city to continue our training and build our relationships. I feel like my mind is ninety percent full and we have one hundred things left to learn. But with this group, one thing is for sure, even after we give ten percent of our fluids in a blood donation, my heart will be forever full.

Day 5 by Jordan Mathison

NAIA students at art museum

Hello! My name Jordan Mathison and I am beyond excited to be a part of the 2015 Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. My home is a tiny town about forty five minutes north of Detroit, Michigan called Marine City. I attend Bethel College in Mishawka, Indiana where I am a Lady Pilot for the softball team. I will be entering my junior year as an exercise science major with the intentions of attending graduate school to pursue a career in physical therapy. Outside of softball and the classroom, I am an actively involved in programs, such as, Team Impact and Buff. Team Impact is a program that connects collegiate athletic teams with children experiencing life-threatening and chronic illnesses. Buff is a club that promotes fitness throughout college campuses and strives to facilitate fitness related activities for students to participate in. Thanks to the Red Cross/NAIA Leadership Program, I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn from previous participants of the program, while working along side of some of the brightest student leaders from across the nation. Success is limitless and I cannot wait to see what we can accomplish the rest of our time together.

Today, our main focus was to make a strategic plan with our Donor Recruitment Department (DRD) representatives to prepare for future blood drives. My DRD representative is Wendy Glaser. Wendy has been involved with the blood drives at Bethel for a number of years and has a history of running successful drives on our campus. Wendy and I discussed opportunities to improve the blood drives at my school. Wendy and I discussed a strategic plan for recruiting blood donors over a longer period of time, finding efficient space for the Bethel community and Red Cross staff, and the importance of building a successful team. I look forward to working with Wendy over the next few years and have the potential to save hundreds of lives. I believe that with some hard-work and determination we have the ability to produce efficient numbers to exceed our goals.

We had the pleasure to eat lunch with our next presenter, Dr. Richard Benjamin. Dr. Richard Benjamin is the Chief Medical Officer of the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. where he oversees donor and patient safety issues related to the collection of red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Dr. Benjamin is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Pathology at Georgetown University here in Washington, D.C. Dr. Benjamin highlighted valuable information concerning young blood donors and athletes. Dr. Benjamin explained how donating blood would affect an athlete’s performance. He indicated that athletes are safe to donate if they are given the recommended twelve hours of rest without strenuous exercise. This is recommended to prevent bruising and allows the donors body time to replenish the blood that has been donated. For athletes that do not participate in high-endurance sports, they can donate blood while in and out of season. Most athletes make the mistake of assuming that donating blood can only negatively affect their performance. However, studies have shown that donating blood has no effect on performance or can even show a slight increase in performance after donating blood. High-endurance sports, such as track and cross-country, are recommended to only donate during their off-season. This information was extremely valuable because of the large number of athletes that attend my school. Taking this information back to coaches, teammates, and other athletes can only help in educating the athletic department with medical data which will allow for an increase in support from athletes throughout my campus.

We also had the privilege to hear from Bill Gross this afternoon. Mr. Gross is a senior Associate on the Brand Marketing team at American Red Cross. Mr. Gross touched on resumes, professional experiences, job searching, and interview basics. The most important takeaway I took from Mr. Gross’s presentation was the importance of a concise, well-put together resume. It was suggested that our resumes take thirty to sixty seconds to read, to be written to the job title, and to highlight on achievements and experience. Mr. Gross also mentioned how important it was to sell our achievements and articulate our weaknesses in a positive fashion. I will be able to take this valuable information and utilize these tools when the time comes for me to find my future career.

Part of the encouragement of this program is to establish an American Red Cross club on campus. Portia Obeng is an Associate of Youth and Young Adults of the American Red Cross. Portia works with youth and programs to help the Red Cross to create lifelong volunteers, donors, and supporters. Portia presented to our class the expectations that came with establishing a Red Cross club on campus. Portia provided us with information regarding the requirements of a campus club. Red Cross clubs must preform three activities a year to be considered a club. The activities must include fundraising, preparedness, and blood services. Portia also suggested that we find three to four committed individuals to be apart of our team. This information was very valuable for preparing the establishment of my own Red Cross club on campus.

After a day filled with valuable information, we all headed back to the dorms to change into casual clothes to join Brian Hamil at a local restaurant called Tonic for dinner. Tonic had walls that were uniquely decorated with the writing of their customers. We took complete advantage of the situation and added the Red Cross/NAIA Leadership Program 2015 to the wall above our table. Tonic’s food was simply amazing. I ordered fish tacos and they were easily the best fish tacos I have ever eaten. Half of our table split up my last fish taco to share because it was too good to waste. Dinner at Tonic was an amazing opportunity to get to know the other students, mentors, and Brian on a more personal level. We were able to share stories with our cute, and even ugly, baby pictures that we all had on our phones. After dinner and giving Brian a huge thank you for our meals, we split off to find some frozen yogurt for dessert. We all filled our delicious dessert to the top and enjoyed our tasty treats in a park where a projector screen was set up for the community to enjoy a movie. Later that night we played a ton of games and ended our night sprawled out on beanbags with a movie in the dorm lounge.

Today was an awesome opportunity to bond with the members of this program on a more personal level. I truly love the people I am sharing this experience with and I am thrilled to continue learning from some of the top individuals from the American Red Cross and NAIA. I believe this group has incredible potential for success and I am beyond excited to see the accomplishments we make during and after the program.

Day 6 by PJ Peterson

NAIA student group photo with names

Hello everyone! My name is Paul Leonard Peterson, but my friends call me PJ. I attend Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota where I play football, but I am originally from Larimore, North Dakota. I am currently majoring in Physical Education and Health Education while minoring in Coaching. My hope is to become a college football coach one day. I am completely humbled by the opportunity to attend this program in Washington, D.C. This program has allowed me to grow as an individual and improve my leadership skills.

Today was a little different from the earlier parts of the week. We did not have to spend any time in the office because it was our first day of the weekend, but that did not mean our day was not going to be busy. The main objective of the day was to take a walking tour of D.C. We started at 12:30 p.m. with a tour of the East Wing of the White House. This is where many ceremonies, meetings, and important dinners are held. The rooms were furnished with elegant, historic, furniture. Over the course of history, the White House has compiled quite the collection of historical art and furnishings. The rooms we had the opportunity to see were the Library, the Vermeil room, the China room, the East room, the Green room, the Blue room, the Red room, and the State Dining room. My favorite part of the tour was seeing the East room which is the largest room in the White House and is used for receptions, ceremonies, and press conferences. We even got to see the red carpet that the President walks down to give speeches and press conferences on TV. The White House tour was an once-in-a-lifetime experience and was a great time for each of us.

The rest of our day consisted of a tour of historically significant buildings around the National Mall lead by Jennifer Lourie, a friend of the program. These buildings included the National Gallery of Art and Botanic Garden. We also visited the Library of Congress, Supreme Court building and Union Station. My favorite part of the tour was enjoying the incredible beauty of the Library of Congress. This library was originally located in the Capitol building but was moved when the British burned the Capitol building to the ground in 1814. The building the library is located in now opened in 1897. The Library of Congress is the biggest library in the world with 838 miles of bookshelves where it holds 155 million items and around 10,000 items are added each day. This building was easily the most beautiful building we saw on the tour.

This week was filled with a lot of fun and great leadership advice. Although we are from 12 different colleges and many different states, it feels like we have known each other forever. We bonded very quickly and seem to have endless daily conversations. I look forward to our speakers next week and even more bonding with this incredible group of student leaders.

Day 7 by Randi Sturtz

NAIA students jumping in front of the capital building
NAIA students at the capital

Hello all! My name is Randi Sturtz and I will be a junior in the fall at The College of Idaho located in Caldwell, Idaho. Currently, I am on track to graduate with a major in Psychology, and a minor in Spanish, Natural Sciences, and Leadership. On top of my school work, I play middle blocker for the women’s varsity volleyball team. I have also been involved with the school Senate, Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and next year will be on Program Council. I absolutely love my school and the atmosphere and support that surround it. Go Yotes!

Because today is Sunday, everyone was free to do their own thing. We were all up pretty late last night hanging out, so many chose to sleep in. However, there were quite a few people from our class who went to church or who met up with friends or family. I attended church at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with Eric Smith, another student-athlete in this Program. The church is 175 years old and was the church where former President John F. Kennedy’s funeral service was held. The architecture and detail of the chapel was amazing. It was a beautiful sight and a beautiful service.

Just after noon a big group of us met up at the Arlington National Cemetery. I was at a loss of words and overwhelmed with emotions at the sight. We walked around the building honoring the Women of the Armed Forces, up to Robert E. Lee’s house, and over to the Tomb for the Unknown Soldier. Outside the Tomb for the Unknown Soldier, there is a soldier that marches back and forth across the ground in front of the tomb. There are soldiers whose only job is to protect the tomb. We waited for 20 minutes so that we could witness the changing of guards. During this time we sat in respectful silence, honoring the service of men and women of the armed forces, and admiring the discipline of the changing guards. My favorite part of the ritual is the way that the guards march. The guards will turn and march 21 steps, pause for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, and then marches back down to the other end to do the same thing continuously at the exact same stride length and pace. It is amazingly precise! I learned that the 21 seconds represents the highest amount of military honor that can be bestowed - the 21-gun salute.

After spending several hours at Arlington the majority of the group hopped on the Metro and headed towards the National Mall. We went to the National Archives Museum to see the Bill of Rights, United States Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, along with many other historical documents. As we were leaving, we stopped and talked to a security guard and asked her for her favorite part of the museum. She explained that the clouds in sky of the mural that is in the room with the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Constitution, makes out Lincoln’s face. We did not see it at first so she told us to tilt our head to the left and then we could each see it. I was super excited about this because Lincoln is my favorite president and being here and learning all sorts of new stuff about him and about his memorial makes him all that more interesting to me.

To end the busy day we had dinner with Kristin Gillette, the Director of Champions of Character for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). She was super nice and already knew each of our names and which school we attended before she even met us. I am excited to spend the day with her tomorrow and learn all about how to excel as a leader and a student-athlete. I have already learned so much about myself and how to work better with other people. I can only imagine what this next week has to offer. The people and opportunities here are amazing and I am trying to absorb everything and to take as many notes as possible.

Day 8 by Alex Lunneborg

NAIA students with Gail McGovern

Greetings from Washington, D.C. My name is Alex Lunneborg and I am currently participating in the American Red Cross/ NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. I am originally from Wahpeton, ND where I participated in football, baseball, and basketball. Baseball has always been my favorite of the three, this led me to find Presentation College in Aberdeen, SD. I am studying to become a Radiologic Technologist as I really find a passion in helping other people. I also keep busy at college helping our Sports Information Director with statistics, writing game recaps, and videotaping. I am honored to be a part of such a great program as I have already grown so much as a leader.

Coming off a weekend of sightseeing and relaxation it was time to get back to the American Red Cross Headquarters. Today made it eight days in the wonderful city of Washington, D.C. It was filled with two amazing speakers, Kristin Gillette from the NAIA and CEO/President of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern.

Kristin Gillette was our first speaker of the day. Kristin is the Director of Champions of Character for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). She first started as a Manager of Championship Sports in 2008, she then moved on to her current role as Director of Champions of Character. The focus of Kristin’s presentation was on the Five Core Values of the Champions of Character Program. They are integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership. We did two very fun and informative group activities to really learn how we can implement these core values into our schools and blood drives. The first activity involved picking one of the five core values and explaining how our sports teams shows this value and also how we can teach it to another team. So, for me I choose responsibility. I gave the example of how our baseball team at Presentation makes it a requirement that we have team study sessions in the library every week. By these sessions we are exemplifying the idea that student becomes before athlete and ultimately responsibility. The next activity we did was to create a concept card. The purpose of this activity was to help develop and improve the NAIA by stating the problem and giving a solution to that problem.

It is my true honor to say that our next speaker was the President and CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern. It was simply a blessing to be in the presence of such an amazing, down to earth, and sweet woman I cannot explain the respect I have for her. We were all so nervous to meet this great leader that upon her entrance the room became silent. However, credit to Mrs. McGovern it quickly was filled by her humble and gentle tone of voice. She first gave us her story of how she came to the Red Cross including her impressive work with Fidelity Personal Investments and AT&T. She then gave us her advice on leadership. Her main points were how important it is to delegate, be organized, and teamwork. The greatest piece of advice in my opinion is when she stated “If you are comfortable all the time you are not learning.” This really emphasizes the importance of being flexible and adaptable in life.

This past week has been such a great learning experience I have come in contact with some of the most well respected leaders of today’s world. I cannot express the expediential growth I have seen in myself as a leader. This program is simply an honor to be a part of. My teammates, or should I say new friends, are some of the most genuine and friendly people. We have grown so close in the last week and I will never forget the friendships I have made here.

Day 9 by Kylie Townsley

NAIA students group photo at the Red Cross headquarters building

Hello everyone! My name is Kylie Townsley and I am one of the twelve members of the 2015 Red Cross/NAIA Leadership Program. I am from Macomb, Michigan and I just finished my sophomore year at Spring Arbor University. I am studying health and exercise science with a minor in psychology. I have plans to become an occupational therapist in the future. I am a captain on the women’s basketball team and I am the representative of my team for a program at Spring Arbor called Athletes for Christ. Aside from involvement on campus, I enjoy volunteering at the local assistive living center. I have previously helped out with the blood drives at our university. I was super stoked when I found out I was selected for this leadership program and I am so excited to have this once in a life time opportunity!

Every day that we have spent in D.C. has been a great day! Today was unique from the rest but that made it even more special. We started our morning with a networking breakfast. There were many people from the Red Cross who attended this breakfast and they came from a variety of different departments within the Red Cross. We had an hour and a half to spend with these individuals and pick their brains on questions that we had about the organization or advice on leadership. I found this to be a great experience. At first, I was nervous because we were going to be having one-on-one conversations with very important people. When I began talking with these individuals I realized two things very quickly. The first was that during our first week in D.C. we were equipped with knowledge of how to make the right first impression and the proper etiquette during a formal conversation. The second thing I realized was the people involved with the Red Cross are some pretty great people! They attended the breakfast because they wanted to meet us and answer questions that we had. Not only did we have a chance to network and build our networking skills, but we also were able to enjoy some tasty food for breakfast!

After our breakfast we had informational interviews that were scheduled for a thirty minute period with someone who is involved with the Red Cross. The twelve of us were assigned to someone who we could connect with on a professional level. I met with Russ Paulsen. Russ is the executive director for community preparedness and resilience programs. He shared with me his journey of how he became the person he is today along with some leadership tips. One thing that Russ shared with me that I will definitely be carrying with me is that sometimes our lives turn out to be different than what we plan. When we do steer away from a plan, it does not mean that we are quitting but rather that we are pursuing our dreams. I, along with the rest of the students in the program, truly valued and enjoyed the time we had during these interviews.

During our lunch, we had the special treat of spending quality time with Brian Boyle. Brian is the national spokesman for the American Red Cross. At age eighteen, Brian endured a tragedy that he has now turned into an incredibly powerful and inspiring story. Brian was in a car accident that caused him to lose sixty percent of the blood in his body and caused his heart to shift to the opposite side in his chest. During operations, Brian died eight times. The Red Cross played a vital role in Brian’s recovery because he needed thirty-six blood transfusions and thirteen plasma treatments. This accident put him in a medically induced coma for two months. Brian went on to tell us about his long recovery process. Brian has made serious strides in his life. From not being able to talk, to crossing the finish line at the Ironman World Championship. Not only was this a miraculous story, but what amazed me the most was the attitude that Brian had when he was with us. He shared with us his gratitude that he had towards his parents, his doctors, his physical and occupation therapist, and those who supported him. We all learned a positive lesson of not letting anything prevent us from living life to the fullest. Brian Boyle is putting a face to blood donation and put even more passion for the Red Cross in my heart!

Marvin Steele is a member of the government relations department for the Red Cross. In the afternoon we had the privilege of hearing from Mr. Steele. He spoke to us on how the government relations department is the middle man for Congress and the Red Cross services. Like many speakers, Mr. Steele is connected to the mission of the Red Cross and expressed the love he has for his job. One thing I loved that he put an emphasis on was relationships. He told us that this will be what will get us far in life. What I took away the most was a point he made saying that it is valuable to follow up with people after meeting them because you do not know what the future holds in that relationship. This was really good to here today because it corresponds with the networking breakfast we had in the morning.

During our two weeks in D.C., every student has to prepare a strategic plan that will be presented on the last day. This plan will be us using the knowledge we gained during the program and applying that to our universities. We were able to spend some time on this today. Every day there seems to be something new that I learn and that I am able to add to my plan. I am really looking forward to seeing these new ideas evolve at Spring Arbor!

To top off the day at the headquarters, we ended with blood donations. It was the first time for a few people in our group. Unfortunately I am getting over a cold and I was not able to donate today but hopefully I can donate before we leave D.C.! Those of us who were not eligible to donate went to provide moral support for those who were donating. It was so awesome to see everyone encouraging one another and everyone being excited that there was a difference that was being made one donation at a time!

Once we headed back to the dorms at George Washington University, we decided to have dinner as a group at Bobby’s Burger Palace. If you are ever in D.C. and looking for a good place to eat, I highly recommend making a stop here! These were Bobby Flay’s signature burgers and it was also a great environment to spend as a group laughing about stories being told from the long day.

I have learned so much about the Red Cross and leadership skills and I cannot wait to be back on campus and tell others in my student body about the opportunity they have to impact the world through this organization. As I am typing my blog, I can hear my eleven new friends having a blast watching game three of the NBA finals. Our time together may be limited to two weeks but I know these are friendships that will exceed the short time we spend in Washington D.C. This experience has truly been one of a kind and I am so blessed to have made friends with such extraordinary people!

Day 10 by Che’Ron Lewis

NAIA students at museum

Hello everyone! My name is Che’Ron Lewis and I have been blessed with the remarkable opportunity of being selected to be a part of the 2015 American Red Cross/NAIA Collegiate Leadership Program. I am from Cushing, Oklahoma and I attend Langston University which is in Langston, Oklahoma. I will be a junior this upcoming fall and I play the amazing sport of basketball. I am currently a HPER major, (no it does not mean I am excited all the time) which stands for Health Physical Education and Recreation. I am in this major so I can get my prerequisites out the way so I can apply to graduate school and get my doctorate in Physical Therapy emphasizing with athletes. I love my sport and other sports as well, so I would really enjoy doing a profession where I can build relationships and help them anyway I can.

Big day number 10! Today has been a super chill day. We started off the day by getting to listen to Nadia Mitchem talk to us. Ms. Mitchem is the director of volunteer partnerships for the American Red Cross. It was inspiring getting to see such a young woman in a fairly powerful position. She talked to us a bit about the “Do’s and Don’ts” about being a young professional and things she wish she could have done. She gave us a sheet of paper titled “What I know now that I wish I knew then: My career path.” And it gave us 10 lessons she has personally learned that she was willing to share with us. One thing that stuck out to me in this set of lessons was when she said to be comfortable with change. Since being here, I have learned that change is good and the better you adapt to it, the more flexible you are, the more likely you will succeed in your endeavors.

After lunch today we got on the bus to head to the National Cathedral. What an amazing experience that was! The outside of the building was top 5 the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen in my life; although, the outside had nothing on the inside. The inside of the cathedral was more than astonishing! We were privileged to be accompanied by probably the coolest docent ever, Karen! She was so engaging and in tuned with our group. I learned that the National Cathedral took eighty-three years to build and is also the 6th biggest cathedral in the entire world. I also learned that one of the stain glasses in the window has an actual piece of the moon in it!

Day 11 by Sonja Bilden

NAIA students group shot at Capital Building

Hello! My name is Sonja Bilden and I currently attend Mayville State University in Mayville, North Dakota. The town of Mayville is extremely small with a population of about 1,900. I am originally from Northwood, North Dakota which only has half the population of Mayville. At Mayville State University I am an outfielder on the softball team while studying Fitness and Wellness. After graduating from Mayville State, I plan to attend Century College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota where I will be studying to become a Prosthetic Practitioner. I am very grateful to have been chosen for this fantastic opportunity with the American Red Cross and NAIA.

Rather than going to the Red Cross Headquarters right away in the morning like we have been, we had the opportunity to tour our Nation’s Capitol Building. Our tour guide, Chelsea Whalen, is a friend of the American Red Cross program and works as an Officer Manager for Congressman Hal Rogers who represents the Southeastern region of Kentucky. She maintains financial documents for offices both in Kentucky and Washington, D.C. as well as maintaining computers and equipment. We also had the pleasure of meeting Ashton who is interning with her throughout the summer.

We began our tour by visiting a room called the “Crypt”. In this circular room, there is a white star in the middle, which is thought to be the center of Washington, D.C. Underneath this star is also where a tomb was built for George Washington until he specified that he wished to be buried at his home at Mount Vernon. We went on to enjoy Statuary Hall which holds statues for each state. Each state is granted two statues to be located within Capitol Hill. This room is known for its “whisper spot”. Chelsea informed us that John Quincy Adams took advantage of the Hall’s architecture to eavesdrop on other members talking on the opposite side of the room. So of course we had to see if it was true. A group of us stood where John Adams desk would have been and Chelsea went to the opposite side of the room to talk. It was amazing; we could hear her talking clear as ever. When she began walking towards us, her voice dropped back down to where we couldn’t really hear her.

After our tour with Chelsea was finished, we had the time to go sit in the gallery of the House of Representatives and listen to a man speak about human trafficking. There were only a total of about ten Representatives present. After listening in for five to ten minutes, they recessed for lunch. We too decided to go to lunch down in the Capitol’s Cafeteria. Following lunch, we made our way back to the American Red Cross Headquarters to work on our student projects that we will be presenting Friday morning.

Overall today was a fun filled day! With only one full day in Washington, D.C. remaining, we are all beginning to dread saying our goodbyes. Over the last eleven days we have become a close knit group. I can honestly say it feels like I have known them for a long time. Brian Hamil and our student mentors have also been fantastic. Like I stated earlier, I am very blessed to have been a part of this program. I have faith that this group of genuine young leaders will make a positive impact on our campuses.

Day 12 by Natassja Thomas

NAIA students outside restaurant

Hi all! I am Natassja Thomas and I go to Indiana Wesleyan University. I play volleyball there and I am a biology pre-med major. I am so honored to be involved with this program with the Red Cross and NAIA. I have learned so much about myself and about the nobility of the American Red Cross.

Today is the last day. That is the unbelievable thought flowing through everyone’s mind today. Two weeks ago when this trip first started, I did not know what to expect, but this trip far exceeded my expectations. We have learned more than I could have ever asked of from this program, and now this group is ready to dive head first into recruiting blood donors. It is so awesome to see how we have grown as people, as athletes and most importantly as leaders.

Today, we presented our strategic plans for how we are going to spread the word about blood drives at our schools, so needless to say, everyone was a nervous wreck last night. As they were being presented, I think people started to really realize that THIS IS IT! We have been through the program, they have given us all the tools, and now it is our time to make a difference and to inspire others to make a difference.

Another thing that was exciting about today was that I donated for the first time. This was a HUGE deal for me since I am terrified of needles, but I got through it and it was the most satisfying feeling to know that I potentially saved three lives today. What better way to cap off a wonderful trip than to save lives!

The best part about the donating experience was that my peers, that I just met two weeks ago mind you, were there to support me the whole entire way. We seriously are more like a family than just peers. We have a bond that surprisingly formed so fast; we even squabble like siblings! On one hand, I am sad that I met them because I know that I will not be able to see them everyday anymore and I have become so attached to them. On the other hand, these students have made a huge impact on my life and they will always have a place in my heart as the people with whom I shared this unforgettable experience.

As we are reminiscing about all the fun memories we have shared together, I can remember a few that will stick with every person here: speaking with Gail McGovern and Brian Boyle, touring DC, and bonding with every person here. Gail McGovern and Brian Boyle stood out to us because they are two inspirational and influential people that we never thought we would meet in our lives. Who would expect a CEO of a two billion dollar nonprofit organization to spend over an hour talking to a bunch of college kids? Touring Washington D.C. was awesome too because there were many people on the trip here that had never been to Washington D.C. before. I loved watching PJ tour D.C. He was like a kid in the candy store every time we saw a different monument or a new exhibit at a museum. He also bought souvenirs for every single person he knows in North Dakota! PJ also made a slide show of pictures of us today and sent it to all of us to show how much he appreciated meeting us, and it just solidified how close we really have become. It is amazing to think that you can become best friends with twelve people in fourteen days, but it happened and it has made this one of the best two weeks of my life.

In conclusion, as we all sit together and watch The Wedding Ringer on our last night together, it is the moments like these that I will remember the most: how PJ could not stop talking during the movie, how Alex, Sarah and Kylie all learned how to whip, how Che’ron and I would sporadically burst out in song, how Sidney and Jordan would refuse to sing along with us, how Kat would complain about how water bottles hurt the environment, how Randi got lost in D.C. by herself, how Eric spoke in movie lines all day, and most importantly how we all got to come to D.C. for two weeks and have the time of our lives.