Posted August 15, 2013 by Daniel Gray 

Thank You

I had a great time at I-LEAD® like I do every year, but my expectations and the way that I felt going into it this year were completely different. This is my third year of being a part of the I-LEAD® family, but the first year where going in, I wasn’t as excited as a little kid before they tear into all of their birthday presents. As someone who has constantly looked forward to my time away from campus working with amazing student leaders, this year my level of excitement just never seemed to grow to the level that I expected.

Initially, my thought was that as the co-program team lead, my increased responsibility was keeping me from experiencing the kind of happiness that I normally associate with attending I-LEAD®. This story made complete sense to me (even though I typically gain energy from increased responsibilities), so I decided that was where my excited feeling had gone. Increased responsibility was leading to decreased excitement. Yes, that has to be it.

When I first arrived for training and began working with the incredible group of facilitators that had been brought from campuses all around the United States, those feelings started to change. My excitement seemed to grow with every conversation, joke, and hug that I experienced. Seeing old friends and new friends helped me more than I could ever imagine and brought me excitement that I didn’t think was possible considering how I was feeling just days earlier. Although training was tiring and sometimes tedious, I still went to bed with a growing sense of energy that I didn’t feel prior to arriving at the beautiful University of La Verne campus.

Watching each of the individual facilitator groups grow and learn and connect with each other became a sense of pride for me. Sitting there, watching them prepare for their students arrival, I realized how much each of these individuals cared about these students that they hadn’t even met yet. Once training was completed, I figured that I was at my peak excitement level and that from that point on it was just coasting through the end of the institute.

I was wrong.

The first day the students began arriving to the institute, I became so overwhelmed with the energy that they brought that I could no longer help but smile and fully embrace the experience. Over the next six days and five nights, watching student leaders challenge themselves with a group of caring and thoughtful facilitators reminded me of the exact reason why I left the private sector. Working in a field where it is our job to create genuine interactions with those around us and to create a culture of care is completely unrivaled by almost any profession. With a level of care that was absolutely astounding to me, I couldn’t help but appreciate the talent, drive, and care that each of the individual facilitators used in every interaction with their students and other facilitators. Their talent and energy challenged me to increase my energy because of just how passionate they were.

It wasn’t until after the institute, sitting in my backyard, where I started to reflect on my experiences and really tried to understand what my feelings before the institute were. As much as I’d love to give you an easy and direct answer as to what that feeling was, I’m still not sure. The one thing I am sure of though is that spending time with dedicated and focused professionals and students pushed that feeling aside faster than I ever could have imagined.

So this post is my thank you to all of the facilitators, students, and staff at the University of La Verne who were part of I-LEAD® this past year. Your energy, joy, passion, and excitement truly reminded me of the pure joy that working in our field gives me, and I thank each and every one of you for allowing me to be part of that. Although I’m not really an emotional person, you truly have given me a level of happiness and a permanent smile on my face that I hope will never go away.

Thank you.



Daniel Gray

Daniel Gray is the Networks and Constituents Program Director at University of Houston.

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