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Leadership Safari program guided by 271 student volunteers

Program provides 2,002 new students opportunities and lifelong connections


​More than 2,000 new students will experience Leadership Safari this week, an experience integral to ensuring the success of students at Central Michigan University.

"Leadership Safari is a great opportunity for incoming students freshmen or transfers to come in, get acclimated to campus, meet new people and potentially make lifelong connections," Gerry McMaster, a CMU senior from Island Lake, Illinois, said.

Leadership Safari was created by residence hall students in 1996 to help one another learn more about leadership skills and leadership opportunities at CMU. It has grown in popularity and demand from 65 participants in its first year to 2,002 in 2015.

"I remember how excited and nervous and anxious I was as a freshman," Kara Weightman, a senior from Clarkston, said. "This is a new phase and step in their lives. It's really exciting for them that they're just starting this journey."

Weightman and McMaster both volunteer as guides for Leadership Safari.

There are 271 student volunteers, as well as a graduate assistant, three staff assistants, a program coordinator and a director, who have made the program happen this year.

 Meet a few volunteers who are helping make this year's Leadership Safari a success and get a glimpse of what it's like to be a part of this iconic program at CMU. 

His role this year as a Leadership Safari volunteer:

“I have two main objectives – to help my core guide and to help out the other guides in my group. I’m a role model and help answer questions for other guides.”

Why he volunteers:

“I chose to come back three years in a row now because I love knowing that I’m making an impact on other people’s lives. It’s really cool.”

What he loved about the experience as a freshman:

“Coming from out of state, I didn’t know anybody. I was really nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. Coming to Safari, you meet a ton of new people and you see them in class the next week. I made my two best friends here at Central during Safari. It’s really about those lifelong connections.”

A tip for new students:

“Step outside your box. Try something you’ve never done before. If you were an athlete in high school, try volunteering. Get involved in something new and different. You might love it.”

What she loved about the experience as a freshman:

“I was on Team Aardvark. We did this thing where we put our names on a piece of paper, passed it around in a circle and wrote notes on everyone’s paper. I remember sitting in my room that night and reading what everybody had said about me. I was a new person. What these people said wasn’t who I was in high school. It was life-changing. It was like a new beginning.”

What to expect in Leadership Safari:

“There’s no way I can tell you what you’re going to learn here or what you’re going to experience because everyone experiences something different. What you put in is what you get out.”

A tip for new students:

“Be yourself. You have to figure out what you want to do and just do it. That’s the only way you’ll be successful and happy.”

What he loved about the experience as a freshman:

“It was helpful for me to bond with people and make new friends. I was very introverted when I came to CMU. Being in Leadership Safari gave me connections to people and helped me learn about campus so I could make the best out of my experience.”

His role this year as a Leadership Safari volunteer:

“Team runner makes sure the logistics of Leadership Safari work properly. We build the set in the Student Activity Center, we set up the challenge course, and we make sure everything is ready for when the Safari guides and their students come.”

Why he volunteers:

“I do Safari because it’s really fun. I like being able to be a part of something that affects more than 2,000 people every year. You learn skills that you’ll be able to use for the rest of your life. Especially for team runner, you learn teamwork and time management skills.”

A tip for new students:

“First, for Safari, go into it with an open mind. Be yourself, make new friends and don’t let any opportunity escape you. Second, outside of Safari, go Greek. You meet all these new people and you have a huge community of people you can talk to.”

His role this year as a Leadership Safari volunteer:

“My key job during Leadership Safari is facilitation, so making sure the groups are getting along and throwing in activities for them to bond more.”

Why he volunteers to help Leadership Safari become a success:

“I want to be a leader. As a freshman, I was really nervous coming to a big school, and I didn’t know many people. Leadership Safari helped me meet a lot of people. As a leader, I wanted to do the same.”

The importance of Leadership Safari:

“Leadership Safari is important for freshman because it makes them aware of all the opportunities at Central Michigan University, like the clubs and ways they can get tutoring.”

A tip for new students:

“Get involved because it makes you meet new people and succeed.”

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