How Leadershape helped me learn to lead

Leaders give us opportunities to collectively attain our goals. They facilitate the good while obviating the bad; in short, we absolutely need them. Over spring break, I received an opportunity to engage with a program called Leadershape, and while everyone else traveled somewhere warm (as per all their damn snapchats) I joined twenty other students in a program that profoundly underscored the value of leadership and community.

My first step was to board the  bus provided by Campus Life. I was a few minutes late, so I hauled ass to make sure I wasn’t left behind. I quickly spotted only a few faces I recognized, and fewer that I actually knew. The ride to Point Lookout in Camden was quaint but bumpy, so I chilled out and kept to myself. I heard what seemed to be overzealous, obnoxious laughter toward the back of the bus, so I initially assumed that some of my peers were immature and might taint the experience. Boy, was I wrong.

The six-day leadership program that is Leadershape brought me in contact with many peers and administrators I’d never known at Colby. I became friends with everyone there, forming very tight bonds with many people I’d never even talked to before. The level of community we built in such a short time was profoundly awesome; the humility and vulnerability we displayed with each other is a testament to the variety of smart, engaged and kind people involved. What’s more, Leadershape brought out qualities in all of us that the larger campus setting tends to dampen, unfortunately.

For me, being at Leadershape was compelling because it spurred uncomfortable dialogue with peers to whom I’d grown extremely close. At times, our discussions were tense, contentious and emotional; other times, we danced, held hands, goofed off and played games. I mean, I’m not saying things weren’t awkward sometimes or that we sat around singing “kumbaya” all the time. But the extent to which we all grew so close in so little time is remarkable. It goes to show that we can all form tight bonds with people at Colby who seem radically different from you.

That’s probably the most important part of the experience for me and why I would do it again (though, we all technically graduated from Leadershape so returning might be redundant). Nevertheless, the experience and friendships I now have compel me to try to get as many students as possible to go in the future. Like me, students will return to campus with a renewed sense of community. Or they could return with a new level of determination to bring about changes in the Colby community that would be surprisingly beneficial. This was of the most crucial aims of the program, that students realize their potential for Leadership in many capacities and in different ways.

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