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Lauren | Age: 18 | Manistique, MI

Lauren | Age: 18 | Manistique, MI

Leadership is... being comfortable with being uncomfortable and unafraid to be vulnerable. Leadership is smiling at someone you don’t know, having the courage to be totally yourself, taking what you’ve learned and passing it on, and inspiring others without even knowing you are.

Leadership in Life... I have been in charge of my elementary school’s Drama Program for three years, twice as assistant director and once as, this past year, director. It was not easy. Three times a week for seven weeks, I taught scenes, songs, dances, and fundamental theatre skills to 40 children. I’ll let you in on a secret: kids from kindergarten to fifth grade don’t really like being told what to do for an hour and a half after the school day is done. Many days I would come home, stressed and on the verge of tears, begging for the show about fairy tale characters to be over. But by the time the show came, I was wrong: I wasn’t ready to let go. During the last scene of the show, something happened. My Little Red Riding Hood forgot her lyrics and ran offstage in embarrassment. I hurried backstage to console her, and I remember her bravery as she went back out onstage to finish the scene. I thought that would be my proudest moment as an educator, but again, I was wrong. A few short weeks later, there was a talent show open to students of all ages. I saw my Little Red Riding Hood’s name last on the program, and I was so nervous for her. I really wanted her to succeed, to find love in performing again. When I heard Andra Day’s “Rise Up” begin to play while she was onstage, I held my breath and was blown away. She had the whole auditorium on their feet, because she wasn’t just 10-year-old good, she was good. I was in tears. I had encouraged this young performer throughout the years I had her as a student, and to watch her not only succeed, but to exceed everyone’s expectations . . . That was the moment I realized I wanted to teach. I don’t understand how teachers don’t burst into tears every time their students do amazing things. Since then, I’ve mentored with a Deaf student and his interpreter in a kindergarten classroom, and found a passion for Sign Language too. Watching the student work twice as hard as the other kids to learn what they learn, and witnessing his classmates’ compassion towards him give me hope, joy, and purpose. The kids I work with are my why.

Advice… Be confident in your abilities, and if you’re not, fake it until you make it. Have fun. Find your why.

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