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Mario | Age: 19 | Ann Arbor, MI

Mario | Age: 19 | Ann Arbor, MI

Leadership is... creating an environment where others are motivated to reach their full potential and become the best versions of themselves.

Leadership in Life... For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an unapologetically overzealous ball of energy who didn’t understand the concept of an indoor voice. I loved meeting new people, faced every situation with a sense of humor, and (literally) couldn’t ever keep my mouth shut. I loved almost everything: my friends, my family, school, dogs, cats, even yellow Laffy Taffy! I only ever really disliked one thing and that was talking about my feelings. I let myself be that person who always had a smile on his face and a joke for anyone who was feeling down. I never took the time to reflect on my own feelings and definitely didn’t feel comfortable sharing them with others. As time continued, I began to feel like my image as a lovable goofball consumed me and that I was hiding behind this mask I had made for myself. I slowly became my own enemy, afraid that people would think of me differently if I let my walls down. As this continued, I became more frustrated with myself and felt like my relationships were artificial and not as strong as the ones I had seen. That all changed one beautiful weekend in 2015 when a sense of peace and confidence over came me. I remember sitting on the ground surrounded by my closest friends when the voice inside my head decided that it was time to be vulnerable, it was time to be me, it was time to be human. I had feared that everything would change once I opened up and I was correct. After that conversation, my relationships became stronger and people actually admired me more for opening up. All those years I was afraid of something that was never an issue. You need to be the change you want to see in your life, no matter how scary it may be. You don’t need to live in fear, you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be you.

Advice… Be your 100% authentic self. Whatever you may see as a flaw, others see as a gift. Although it took me years to fully grasp this, I couldn’t be more thankful for finally understanding how important it is to know. Also, try to find a balance in your life. Like I said, I love to be the one talking and initiating conversations, but some of my greatest learning moments came from listening.

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