I learned that I live too much in my comfort zone while living in Ellensburg because my life consisted of school, gym, soccer and video games. And while doing any of those things I stayed in my comfort zone because I found it to be less stressful. I got to the point where I would avoid talking to people because I felt uncomfortable, but this whole week I did things that pushed me out of my comfort zone and I realized it’s something I should consistently keep doing while back home. We were asked to greet people and as easy as that sounds, I found it pretty difficult, but I managed to do it, sometimes. For example, when I was on the elevator I wanted to say hello to the other person using the elevator and there were times when I just couldn’t say hello or how are you doing. Or, when at meetings, when asked “What are we here for” I couldn’t get myself to speak up and answer the question. If I truly want to be the best person I can be, I need to keep doing things that get me out of my comfort zone. I feel like I could be a leader if I were to get rid of my anxiety because everyone we talked to showed leadership by confidence and how they spoke. I plan on working on it by trying to make conversation with my fellow classmates and just participating more around central events that expose me to meeting new people. I learned something that I wouldn’t have learned about myself in Ellensburg.
Overall this trip was very beneficial. The amount of history, culture and leadership characteristics taken away from this trip in New Orleans is not something that I could have understood from hearsay. I think all of us as a group feel the same way. Although we were the tourists in town, we were given great opportunities to see what normal tourists don’t. The university meetings and tours shed light on the leadership taken place during Katrina while Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO) let us get our hands dirty on a house that was damaged from the aftermath. Within this week there were multiple events that took place that stood out to me. But what stood out to me the most wasn’t one particular event, but what I saw throughout the trip. I noticed a great deal of disrespect towards Law Enforcement Officers. This could be because of my personal pursuant of career that I noticed this, but we all heard from different people we met with about how people show themselves towards officers. I have seen many instances where people were disrespectful or completely didn’t care about the law, right in front of an officer. Many stories were shared from speakers that many of the cops have a terrible image since Katrina; that they are lazy and many corrupt. But each speaker did back them up by stating that this is not true for all cops, but they have seen each of these characteristics first hand. When Katrina hit, it seems that the worst of people came out, even from officers and their Governor. What I learned from this trip is how important a source of leadership was during and after Katrina. All communities need leaders to be able to guide them through difficult situations, but even those who seem or should be able to keep their position of a leader are lost in tragedies. That is what I observed from our trip to New Orleans. I am not saying that their officers are bad, there were many that helped and still are helping rebuild, but what I took away was you only need a few that are leaders by nature to guide your community or family in the right way.
It is very hard to narrow down one specific event that stood out more because I had many throughout the trip. However, one comment made by Martha I feel sum up a lot of the feelings I had on the trip. She said that everything in Louisiana is based off relationships and building relationships is the only way to get anything accomplished. When I reflect on the multiple people we talked to about their experiences that was one thing they had in common. Every person had strong relationships that dictated their decision to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. All the leaders we met put relationships before their own needs. For example, Mr. Reed at Loyola housed his students and kept them safe post Katrina, Martha assisted in rebuilding her neighborhood, Shannon from SUNO stayed late the Friday before Hurricane Katrina hit to call student employees to get their paychecks, and the staff at Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO) uses their love and passion for the city to keep working to improve it. These four examples exhibit successful leadership, teaching me that relationships are key to being a leader. When a personal connection is created, it becomes much easier to want to lead and do the best you can because you are personally invested in the cause. At home, I will be open and think on a more communal level. It can become very easy to be self-centered and only see relationships as benefiting yourself. I want to strive towards making relationships where I genuinely care about the people or places I am working with and for and consciously consider how to better both.
This past week has been a great experience for me because I had the opportunity to learn about a new culture that is very different than mine. People would think that Louisiana is not much different than Washington because it is still part of the United States but it really is different. This week that I had the opportunity to stay in New Orleans, I got to see how different the cultures between Louisiana and Washington are. For example, here in Washington it seems like we don’t like to make friends and it seems like we are always in a rush. If you observe people walking in Seattle you would notice that they are always speed walking and don’t seem to notice the people around them. On the other hand, in New Orleans people tend to walk slow and take their time. The people in New Orleans are also more welcoming and friendly. At the hotel where we stayed, the staff were very friendly. They never said no to us when we needed something and were always willing to help us out. There was a time when we stayed up late working on our Journals at the cafeteria where we had breakfast and the lights had been turned off. The security offered to turn them on and he also offered us some hot water for coffee. I didn’t just experience this at our hotel, in most of the places we had lunch or dinner the people there made us feel welcome. In several occasions, I was called babe, honey and baby, which I was not very used to. When we visited the Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO) the students, as well as the staff, made us feel welcome. As we walked through the hallways the students would greet us a good morning making me feel like I belonged there. The staff at SUNO were also very nice people who were
willing to share their stories with us about their experience during the 2005 hurricane Katrina. One of the SUNO staff even offered us a ride to our hotel without us asking her for one. Another thing I noticed was that the staff and students seem to be close. I feel like here in CWU we don’t have as good a connection with our professors and with the rest of the students. In addition to SUNO, we visited Loyola University New Orleans who I thought were also very welcoming, especially Mr. Reed. Overall I think this was a great opportunity to learn about the culture of New Orleans and learn how they were affected by Hurricane Katrina. I also learned how the New Orleans community worked and continues working together to overcome this tragedy. During this trip I also learned that it is sometimes necessary to take leadership to get things done. And throughout this trip I was able to learn what it takes to be a leader. Out of all the things we did this trip, the one event that stands out the most to me is the talk we had with Mr. Reed. It stands out the most to me because I was able to get a good insight of what happed during hurricane Katrina and how the community was affected. Mr. Reed helped to evacuate students from New Orleans and helped other people from his community. Mr. Reed is so humble he told us that he hadn’t done anything and that he was only doing his job. But I think he did a lot for Loyola and his community and for that reason I consider him a leader. During tragedies, only a real leader puts the lives of others before their own.
What I learned from this event that I will apply to my everyday life when I return home is that in our daily life’s we will face challenges that will affect us and that we just need to overcome them and move on. I also learned that to be a leader you don’t necessarily need to be a super hero you just have to be yourself and do the right things. In addition, I learned that in order to change something, I have to take the initiative.
As the end of this experience approaches, I have been reflecting in all the speakers we had, places we visited and the exposure we had to the daily lives of many members in the community. The event that stands out the most for me in this experience is the visit to Loyola University. In this visit we had the opportunity to meet some of the staff that was in charge when hurricane Katrina created chaos in the city. From Mr. Reed, I learned the importance of leadership. His leadership role was reflected when he made the decision of putting all the students safety first, he helped them safely leave the city and return to their homes. Also, his leadership was reflected in the way he managed a group of staff and faculty members from all different departments to work together in the process of evacuating the campus.
This is an ability that I want to develop further, being able to stand out and take responsibilities as well as to be able to work with different ideas and personalities; and combine them into one to create a way to successfully accomplish our goal. In this experience I was able to experience working together and develop all our ideas into one big thought and meet our goal of understanding the differences in culture and leadership. I am going to reflect this learning back into my community by leading my peers and others around me to work together and accomplish our goals.
Staring with my job, I want to work with others to accomplish the group goal, share our cultural value and identities into the students’ community at CWU.
Throughout my time in New Orleans the event that stood out the most to me was our visit to the Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) and getting the opportunity to speak with the faculty there. The aftermath of hurricane Katrina affected major schools in the surrounding area but none of them were hit as hard as SUNO. Linda Hill, who was responsible for overseeing the schools collection of ancient African artifacts, was devastated on that August 28th when waters rushed through the school clearing out it’s most valuable asset.
When Ms. Hill suggested methods of retrieval of the artifacts to the U.S government, their only response was an “out with the old and in with the new” approach. They maintained the same outlook on the future of SUNO. Although Ms. Hill lacked support from the people she needed most, she did her research and gathered sources building connections with people who could help her get the job done. A few months later Linda Hill had gathered each and every unique and irreplaceable artifact of her African collection. They remain on display for anyone to enjoy on the second floor of the school’s library.
Student Support Services advisor, Shannon Jones, also faced obstacles in rebuilding the school, providing adequate housing for students and staff and more importantly, getting student enrollment rates back on the rise. After multiple attempts by government officials to do away with the school or a suggested fusion with University of New Orleans, a neighboring university, Jones and the students of the Southern University at New Orleans worked diligently on keeping SUNO alive and a university of its own. Fusing the two schools they believed would end in the University of New Orleans overtaking SUNO. This is something that neither students nor faculty wanted. By collaborating with one another, students and staff were able to keep the school running. Although it would take some 9 years after the hurricane’s damage for major changes to be seen, progress had been made despite the circumstances given.
By exposing myself to the perspectives of the individuals who have dealt first hand with the effects of hurricane Katrina, I was able to not only gain a better understanding of the New Orleans community but to witness the leadership abilities of the students whom Ms. Jones claimed to be the driving force behind the school’s success. The staff at SUNO provided me with a story of perseverance that will be applicable in my everyday life. Because of SUNO’s story I will be able to overcome obstacles within my own personal and academic career. I will be able to take initiative, keep an open mind, and collaborate with others to reach any goal I have set for myself. The Southern University at+ New Orleans will continue to be an inspiration.
This last week, doing our spring immersion experience for the Cross Cultural Leadership Program was a great experience for me, and eye opening seeing the difference between New Orleans and Ellensburg. There were many events we did to see how the culture, community, and environment varies from this state as compared to Louisiana.
One event that impacted me and that I will take with me from New Orleans was the meeting we had with Mr. Reed from Loyola University. On Friday, the cohort went to Loyola University to talk with Mr. Robert Reed, who was the Director of Residential Life when Hurricane Katrina came in 2005. Mr. Reed had a huge impact on the students that resided at Loyola University. He didn’t want the credit, and actually didn’t even consider himself doing a good deed as he is naturally a Good Samaritan and didn’t do anything out of the ordinary in his eyes.
As we continued to talk with Mr. Reed after the meeting with the cohort, I asked him some questions about the leadership in general for the city and he wasn’t pleased at all. There was a lack of leadership from the people who are depended on the most, and when talking about the levies, he is still nervous that they won’t hold the waters, “The levies failed once, it could happen again”.
Mr. Reed thinks of his students as his second family. He would never consider himself a leader by helping save his family, and in his eyes, that is what he did. When he was talking about the day of the event and how he handled the situation, he was almost unbelievable. He made sure the students were out of their dorm rooms and told everyone to start heading to specific locations of higher grounds, as he knew certain areas of higher grounds would be overcrowded due to the lack of time before the flooding would have reached Loyola and the students would be moving from one dangerous location to another.
Talking to Mr. Reed and seeing his style of leadership lets me see a whole other type of servant leadership. People know what he did, and he just wants to be treated like everyone else with no credit for his actions during Hurricane Katrina. By the time Mr. Reed started the evacuation, the water levels were getting higher reaching further, however, he didn’t get flustered or scared. Mr. Reed was a leader that collected the information, thought out some options for everyone, and made the executive decision that had everyone safe and sound. Because of his actions, many students stayed in New Orleans and finished their degree at Loyola; students know that Mr. Reed looks out for them and will help them anyway possible, even during a natural disaster.