Welcome to the Family: #LAS2015

On March 3, 2015 we went to St. Charles High School to surprise one of 40 incoming freshmen accepted into CMU’s Leader Advancement Scholarship program. Kyle Helfrich was shocked when Superintendent Michael Decker led him into the room where CMU Leadership Institute Director Dan Gaken, his parents and others waited to congratulate him.

On March 3, 2015 we went to St. Charles High School to surprise one of 40 incoming freshmen accepted into CMU’s Leader Advancement Scholarship program. Kyle Helfrich was shocked when Superintendent Michael Decker led him into the room where CMU Leadership Institute Director Dan Gaken, his parents and others waited to congratulate him.

The Leader Advancement Scholarship is unique, no other college or university has a program as comprehensive as the Leadership Institute’s elite scholarship cohort. This program combines an academic Protocol with four years of sequenced co-curricular activities, a living learning community, and provides students with a scholarship for completing the program. In the 17 years the program has been in existence its impact on the Central Michigan University campus is unmatched. Leadership scholars have dramatically changed the campus climate and created an engaged campus that provides countless leadership opportunities. Student success is also evident, leadership students have a graduation rate above 90%, and are actively sough by employers.

However, when the program was created in 1998, no one could have predicted that the most valuable component of the program would be the cohort itself. We find the nation’s top high school leaders, students who make the world better for those around them, and put them together. That’s when the magic happens. Being in a supportive environment, where they are asked what they will do to change the world, rather than being told they can’t, ignites a fire in these students. Then they help each other do it.

During the annual scholarship competition that is on full display. We showcase the best element of our program: the students themselves. The students show our guests that leadership matters, and that at CMU, leaders are valued. For many, the opportunity to experience the LAS competition is the deciding factor in enrolling at Central Michigan University.

Competitors leave wanting nothing more than to be one of the students the just met.

Although the students themselves pick the next cohort of students, I have the extreme privilege of making the award announcements. Every year this is a special moment, these phone calls have the power to forever change the lives of the students that have earned these awards. For the, it is validation of the work they’ve done for the past four years, but it is also admission into one of the best leadership programs in the nation. And, whether they know it yet or not, it’s a new family that will support them as they strive for greatness.

So, for all of our new Leader Advancement Scholars, welcome to the family.

About

Dan Gaken is a student affairs administrator, author, and leadership trainer with 10 years of professional experience, primarily in the field of student leadership development. Dan builds environments where others are able to create something that excites them.

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