The Southwestern Advantage Sales & Leadership Program has given me the opportunity to discover areas of myself I have never known before. Sure, I was pushed throughout my high school and undergrad career through sports, various executive board positions, and balancing a hectic schedule. These different opportunities allowed me to explore my leadership potential and learn about my character. But as a Student Leader, during my second summer with Southwestern Advantage, I learned that character is not who you are when you speak in front of a class, or facilitate a group discussion. True character is formed in the way you treat people; impactful leadership is absolutely difficult and incredibly rewarding.
After returning from my first summer, I knew I was ‘Blessed to be a Bookgirl’ and I craved the chance to prove myself again. But the true thrill of my second summer came from the impact that rippled to my team, The Trailblazers. After the success, money, travel experience and personal growth of my first summer in Virginia, I knew Southwestern was too awesome of an experience for me to keep to myself.
So I talked about selling books to everyone — to my classmates, family, sorority sisters and neighbors. I was truly shocked when my friends weren’t jumping off their couch to pick up their own backpack and join me in my 80 hour per week, door to door, sales job in Houston. A little naïve yes, but returning for my second summer with my wonderful five team members was an enlightening and empowering experience.
As a Student Leader, I was able to pour into my peers and watch each of them grow in their personal lives and technical skills as we prepared to leave chilly Michigan for the (did I mention ridiculously hot?) Houston summer. I thought I knew what was in store for me, but God proved to have different plans.
Each team member, including myself, experienced amazing success and incredible difficulty – I personally had my character tested over and over as I worked hard to be a woman of my word. The training I provided to my team helped them to hit the bookfield running with ambition and high hopes, but the emotional roller coaster challenged each of us in our own way.
The best preparation I gave my team was to always maintain an open and honest relationship. The open relationships between teammates allowed me to coach each person the way they needed. I learned about each of their strengths and weaknesses, and together we crafted a game plan designed specifically for their success. I am incredibly grateful for each of the connections that turned into awesome friendships and allowed each of us to have a summer we will never forget.
I watched my friends and teammates push themselves and gleam with pride as the job started to make sense. We developed friendships based on challenge, personal growth, and believing in ourselves. As the weeks of the summer passed, the struggles and triumphs created a bond between us that allowed us to grow together. Together we aided over 500 families in need of educational resources. I can’t take credit for the amazing personal growth I witnessed in each of them – but damn, I am a proud Student Leader.
As we transitioned out of our book clothes, and assumed the roles of “normal” college students again, each of the Trailblazers now carries confidence and self-assurance that has been amplified thanks to Southwestern Advantage. Of course, I learned a ton and made many mistakes as a Student Leader. However, I am so thankful to the team that supported me, believed in me, and followed me through the challenges and victories. This experience has shown me, I am capable of bigger things than I had ever believed. I came back from my second summer a stronger leader and much better version of myself. The summer revealed that I have been endowed with seeds of greatness and showed me how much stronger I can be when I am surrounded by people striving for that same greatness.
Connect with Sara’s Facebook business page: FB.com/SaraTheBookGirl
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