This last week, a parent asked me during a tour of one of the Residence Halls on Central College’s campus, “What is your biggest regret since you’ve been at Central?”
As I go into my senior year, I have plenty of things that I should regret. I could have gone off about any number of things I did or didn’t do; but without hesitation, and with 5 days of experience as one of the 36 members of the Central SOS (Student Orientation Staff), answered that my biggest regret “was not writing a stupid freaking resume and cover letter earlier!”
With that, I will take you back to my own orientation day at Central College…
I remember sitting in Douwstra Auditorium with my mom, surrounded by about 50 or 60 other students and their families, COMPLETELY TERRIFIED. I had fought with my parents about where I would be going to college my entire senior year. I had bled Cardinal and Gold (Go Cyclones!) my entire life until that point, but I recall receiving my acceptance letter from Iowa State and at that moment, I knew I didn’t want to be in Story Country for the next four years. I was born and raised less than a half of an hour from Ames and the Iowa State Campus, and I simply knew it was time for me to find a place to call my own. Central College felt like it would be exactly that after just one visit. After all the financial troubles were handled (thanks a million to my parents for all the support they gave and continue to give), my mom and dad said it was my choice, and it felt almost too good to be true that I would be a member of the Dutch family. But as orientation began, everything I thought I knew was called into question. I had no idea what I had just done, and was convinced I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. I was silently drowning in regret and fear. Somehow I hid this from my mom until we were separated and I went to the group advising session and started putting my schedule together. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, but this delusional 19-year-old was convinced it was a charade; this must be the final act the college puts on before it has us all signed up for classes and it is too late. The doggy-pile of student loans will have already begun, and it was all my fault.
My plan was to go to lunch, then sign up for classes, and afterwards, I would tell my mom to call the school and withdraw. My survival until lunch was because I knew everything I was going to do and hear in the next couple of hours didn’t matter anymore. Iowa State was going to add one more student to their already record enrollment for the fall of 2013.
I was on my way to lunch but somehow got stuck talking to a sophomore member of the Student Orientation Staff. He was persistent with his questions, the first couple minutes was very forgettable small talk. But once we got past the basic who, where, how and why questions, a feeling a comfortability started to come over me. He was from a town nearly as small as mine (population of Zearing, IA – 538), he described himself as a very average athlete, but smart. He came to Central for many of the same reasons I did: to get away, to be a part of a school with lots of tradition, to develop close relationships with all of the students, staff, and faculty, he could participate in athletics. and because it felt like it was home. The door felt like it had reopened. Maybe I could do this.
My lollipop moment (click here to view the TedTalk explaining this):
I had ended the conversation with the SOS Leader and just finished lunch. There were a few minutes before I would be led back to the building where we would sign up for classes, and suddenly, a scrawny (sorry coach, first impressions are hard to forget!), clean-cut guy walked up to me and introduced himself as my future head track coach, Joe Dunham. We had spoken briefly via email prior to this meeting, but I did not intend to meet him during this time, nor did I tell him my orientation date. He must have sought out when I would be there.
I had always loved throwing the discus, and although I was by far the worst incoming thrower (my high school best of 135 feet was 20 feet shorter than any other incoming recruit), Coach Dunham spoke to me like I was a prized recruit. Hell, I felt like I was a prized recruit. He explained that we had not met during my spring visit and so he wanted to meet me before I arrived on campus for the fall. At that moment, I knew that I had made the right decision. I knew that this coach, and this school, would ensure I felt at home no matter who I had been or what I had done previously.
On paper, It was obvious that this freshman from little Colo-Nesco would not be helping this team accomplish any of their goals anytime soon…and yet, I was still treated as if I could be the missing piece to the puzzle that would get the Dutch Track & Field team to be better than ever. Maybe all these “actors” weren’t here to trick me into believing this was actually as great of a place as it appeared. Maybe they actually were just that excited to welcome all of the incoming students to the place that made them feel just as special as I felt when Coach Dunham went out of his way to meet me. ME, a completely unrecruited thrower who had failed to make it to the state meet all four years of high school, despite being in Class 1A, the smallest and easiest class to make it to state.
I know, I was thinking the exact same thing: Wow. This place must be pretty great.
After lunch, I continued to feel more and more confident in my decision. I signed up for classes, and the student assisting me urged me to join her in a class she would be peer instructing. There was one spot left in this class, and she seemed so excited that I would be the last one. This SOS Leader, and all of the rest of them, made me realize that this was a place that I would one day dread leaving. I knew that I would be forever Dutch.
Here I am, exactly 3 years and one week from the day that I knew Central College would be everything that I could ever ask for. I am also a few days removed from my first week as an SOS Orientation Leader, and I felt compelled to share my story. In our training, we talked about lollipop moments, and I thought back to the day when I had my own. To recall the moments that kept me at Central during my own training to become one of the very people who helped let me know that the City of Pella and Central College would forever be a home away from home was amazing. From that day, I knew I wanted to become an orientation leader. Unfortunately, it took me two whole years to write a resume and cover letter so that I could actually apply for the position.
The application date for a position as an SOS approached quickly every year, and so it was always easy to look at my work load and upcoming finals and prioritize that over a job that truthfully, seemed kind of scary to me. I wasn’t exactly confident that I could be one of those people who would be able to talk with incoming students so easily and with such enthusiasm. Making small talk that wasn’t awkward had never been one of my strong suits. My love for Central was huge, but my ability to share that with others was still unknown.
Two people deserve a huge amount of credit for pushing me to finally apply to become an SOS Orientation Leader: Keri Murphy and Abigail Warren. Both are future educators, and it is such a great feeling knowing that one day, my own children’s teachers could be someone like one of these two, who will push them to become something they’ve always wanted to do. I still have the postcard that was put in my mailbox from the Student Involvement Office saying both Keri and Abby had recommended that I apply for the position as an SOS Orientation Leader. That was truly the moment that gave me that little extra incentive I needed to apply. So a huge thanks and shoutout to two of my best friends at Central who very well could be teaching your kids or grandkids one day. They couldn’t be in much better hands.
Okay, and finally, back to the present. People say that you are the company you keep. My company over the last week has been nothing short of spectacular. I feel like each day I spent with my fellow orientation leaders and peer leaders, I became more and more like them, and learned more about myself at the same time. The person I started to see myself become was someone that I never knew I could become, and yet had always aspired to be. I bonded with some people I had never spoken to, and cemented some relationships that I have had since freshman year.
My biggest regret is all the time I lost not doing what I knew I could. I regret not being able to share my story and my love for Central with incoming students earlier. I feel so much more confidence in talking to others after less than a week of training and actually working, that I can’t imagine who I would be with that much more experience. I say that my only reason for not applying as an SOS was because I didn’t want to write a resume or cover letter. While there is certainly truth to that, I must acknowledge that I had plenty of opportunities to learn HOW to do so, but I simply didn’t want to…it was my only excuse that kept me safe from the possible failure. But the relationships I missed out on building during those first two summers haunts me. I had such a great time meeting all 35 other Central SOSs and incoming students, and I have grown so much from simply having them as company, I felt obligated to show them my gratitude. I truly can’t wait until the last two days of orientation roll around, and then Welcome Week, so that I can continue my growth as a student, person, citizen, athlete, son, friend, and eventual employee, husband and father.
The company I have kept this week, and will continue to keep over the next two semesters and hopefully beyond, has been essential to my development. Jim Rohn said that each person is the average of the 5 people they spend the most time with. This week saw me feed off the energy and excitement of my fellow orientation leaders, and I really liked the average I became of the 35 people I spent all of my time with. It was an honor to welcome so many people to such an outstanding and unique school with an even more outstanding and unique group of people.
Thank you so much to all of my fellow Summer Orientation Staff Leaders, my boss, Laura Bade, and all of the future faces of Central College. You all helped me do something I didn’t think I could do, and have become some of my best friends at Central. Round 2 in July and then Welcome Week can’t come soon enough!
As for all prospective and incoming Central students, I hope you one day feel the same thing I did, wherever and whenever that may be. But as a current member of the Dutch community, I can almost guarantee that you won’t be able to beat the company you will keep at Central College.