I’m writing this on the last night of the Northeast Leaders School (NELS) at 1 AM – why is this important to note? Because I’ve been up since 5 AM and I am exhausted. But I wanted to surprise all the new friends I’ve made with something a little special, so here’s a video.
I never expected to stumble upon this program, it’s a thing of beauty. Weekend long rallies in the middle of nowhere each season, then a week-long stay for NELS are just the perfect amount of get-togethers that are perfectly scattered throughout the year that are just so perfect.
The first time I walked into “leaders club” was stepping on a bus on my way to Winter Rally 2016. Cold and kind of confused, I was ready to jump right in. I learned about games like Orange Mocha Frappuccino/Zoolander, chants for the a-word, but most importantly, I learned the Y-core values. I learned the meanings of respect, responsibility, honesty, and caring. I learned that friendships forged from awkward smiles can be built to withstand distance and time. I learned that a small comment can leave a lasting impression even after you’re gone. I learned that nobody really wants to group hug, but a cinnamon roll is just as nice.
I got sidetracked. Anyways, in my living group (A/N: for all my non-NELS readers, kids are divided into groups that they spend about 95% of their time with) on the first night, we went around sharing how long we’ve been a leader. Silly ol’me had no clue that the rallies are apart of “leaders club” so I said my age?? Born to be a leader?? I don’t know????
I didn’t go to spring rally unfortunately, but here I am at NELS. Somehow going through a pinning ceremony for graduating leaders but also participating in the induction ceremony right after. It’s like I have one foot in and one foot out of the school. I wish I could keep both feet in the school forever.
Here we are, on the bus, on our way home. Some of us are returning next year or maybe in a few years as advisors, but for a good handful of us, this was our last chance to attend NELS. My roommate Faith, also a 1st year, said that she kind of wishes that she joined leaders earlier, but on the same hand, that she wouldn’t be as close with everyone she is if that were the case. I’m trying to take that perspective too. If I had joined earlier, and I wouldn’t be a first year – and I loooove my living group.
This living group had 2 girls, Monty and Nicole, that I already knew because we were together for Winter Rally. But along came some new faces that forever will be engrained in my mind with memories of sarcastic jabs, hearty laughs, and awful puns. The beginning of our week was a little rough. We all have strong personalities and needed to work on communication. But being called last for lunch and realizing that we needed to act more like a family and less like an irritated gang led to the creation of our Pokemon Go lunch song. In the living group were also 7 boys: Evan, Tucker, Jake, Chabot, Clancy, Adam, and Pat. Now, to be completely honest since I have no shame and don’t care enough to be embarassed, I have never seen such a hot group walking down the quad. Because let’s face it, we’re pretty attractive. Caaayuuuuuttties.
Besides that though we all have some really cool skills so I just wanted to combine this post with my Sunday Appreciation Post and call out some really great people I met this week. Feel free to skip past this if you don’t see your name (sorry there are only so many words to write when everyone is as amazing as NELS leaders):
- Evan is a Canadian living in America, but holds all of his stereotypical qualities still (weird pronunciation, super nice, looks like Kenny G). Everyday at values, free time, or meals, Evan always had fun little tidbits. If you ever chance upon meeting him, don’t you dare mention Jupiter’s orbit, robots/coding, or anything nerdy. I have to admit Evan is so strange but it’s those random rambles and facts that makes him so damn precious. I love when Evan smiles and his eyes have a glimmer in them. I think I could solve world peace with a smile like that.
- Nicole is my homedog slice biscuit whatever the phrase is. One of the first people that I met at Leaders, she’s been my “day 1”. She works at a Y camp and you know instantly when you see her because she’s so caring and kind. I’d say Nicole is our mom of the group but we’re all pretty childish. Especially when you mention eggs. For the past few days at lunch, Nicole has been telling us that person A has 5 eggs and person B has 2 eggs but there are only like 3 eggs or something crazy. It’s been driving our advisor Ally a little crazy but Nicole is just really witty like that. I can’t wait to see what she does in college, I really think Nicole could redefine a child care program or invent some new method for pediatrics or something like that.
- Rosie was my roommate at Winter Rally and often frequents my room during NELS. When we talked about college back in February, she told me she wanted to go to Springfield College (first Y college). Now I’m not saying anything bad about Springfield, but I was shocked because I thought this school was mainly athletics (NCAA DII). Little did I know that Rosie wanted to essentially run the Y teen programs or be an advisor and I think that may be one of the most admirable jobs of all (shout out to all the advisors here at NELS). Because not only does she get the personal gain of coming back to rallies/NELS year after year, but she gets to impact and mold the future Leaders. Rosie is going to kill it, I swear. I’d totes send my kid to her Y.
- Jake is in my living group and we’ve only met at NELS, but I think I found one of the coolest leaders out there! At first, I was like oh he’s cool I guess whatever but now I’m like oh my god I love Jake he’s the best. I don’t think I could have survived “Sweat it Out” (an intense PE 45 min cardio work out) without him. In our living group, I think Jake is a really great servant leader. He steps up a lot but I’ve noticed a lot of moments he sits back. But when it comes to the a-chant, “popsicle”, or any Leaders tradition, this boy is on it. He gets so excited when we chant. Like how Evan has a glimmer in his eyes, I think Jake might have one of the best smiles. Not like a “smile for the camera” smile but a genuine, in the moment, smile. That’s my favorite quality, yes.
- Mira, girl, let’s just take a moment and sit down. Let’s just, gosh. Everyone should know who Mira is. She’s the cutest button and loves field hockey and is a kiiiiiillller on the dance floor. I love how Mira has this spirit in her step and is always grinning from ear-to-ear. Some people have a heart of happiness and I think Mira might very well have that. Her smile literally commands you to listen. She’s a great leader and person and just oh Mira, I love you.
I was going to continue this further but I’m so sleepy now that we’re just going to have to wait. Keep an eye out because for the next few weeks, I’ll release a “Sunday Appreciation Post” once or twice a week.
So I just want to say thank-you. Thank-you DaLonn, Maggie, Bobby, and Bobbi for working so hard to send me to NELS. Thank-you Dave, James, Jay, Joe, Allie, Mike, Brittney, Kaelei, Lesly, Sean, and literally all of the staff. NELS was so much better because of you guys. Thank-you to my living group for being the best, for tolerating my puns and group hugs. Thank-you to all the fellow leaders I met for being the sweetest, most caring, respecting, honest, and responsible friends I couldn’t ever dream of meeting.
I have this theory that every person you meet soul-swaps a piece of their mosaic with you. When you meet someone, whether it be spending a week with them or just a simple smile passing by, I think you share a piece of you with them and vice versa. It makes a mosaic of your soul and I feel so much more enriched, re-energized, loved, and colorful after this week. I feel so wonderfully recharged with all of the positivity here.
So I just want to say that I will be walking away with a smile on my face and tears on my cheek because I know that I will hold onto all of our moments with clenched fists and a swelling heart. It’s so rare to find a large group of mature young adults with the adaptability, love, and vulnerability of children. It’s so rare to find so many teens our age wanting to become better leaders and actively doing something to improve themselves. This cult-uh, I mean group we have is something so special and valuable. I can’t imagine going through my life without an experience like this. Every moment, every turn, every day was a new memory that I wanted to last forever.
So hey NELS 2016, thanks. I really needed this. I can’t wait to go off to college with fresh memories. Even though you’ve ruined some of my favorite songs (Count on Me) and I’ll never be able to hear music before a meal again, or even that I just ordered a “magic dragon” to be named Puff, you know, I still love you guys so very much.
Here is a link to all of the photos/media that Isabel and I have taken during this trip, they’re all raw and unedited (lol sorry I didn’t have time to do that for 600+ photos) but hey, if you want a certain candid edited, let me know. I’d be more than happy to do it.
But before you guys click out, here’s the best Destination video that I’ve edited yet. It’s more pictures than music because I tried to stay in the moment and I tried to keep it short and vague, because you should experience NELS through being in the present and I didn’t want to spoil some of the secrets (MXC??) to potential future leaders.