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This post was written by Zarina Kopb, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

“Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.”—Orrin Woodward

In the modern world, the ability to take charge is a highly desirable quality and skill. Leadership skills are necessary in various fields. We often wonder whether leadership is an innate or an acquired quality. Can a person who lacks passion and charisma but possesses an appropriate education and training be a great leader? Is honest, personable, brave, passionate, and hard working individual qualified to lead a team and expect success without possessing certain leadership skills?

I think that leadership qualities exist in every individual to a certain degree and we all can lead others in some parts of our lives. In my opinion, leadership skills start forming while following someone’s lead. We learn from other people and then we model our learned behaviors allowing others to learn from us. Following and learning from the right people can be a crucial factor in one’s career path. Open-mindedness and the ability to hear others are some qualities of a future-leader. To advance and perfect such qualities means to make a habit of using them.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a mutually beneficial way to perfect and acquire certain skills. By becoming a mentee initially, one can identify own goals, strengths and weaknesses, and ways for improvement as well as exercise taking charge safely. There are many benefits of having a mentor, which includes one-on-one interaction and support from an experienced individual who has dealt with the current issues of the mentee, which allows for trust, connection, and bond. Wisdom can be shared and certain mistakes can be avoided through such interaction. A mentor can lessen anxiety and empower his or her mentee by modeling desired professional, personal, and communication skills; offering real life advice and resources to the mentee.

I find that benefits of being a mentor are as invaluable as having a mentor. Mentors benefit from the relationship with a mentee through learning new things, widening resources, and sharpening our own coaching methods. Being able to help the person who is willing to learn and potentially benefit the career of the mentor and the field itself is truly empowering and rewarding. Relationships and friendship can be built through this interaction. I think that if person has a mentor he or she is more likely to mentor someone else in the future and that is a main goal of such relationship.

Zarina Kopb is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Nursing program at the end of this semester.

My name is Yolanda Ransom, and for the past two semesters I have had the pleasure and opportunity of being in the Ernesto Malave Leadership Academy CUNY Corps group. During our group retreat last December, we brainstormed to come up with our idea of how to honor and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day. We decided to create an event that we called “A Piece of Peace.” Since a huge part of Dr. King’s goal was to bring about peace among people, rather than racial and ethnic division, our aim was to bring a ‘piece’ of Dr. King’s message of peace to a group of young students.

Some of our members are current students at City College or former students of the A. Philip Randolph High School. So we decided to launch our 1st annual “Piece of Peace” event there. We focused on selecting students that had shown leadership skills and worked with their administrators to invite these specific students. Although we originally planned to do the event in January when Dr. King’s birthday is legally celebrated, that was not possible due to scheduling issues. So when we were offered the opportunity to hold it in March instead, we jumped at the chance.

So, on March 11, 2014 we held the first “Piece of Peace” with about 100 or so eager students. We started off with lunch and provided a delicious spread beforehand (no one wants to learn, or do anything on an empty stomach, right?). Afterwards, we introduced our group and its purpose for being there.

Malave Leadership Academy’s “Piece of Peace” Martin Luther King Jr. Event
Next, we did an exercise designed to help the students become aware of and recognize how automatically we stereotype one another based on physical differences and/or labels. All of the students formed 2 long lines facing each other. While one student held a label (which they couldn’t see) up to their forehead, the partner facing them would ask them questions associated with the label assigned to them. For example, one student had the label “CEO.” Based on the perceptions, stereotypes and assumptions that automatically come to mind, the student facing the ‘labeled’ one would say things that either did/did not result in the ‘labelee’ figuring out what their label was, and whether it is generally viewed positively or negatively in society. The students really enjoyed doing the exercise.

We wanted the students to gain a greater understanding of Dr. King and what he was all about. So we gathered many of his lesser known quotes to share with the students. Most of the students admitted that they know Dr. King for his “I Have a Dream” speech, but not much else. Here, I and my fellow Malave members are introducing this part of the event:

Malave Leadership Academy’s “Piece of Peace” Martin Luther King Jr. Event

The quotes were shared in small groups where the students read and discussed them. They described how the quotes applied to them, society, and their futures as leaders. Both the students and Malave members were deeply engaged in the discussions.

Malave Leadership Academy’s “Piece of Peace” Martin Luther King Jr. Event

Then, each group selected a spokesperson or two to present their collaborative ideas to everyone.

Malave Leadership Academy’s “Piece of Peace” Martin Luther King Jr. Event
For the final part of the event, we explained to the students that they were the first group ever to participate in the “Piece of Peace.” To commemorate the event, each student would place their thumb in paint and ‘sign’ a dove image that we had brought. The artwork would then be framed and displayed at the A. Philip Randolph High School as a collective symbol celebrating Dr. King and our shared experience that day. This is when all the students got super excited and began cheering, whooping and clapping! They all gleefully lined up to ‘sign’ the dove onstage.

Malave Leadership Academy’s “Piece of Peace” Martin Luther King Jr. Event
Each student and everyone in attendance also received a colorful wristband that read “I Have a Dream” and “A Piece of Peace” on it to take as a gift and reminder of the day we all spent together.

Malave Leadership Academy’s “Piece of Peace” Martin Luther King Jr. Event

Here is the ‘Piece’ of Peace Dove that the students will proudly display at their school:

CUNY Corps group and the A. Philip Randolph High Scho
It was a wonderful day for both the CUNY Corps group and the A. Philip Randolph High School students. We gave and took from one another in a positive spirit of learning and up-building and everyone left very happy. The students shook hands, hugged and thanked us for coming. And we returned the love and thanked them for letting us spend a few hours with them. This first event got off to a great start, and it can only get better from here!

Group Shot!

CUNY Corps group and the A. Philip Randolph High School students

My name is Yolanda Ransom and I am a junior majoring in Sociology at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. Last year I was nominated to become a member of the Ernesto Malave Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy consists of two groups that develop leadership in different areas. One group called Student Investment Advocates focuses on political networking and relationship development, and the other is called CUNY Corps which focuses on community volunteering and service. I am part of the CUNY Corps Program which meets twice a month on Fridays. Sometimes we meet more often depending on the projects we are working on or if there are leadership conferences (which occur frequently). As soon as I became a member I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the CUNY Women’s Leadership Conference in October 2013. It was an empowering and hopeful event.

If one has a flexible job/school situation Malave membership is very workable. In December 2013, I had the amazing opportunity of going on a retreat with CUNY Corps. The beautiful resort was Honor’s Haven Spa & Resort with features like body massages, hot tub, pool, movie room and exercise classes. The purpose of the trip was for the group to bond to help us work better together going forward. Six female students and six male students, along with the Ernesto Malave coordinators Kisha Fuentes and Denis Nolasco all rode up to Catskills, NY to spend an activity packed and enjoyable weekend right before finals week. We shared three delicious meals each day from the buffet, had group meetings where we got to know more about each individual’s personality type and communication style, and organized our Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day event. We used communication building tools to help us understand how to find the best way possible to relate and interact with one another as well as others outside of our group.

Malave Leadership Academy Retreat

It wasn’t all ‘work’ however. We had a few free hours each night for personal time, so we could hang out in each other’s rooms, watch TV/movies, have coffee at the café, swim, soak in the Jacuzzi, get a massage or just catch a nap. Kisha organized a treasure hunt and we searched all over the hotel to find the items. Team spirit was very strong as some members shared the location of what they found with others even though only one person could actually win. We also had pizza night and watched a comedy on Netflix that we all voted for in the movie room on our last night there. It was fun. I LOVE watching movies and we had our own little movie theatre.

Malave Leadership Academy Retreat

I was hesitant at first about attending the retreat because I didn’t know how well I would connect with others in the group. It takes me a bit of time to feel comfortable around those I have just met. But by the end of the retreat I felt like I had grown to know everyone much better and felt at ease. Everyone had a positive and willing attitude which helped foster trust and mutual respect. This pic is of our group on our last day before leaving—minus the CUNY Corps directors Kisha and Denis (I’m all the way to the left standing up).

Malave Leadership Academy Retreat

Through the Ernesto Malave Leadership Academy CUNY Corps Program I have been inspired to be more actively involved in helping society. We are doing an eyeglass drive on behalf of New Eyes for the Needy. At various campuses we are collecting all types of glasses until May 2nd, 2014. Please drop off your old prescription, reading and sunglasses and frames so that they can be used for those who need glasses. I will be collecting them at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. Contact Anthony Sweeney in Student Services if you want to donate your old eyeglasses. Best wishes to you for a successful semester and 2014!