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July 2, 2018

Part 1: Homeward Bound
Part 2: Outward Bound

In this edition of To The Top, we hear directly from the Student-Athletes who were involved in our inaugural Leadership Academy, and who engaged in our recent Outward Bound wilderness experience in their own words …

To The Top!

Kierstin Bradley – Soccer, Senior, Majoring in Forensic Science

In the weeks following our trip to Minnesota I have found it hard to articulate to family and friends what made my experience in the Leadership Academy and Minnesota invaluable. In simple terms, we hiked, camped, and rock climbed for one week, but the experience equates to much more than that. Somewhere between the grueling miles with a 50lb backpack and learning to survive for a week in the woods, I grew as a leader and person. It was during our longest hike and after one of our toughest climbs that we had the vantage point of seeing most of the miles we had completed that day.

I was able to appreciate the two peaks we climbed, the river rapids we had crossed, and the vast beaver-made lake we had traversed, all with Lake Superior in the backdrop. It was from this perspective that I came to the realization that I am strong, and able to accomplish anything. Throughout the rest of the trip I felt empowered, and was able to apply my leadership style to enhance our group’s dynamic. When accepting the invitation to be a member of the Leadership Academy, I never expected to grow as much as I have. I also never expected for Outward Bound to have the life-changing impact it had. I can honestly say I am a different, better, person now than before I began the Leadership Academy almost one year ago.

Drew Boyd – Baseball, Freshman, Majoring in Biological Science

I am grateful to have been part of this once in a lifetime opportunity. It was one of the hardest, yet one of the best things I have ever experienced. Unless you went through it, it is hard to explain.

I learned a great deal about myself and developed close bonds to everyone in the group. I enjoyed applying the concepts learned throughout the year in the Leadership Academy while we were in the wilderness with nine others. Having athletic administrators on the trip was a blessing. It was great to get to know them and to see them lead by example yet letting us take the reigns and also make decisions for the group. I am so grateful to have been a member of the Leadership Academy.

Valentina Haupt – Women’s Golf, Junior, Majoring in Sport Management

The Leadership Academy was a unique experience that not only helped us grow as leaders, but as people. It was such a great group and learning environment. Additionally, the Outward Bound experience was a life changing, one of a kind experience. The most important lesson I learned from the experience is that there is always something left in the tank. It really opened my eyes that the only thing stopping us, is our mind. Also, I realized that you cannot get through by yourself for you need to rely on your peers to help along the way.

Chase Nelson – Softball, Junior, Majoring in Communications

Outward Bound took me out of my comfort zone. During our journey the phrase “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” was the epitome of the trip. It was challenging and rewarding at the same time. One major lesson learned was to appreciate the little things and never take them for granted. When your daily comforts are completely stripped away, you realize how lucky you truly are. Additionally, I realized how powerful our minds can be. We are capable of much more than we give ourselves credit. It is all about our personal mindset. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity! These memories will last a lifetime.

Samantha Papp – Softball, Junior, Majoring in Special Education

Having the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Academy and the Outward Bound experience is something I will remember for the rest of my life. Throughout my participation in the Academy, I developed a deeper understanding of myself as a leader. In reflecting on the Outward Bound experience, I am thankful for the many things I learned. I have never been so challenged (mentally, physically, and emotionally). Being in a group of numerous strong leaders who were all different opened my eyes to the various ways that I can lead within a group.

Having members of our administration including our Athletic Director, Jon Gilbert, on this trip spoke volumes of their dedication to Southern Miss. Not only did they step away from their work responsibilities for a week, but they also left their homes and families – all to invest in us. To me, this exemplifies what it means to be a true leader: selflessly investing in the people you lead. They modeled everything that I could hope to be as a leader. I am confident that no other University has administration like we have in the USM Athletics Department.

Caitlin Pierce – Soccer, Freshman, Majoring in Exercise Science

I never thought I would have ended up in the middle of the woods hiking for one week. Like many of us, I was used to having immediate access to daily comforts. Not having that access was extremely out of my comfort zone. I had to adjust. Through the long hot and cold days, the 10.5 mile daily hikes, the dry food and the latrine, I learned more about myself than I thought I could.

Our Outward Bound leader carried a little red book of knowledge that included a story titled, “The Invitation”. The first words of this story struck me, “It doesn’t interest me what you do.” I realized we can put too much emphasis on things that are not important to be successful. I realize you should be more interested in people’s core than the outer layer. I have since been applying this to relationships with the people in my life. In addition, I learned that every relationship is a continual circle of trust and communication. Without these key components relationships will be unsuccessful.

JoAnnie Ramos – Soccer, Freshman, Majoring in Nursing

The Leadership Academy provided me with a group of people who were all in the same boat. I learned that I could communicate and grow with them in my leadership and personal development. I had never been camping before which made the Outward Bound trip one of the craziest weeks I have experienced. It was eye-opening and enriching. I built relationships with people I would not normally, and I learned that we are all capable of much more than we think.

One of the main lessons I learned while in the woods in Minnesota was that my positive attitude impacts others in life, and additionally on the soccer field. Our attitudes can influence a group to accomplish more things than we ever thought possible. I never thought I could hike 35 miles in the mountains for four days with a 50-pound backpack, but I did it. Our group hit hills and valleys – literally and figuratively. Yet to have people that were encouraging, fun, and willing to provide entertainment in the midst of such hard conditions made everything worth it. I love this group and cannot wait to see what the future holds for them, on the field and in the rest of their lives.

Samantha Reynolds – Softball, Senior, Majoring in Kinesiology

The main lesson I took away from being part of the Leadership Academy is that there is no one way to be a leader, but there are so many ways to be a great one. After you develop these skills, it is important to share them with others in order to establish a culture with this leader-based mindset. You need to know not only how to communicate, but how to motivate and inspire others to share your same vision.

For me, the Outward Bound experience was about striping away outside factors and getting down to one’s inner core. The main lesson I learned from this experience was the only limitations in my life are the ones I set for myself. I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to do. I am terrified of heights, so if I can propel off of a cliff and climb back up, there is nothing I cannot do!

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