#VoteIrene

I am very rarely at the cusp of trends. I tend to watch from the sidelines to see if a fad is here to stay, and then decide my plan of action.

This is something I miss about living in a sorority house. Information travels fast, and at Alpha Gam specifically, I could get ten different takes on a new place, fashion item, class, or topic just by sitting down for dinner.

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One of my greatest takeaways that I brought into the working world was how to collaborate and delegate. I learned it the hard way, by drowning in silent auction donations as a freshman holding my first leadership position as Philanthropy Coordinator. I silently made note when I noticed the boundless skills of the diverse women around me.

There was too much to be done, and too much that could be done, to do it alone. If I didn’t have an answer, someone did. If I didn’t have a skill, a connection, a resource, a sister did. Slowly, I realized our network was limitless, and that we might all be able to bring that spark to the communities and groups we encounter.

I remember one day, our alumnae Chapter President, Irene Fernando, and Recruitment Advisor, Ashley Harville, came to the chapter house during Monday night dinner. I was struck by their approachability. They showed me how I wanted to be an alumnae to the chapter. To be involved, relatable, and connected.IMG_0030 copy

In 2015, they stood in front of me and one hundred other senior sorority women, at an event Ashley planned and Irene was the keynote speaker.

She shared how the thought of “if someone is going to graduate and transform leadership, why not me?” changed the scope of what she believed was possible.

This question led her to wonder, in a dorm room with friends ten days into college, wouldn’t it be cool if we changed the world and Students Today, Leaders Forever (STLF) was born. (Find full speech here)

Last week, they stood in front of me again. This time in Ashley’s backyard, introducing Irene, this time as the DFL endorsed candidate for the Hennepin County Commissioner for District 2.

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#HypeCrew Meet and Greet at Ashley’s cozy NE home

Despite my delayed awareness for trends, once Irene announced her campaign last fall (the first candidate to do so) I knew I needed to be involved somehow.

Now, when I see the Vote Irene lawn signs, I have the reaction of Will Ferrell in Elf finding out Santa is coming- “I know [her]!!!” Working closely with Irene in our community makes me truly certain of her ability to lead, innovate, and transform Hennepin County.

Before this campaign, I didn’t know that the Hennepin County Commissioner was a role. I didn’t know it managed a 2.4 billion dollar budget, which put into perspective is more than the combined income of Beyonce and Jay-Z. I didn’t know how many decisions were being made and dollars allocated that directly impacted my neighborhood and community.

“In the face of outrageous circumstances, we are called to fight for the common good.” Irene Fernando

With this administration and current state of politics, I think everyone is wondering aloud or to themselves, what can I do. Sometimes that question is so overwhelming and the solutions seem so grand, that we do nothing at all.

I was stuck in this place for quite some time. I wanted to learn from all sides of the aisle that I stayed stationary and listened. As someone who rarely stops talking, I had a feeling this wasn’t the worst thing. What I was reminded of in this time, is that we didn’t need to figure this out alone.

For some, the curious question of “Why not me?” will lead to starting an organization or a campaign. For others, it’s recognizing how you can support what already exists.

Ashley and Irene have again paved the way for me, to display how sisterhood evolves. Irene’s #hypecrew is made up of Alpha Gams. And in that crew, there is a role for me, off the sidelines, that answers that scary question of, what can I do?

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Ashley is the queen of hosting
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Can we take a moment…

Today, Hennepin County Distict 2 Minnesotans, that answer is you can take part in a local primary election, and believe in what’s possible by voting for Irene Fernando.

“My future, and our future, is thanks to the told and untold stories of those who came before us. Ordinary people who chose to pave a path when there was none. Everyday people who risked some of themselves for the opportunity, for the responsibility to make a change.”

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Maya’s on the lookout for voters

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Mother’s Day- Inspire the Woman, Impact the World

I love Mother’s Day for reminding myself and others to reflect on the powerful and supportive mothers and mother figures in our lives. For my mom, that was done through bridging our Minneapolis-Milwaukee gap with a phone call this morning, and a card en route (and taking its sweet time if I may say). But this year, that’s not all this holiday means to me.

While my mom will always be the Queen of my Mother’s Day, today, I was also reminded of the powerful and supportive female-driven communities I am a part of and have access to. For me, the last week was like a drum roll to Mother’s Day.

inspireSunday afternoon brought me back to my sorority chapter house for our monthly Executive Council meeting, on which I serve as the Philanthropy Advisor. While the meetings aren’t known for their brevity; for me, the time flies. I become consumed by the energy in the room and the vibrant conversation– the main topics and the side conversations I can’t help but start.

This time, I was most struck by the impact the chapter women have on our community. There are collegiate women serving the country through National Guard, they are in the marching band, orienting new students as welcome week leaders, and running student groups across campus. While it’s no longer our key phrase/slogan, I was reminded of the words, “Inspire the Woman. Impact the World.” I love this phrase, this mission statement for not being an if; then. It’s absolute. It’s not a goal, it’s a reality in this very moment.

The next night, the External Affairs team at Comcast offered me a seat at the Girl Scouts: Women of Distinction dinner and benefit. Once there, my guilt set in as I realized the breadth of this organization; and while I was able to rise under the preset of “once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout,” I knew elementary-Sarah didn’t even skim the surface of the opportunities available.girl scouts

I heard similar values I associate with my sorority being echoed by Girl Scouts ages 16 to 70. GIRL now stands for Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader. I can only imagine how my outlook, experiences, and priorities would have shifted if those were elementary-Sarah’s guiding values. If that was how I described myself, and even more so, if that was how I described the girls around me.

Girl Scout CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, shared her own story of refusing to choose between earning the baking and science badge, and pursued them both. Despite being told by a college counselor, “Girls like you don’t go to college,” she went on to be one of the first Hispanic female rocket scientists.

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Thursday, I was invited to fill in for a coworker at the YWCA luncheon, and didn’t even check my calendar before accepting. By attending, I was able to sit at a table of driven Comcast women and listen to speakers from all different walks of life speak to the impact YWCA has had on them. ywca1.jpg

After Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” perfectly welcomed her to the stage, Kim Nelson, former Vice President at General Mills, shared this powerful sentiment with us,

“My hope for my daughters, for all of you, and for myself is that each of us wake up everyday and live as women of power. Confident, courageous, and intent on empowering ourselves and others to change the world for better.”

medal1.jpgThe week ended with two sponsored events of Jessie Diggins, the Team USA Gold Medalist Cross Country Skiier. Even though I was taking my self-proclaimed job of photographer and videographer very seriously, I couldn’t help being in awe of the number of girls cross country ski teams that came in, together, to meet their idol and inspiration.

They were poised, and prepared with great questions of how Jessie reaches new goals. They sought advice and soaked in every word she gave them. These girls struck me as the type to describe themselves and each others as go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders.

I saw first hand, they’ve been inspired. They will impact the world.

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3 Years, 5 Lessons, Countless Downdogs

Passion has been a bit of a buzzword for me lately. It could be from creating inspiration boards with kindergarten-3rd grade students, the Greek Awards recommendation letters I’ve been writing, or from the Tazo tea called Passion that I drink daily.

More than anything though, I think it’s credited to the recent Downdogs for Diabetes event. If you aren’t familiar, this is my sorority’s annual fall philanthropy event; a yoga class, led by yours truly, that benefits the Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation. I’m simply unable to explain my involvement and energy surrounding this event, without touching on passion.

DSC_56The Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation benefits diabetes education, research and awareness; along with many other initiatives to support Alpha Gam alumnae in need. The University of Minnesota Alpha Gamma Delta chapter (Delta) holds 2-3 fundraising events each year to support the Foundation. Downdogs began three years ago, and I’m thrilled to see that it’s had staying power.

Even for those not studying public relations and/or with a love for events, Downdogs has taught me a few things over the years, all of which I couldn’t have learned if it weren’t driven by passion. As graduation approaches, and people of all stages in life continue to stress about the future, I think tapping into passion may be just as calming as a downward facing dog-

1. Stay on brand– Downdogs for Diabetes has been successful as a fall philanthropy because it stayed true to Alpha Gam. Our Purpose, which is like a values based mission statement, outlines the importance of health and wellness. Focusing on what you value- and what you don’t- can put things into perspective. This along with the yoga classes held in our living room, Alpha Gam and yoga go hand in hand. Although it had not been done before, this event wasn’t a huge stretch (no pun intended).

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The first Downdogs for Diabetes, 2012.

2. Shake it up– From the lines outside Mesa at bar close, to the club meetings that advertise with only two words- free food-we’ve all seen (and experienced) how people are motivated by food. As a result, this event was pretty unconventional compared to other fundraisers for our chapter and for the community. However, risk taking is essential for innovation and allowed our chapter to discover a new tradition.

3. Authenticity is key– This ties in with numero uno, and is probably the most important of them all. Downdogs wouldn’t have started or succeeded had I not had genuine enthusiasm and trust that it could. If your vision is authentic, you’ll be able to get others to envision it as well.

4. Details can come later– When I originally planned Downdogs for Diabetes, I wasn’t sure exactly where it would take place, if people would like it, or what impact it would have. I just knew there was only one way to find out, which rings true for professional and personal life scenarios. You won’t make any strides forward or try anything new if you’re waiting for guaranteed success.

5. Gophers can’t be tamed– Okay but actually. Goldy attended this year’s event, and was a bit more rambunctious than mygoldy average yoga student. Rather than letting his surprises (i.e. pretending to change the music, bringing a ladder to his yoga mat, and spraying people with their water bottles) throw me off, I rolled with the punches. As much of a planner as I am, there can be a point where preparation no longer serves you. 5 year plans are great- especially for when someone asks you what’s your 5 year plan– but it needs to be able to adapt to the new experiences and growth you will be fortunate to have.

One of the greatest things yoga has taught me is to keep my mind as flexible as my hamstrings. Whether it’s planning events or planning your future, letting go of certainty in order to embrace and appreciate surprises makes life a bit more zen, and a lot more enjoyable.

Sorority Recruitment

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Me and My Assistant, Aly Dahmen, Before Open House Round
As the Vice President of Recruitment of my sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, this fall was the craziest and best time of my life. The planning for the five days of formal recruitment began in February, allowing my anticipation to grow with each day.
I remember comparing the process to skydiving. I’ve never been, but I’m assuming sorority recruitment is pretty similar. All of Spring semester, I was the skydiving instructor, and the Alpha Gams  were in the registration process- watching the safety videos and covering the logistics.
For me, this meant planning all decorations, outfits, refreshments and entertainment.
One sister asked me, “You don’t do anything this semester though, right? That’s nice it’s just the end of summer.”
Interesting. Not quite.
However, I believe what makes a great leader and an even better event planner, is the ability to absorb stress, without any others feeling the wake. Blame it on the yoga, but this aspect of events and strategic communications has always appealed to me.
Dropped tables for Open House Round
Dropped tables for Open House Round

Towards the end of August, we were all on the plane. Anticipation was building for all and a five day workshop, Polish Week, consumed our last days of Summer. As I facilitated Polish Week, I realized what it meant to be in the plane. There’s no going back, how you handle complications is the only thing that will change the outcome. Not everything will be perfect or go exactly as planned, but recruitment will happen either way- so find a new perfect.

As recruitment came, it was time to dive. I expected this time to be full of anxiety, but it was far from it. Already out of the plane, there’s nothing to do but enjoy the process.

Sharing highlights of conversations and positive aspects of each round, telling jokes during down time and updating our inspiration board kept spirits high. Ultimately, the endless support and love I felt throughout the whole process, made it the best fall I’ve ever taken.

With relaxed attitudes and the AGD brand making up our parachute, after the final day of recruitment, we landed on our feet. Even better, we found ourselves surrounded by an amazing pledge class of 45 new members.

Dropped tables and decor for Preference Round
Dropped tables and decor for Preference Round

My experience in strategic communications allowed for a strong recruitment experience as well. Coordinating members, facilitating values based conversations and [insert sorority jargon] was done keeping our brand in mind at all times.

The women going through recruitment must make impressions and decisions about our chapter from the conversations they have with a few members. Focusing efforts on our brand being present in each of these instances allowed these interactions to be genuine and valuable.

Who knew there was so much PR in skydiving?