Suffolk creates leaders

Through the Journey Program, many students learn more about themselves


By Facebook user The Journey Program

Katie Dugan

Entering college, I was very shy, but I knew that if I were going to make the most of the next four years I would need to come out of my bubble. “iLead” was a weekend long retreat in Hancock, New Hampshire for Level One Journey students. On the trip we did the typical icebreaker activities meant to introduce everyone while making them slightly embarrassed at the same time.

The Journey Leadership Program that I have participated in over the course of my three years at Suffolk gave this experience to me. Journey is a organization on campus whose mission is to instill leadership qualities into Suffolk students who wish to join. The first program I did would be the catalyst for how the next three years would go.

Until I had the opportunity to go on the weekend retreat, I hadn’t known what it meant to be a leader. A leader in my mind was confident, extroverted, and capable of anything. Although, one thing from this trip that I will never forget was when one of the leaders told us about a woman named Kitty Genovese, who was raped and stabbed to death in 1964 outside of her apartment in Queens.

The story goes that dozens of people claimed they heard Kitty’s cries for help, but no one tried to save her. The point our leader wanted us to realize was that being a leader meant speaking up and being proactive in situations outside your comfort zone. Due to this message, I left this retreat with a completely new outlook on life. I remember feeling hopeful and positive about the next four years.

One of the most crippling aspects about anxiety is constantly feeling incapable. The idea that I was in control of my own success and happiness was infinitely healing.

This past January, I was a Level Three Journey member, which meant I was able to go on the Leadership Winter Break trip, something I had been looking forward to since day one. However, going into this trip I wasn’t sure what to expect. By then I had participated in a plethora of Journey programs, I didn’t think there could possibly anymore leadership skills left to gain. But, I had the wrong notion because the Leadership Winter Break trip was probably the most powerful trip I have been a part of at Suffolk.

The first half of the trip took us to Crystal River, Florida, where we had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim with manatees. Despite being massive animals, weighing up to 1,200 pounds and 12 feet long, to me they are one of the most gentle species on this planet. They are slow-moving mammals and spend 50 percent of the day sleeping submerged and surface for air every 20 minutes. They are also herbivores and have no natural predators.

Even though manatees are often scared easily, people do not scare them. If they feel safe around you they’ll let you pet them and play with them. However, my first instinct was to back away or call my friends over and that caused the manatee to get startled and swim away.

On the second day, I kept repeating to myself, stay calm, stay calm and after several minutes I had noticed some of the other group members were interacting with manatees. That’s when one eventually stuck to me for a few minutes. He wasn’t there for too long, but I got to have my special moment with a manatee that I had been hoping for.

Then before I knew it, they were everywhere; they were next to me, swimming beneath me, I was surrounded. For the first time on the trip, I was the one feeling overwhelmed instead of the manatees.

During reflection, we talked about how our experiences with manatees changed each time we swam with them. Through this experience, I realized how similar I am to the manatees because my introverted side and my extroverted side are constantly butting heads with each other.

Finding a commonality with a beloved animal the size of a car was the most compelling feeling I have ever experienced. In an odd way, I felt comforted and inspired. It was like a two-day therapy session but with wetsuits and snorkels instead of couches and tissues.

My takeaway from this trip was ultimately being more compassionate for others and Suffolk helped me accomplish that. I learned that I can’t approach every situation the same way. Being a leader is not “one size fits all.” Being a leader means adapting to a situation and understanding why and how it needs to be addressed.

In order to get the most out of this trip, we knew we had to be respectful of the manatees’ space. Because we understood this, we were able to leave Florida with memories we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

But the utmost importance of this story was getting involved with The Journey Program because it changed my life. I am not the same person I was three years ago. Through this program I am more confident, more generous, and more open-minded.