I have found myself thinking about college a lot lately. I love everything about my life, but sometimes “adulting” can be tough. So today I decided to go back to when things were so simple, regardless to how difficult life seemed at the time.
Stephen F. Austin State University (also known as SFA or “SF Austin” if you’re watching ESPN) was my home away from home. Everyone was right, college truly is a place where you find yourself. You find out that your old study habits (prior to college)… SUCK.You learn how to make new friendships and the importance of networking. You learn that Whataburger at 3 a.m. is ALWAYS a good idea. And in the midst of all the classes, house parties, and late night study sessions you learn more about yourself than you ever imagined.
When I first got to SFA, I was scared. I was going to a school where I didn’t know many people, and I also had NO IDEA what I wanted to do with my life. At this point, I was social but very much an introvert, I wasn’t the best “small talker,” being in a room full of strangers scared me, and public speaking?? Just no! I didn’t want to be this person anymore, in fact, I hated who I was. I felt that I was meant to be more than the shy guy in the corner. So I took a leap of faith and decided to step out of my comfort zone.
The first step to bettering myself, was to become more empathetic. Being a 18 year old KNOW IT ALL, I always thought life was rough and was not thankful for everything that I had. Little did I know, I was beyond blessed. the summer of 2008 I started working at Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville, TX. Texas Lions Camp (also know as TLC) was a camp for children with physical disabilities and diabetes from the ages of 8-16 to come spend a week of their summer to learn that “THEY CAN!” What can they do? ANYTHING!
These kids were the biggest blessing in my life. They were truly happy, regardless of their day to day battles with daily routines most of us take for granted. I loved this camp and these kids so much that I came back three additional summers. I would find myself each summer feeling more and more comfortable, I would dress up in crazy costumes and act absolutely insane just to get a smile out of them. The feeling I got from seeing these kids smile was addicting and I wanted it to last. I will always feel in debt to this camp, I took way more out of the experience than I ever imagined I would.
After my first summer at camp, I wanted to push myself even more and gain friendships and leadership experience on campus. So I looked for organizations that would be a good fit. One rainy day as I was sitting in my car, I received an email from a National Recruiter for a fraternity that was not yet established on campus, he was inviting me to an information session on campus to learn about the fraternity and to hear why they wanted to start a new chapter at SFA. So I went.
Little did I know that after that meeting I would be the first Philanthropy Chair and then a year later…the Chartering Archon (President). Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity was a roller coaster of events. Building a fraternity from the ground up was a lot of work. But with all of my brothers, great campus mentors and amazing fraternal support…we did it! I must say it was one of the best feelings to accept the charter saying that we were an official chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, and that we were welcomed to SFA’s campus with open arms. Pi Kapp taught me a lot about myself, it taught me to be the leader that I had always wanted to be, and it also taught me how to give direction to the men that would soon follow the path that I helped create. Truly an amazing feeling.
Around my junior year, I had decided I wanted to do more for the university that had given me so much. I wanted to do something new, something that would help me grow even more. So I applied to be a Jack Walker (tour guide/student ambassador..whatever you want to call it) on campus. I would always see current students showing new families around campus with vibrantly decorated axe handles and I knew that with my new leadership and confidence that I would stop at nothing, until I was one of those elite students too. So I applied. I dressed the for the part, rocked my group interview, and I was on my way!
Being a Jack Walker gave me the greatest feeling. I helped students find their own home away from home, like I once did. After a year, I was given a leadership opportunity, and also given a chance to attend a national conference (where I first met my future boss at Texas Tech Admissions). Looking back on my decision to join such an incredible organization…I am still in awe that I was even accepted, but I am beyond thankful. I was able to finally break the shell and become the extrovert that I always knew I was meant to be.
College was amazing. I learned to do all the things that I told myself years before that i could not do. I will always cherish the moments I had at SFA. It’s sad to look back and know that it will never be the same. All of my friends are now scattered around the world doing wonderful things, and their is a whole new group of leaders taking new strides to make the departments, organizations, and the beloved campus I left behind a better place. Such a cool cycle, don’t you think? Happy that I was able to be a part of it!