Being a part of Elev8Life has been transformational. I started my journey with Elev8Life before it was even an official organization. Every Thursday I showed up to Dr. Hazim’s (lovingly called Aunt Anj) house for study hall with other students where we worked on homework together under Dr. Andrea’s guidance. Over the years she mentored and taught us about etiquette, integrity, teamwork and serving leadership. I made my best friends in her home and we all grew in so many ways.
During the inaugural year of iDENTIFY IMPACT (Camp 2015), many tears of growth were shed, and breakthroughs were had. I was fifteen at the time and learned so many important relational tools, like the personality types and love languages; life skills most people don’t discover until well into their adult years if ever.
I’ll never forget the team-building exercise that continued to teach us during the school year as we waited for the next year’s camp! It caused us students, to experience how powerful understanding the different personality types really is and how it plays such a huge part in stressful situations. My eyes were opened, and I ended up asking another student for forgiveness a year later. I didn’t want to continue harboring so much bitterness towards the way they acted during a camp exercise the summer before.
At Camp 2016, then sixteen years old, I learned about vision, mission, and purpose. I knew who I was and whose I was, but now… what do I do with that information? How do I put my gifts to use? The activity tied to purpose was one that made me want to tear out my hair. It was so frustrating yet so thought-provoking that I surrendered my future to the One who created me and knew my destiny from the beginning. While others discovered within that week of camp exactly what they wanted to do with their lives, I learned to be okay saying the phrase, “I don’t know.”
I chose to serve on Elev8Life’s emerging leadership team which functioned like student government and went throughout the school year. We were called “TLT” for Tomorrow’s Leaders Today. What a bold declaration over us! As Chief of Staff, I learned how to work with a team and the value of good communication. Ironically, I also started developing my communication skills as a public speaker at camp when I taught a session entitled, “Pitiful or Powerful.” It felt as though I was prophesying over myself in the areas that I would inevitably grow in over the next few years.
My journey of personal growth and development continued right into camp 2017 as I co-taught a session about the “5 Love Languages” with my best friend. Teaching and speaking in front of a crowd was becoming a theme. Dr. Andrea & her husband Dr. Jeff were consistent in training young leaders like me to “Do Hard Things” and push the boundaries of what teens can accomplish. They gave me hope for my generation and a desire to prove people’s low opinions of teenagers wrong. After years of encouragement and mentorship, I was only seventeen but confident beyond my years to speak on things that I’m passionate about; a passion that I discovered on the Elev8Life journey. I continued to serve on the Elev8Life leadership team, which provided us with opportunities to serve at several large community events. Our team took part in monthly “TLT” meetings to stay connected.When Elev8Life branched out to include educational travel, I was thrilled to participate. First as a student ambassador in Israel, then in May 2018 on the 24-day “Serving Leader Mission” to Europe. Our team of 14 people became servant leadership through Scotland,
England and Italy. After three years of iDENTIFY IMPACT camp, this experience was like the advanced leadership course! We didn’t just minister to the people we encountered along the way but to each other as individual team members. Learning leadership while experiencing the people and culture of foreign nations was an amazing way to grow as a person in every way possible.
My iDENTIFY friends showed me, with their acts of service, what it means to have a servant’s heart and helped save me from a self-centered mindset. The various iDENTIFY IMPACT mentors were authentic, vulnerable and demonstrated humility from a leadership position. What they modeled often comes to mind as I now set my intention to serve others. Their leadership encouraged and pressed me in ways that I thought would make me crack, but really, they were lovingly pouring glue into the broken places of my life so that I could be a powerful vessel, who is capable of pouring out that same love and wisdom that was poured into me.
I am honored to write and reflect on the deep and lasting impact that the Elev8Life educational foundation has had on my life. Elev8Life has taken me from small towns in Scotland to the darkest corners of my heart and mind. The teachings and experiences have caused a shift in me that will be far reaching into my future and the people I will in turn go and impact. My character and my life have been transformed as a result of the Elev8Life family and the many iDENTIFY IMPACT experiences I’ve had. The real difference was that I wasn’t just “told” about amazing life skills and principles. I was actually mentored through transformational experiences, which equipped me how to teach others.
Thank you Aunt Anj for the work you are doing with Elev8Life to train young leaders like me!