A Great Start with Great Help

           The 17th of January marked the first day of the spring semester for SIU, but the 15th of January was day one for the LDP. By coming back from break early, our goal was to improve team cohesion–something the senior members decided needed improvement. Never being a group that backs down from a challenge, preparation started in the fall to plan a day that would bring everyone closer through some tough but fun challenges.

Cody Johnson reaching for a milk bottle during one of Mr. Calabrese’s team building activities.

           Through the vast and mystic connections possessed by Dr. DeRuntz, we recruited the key ingredient to our so-called “Team Day”: team building guru and past Saluki athletics coach Tony Calabrese. We also invited some College of Science students out in anticipation of the LDP opening up to all STEM majors. Excitement began to mount as the team realized just what transformations could take place on Team Day.

           Breakfast on January 15th was near silent as we sat and listened to Mr. Calabrese speak of his past experiences and lessons learned. He was a man who truly lived the value of determination and constant improvement. The LDP was in awe. Coaching Olympic teams for gymnastics, starting his own blacksmith and historic machine shop, and running 40 miles purely to see how far he could push himself are just a small list of Tony’s past pursuits, and his inspiring stories of living such a fulfilling life will stay with me for quite some time.

           The team-building activities were phenomenal, and I could feel the team bonding with each other and with our new counterparts from outside the College of Engineering. Seeing everyone work together to cross separated bleachers with two wooden planks with such determination, cooperation, and will is something I have not seen in a while. Last semester, it was brought up that it seemed the first- and second-year members did not connect as well as the team had hoped, but that day I saw cohesion far exceeding my expectations, even with the new College of Science students I barely knew. I could not ask for a better experience from Team Day; I truly feel it has set a precedent for an excellent semester. I want to thank Tony for everything he did to make Team Day such a success, and I cannot wait to see what challenges the LDP is capable of tackling in the coming months.