My name is Maria Ross. I am a freshman here at SIU studying Math Education with hopes of becoming a high school math teacher. I am from a small town outside Champaign, Illinois called Mahomet. I chose to go to school at SIU so that I could carry on my family legacy as a third generation Saluki following my grandfather and father.
In high school, I struggled to decide on what I wanted to study in college, but I knew I wanted to become a teacher. Even though I am from a small town, the community left a big impact on me. Throughout high school, I excelled in my academic work, especially math, but I also had a passion for music from participating in band and choir. Eventually I narrowed down my decision to mathematics over music. I think what inspired me to choose math was the wonderful math teachers I had in high school. They taught me a lot inside and outside the classroom and are role models for the kind of teacher I want to be some day.
The transition to SIU has been exciting, but also stressful. It’s a big change, and in the beginning, it was difficult to find an organization that I was interested in. After hearing about LDP I decided to give it a try. At the first meeting, I was greeted with warm welcomes and positive attitudes. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this awesome team. They have already pushed me and inspired me to be a better person. I am excited to see what skills I will obtain from this program that I can put back into the education system through my work with high school students one day.
LDP is a program about personal growth. We start out as nervous newbies, often unaware of the greatness that is held within ourselves. As we progress through the program, we learn more about ourselves. We learn what we are good at, what we need to improve upon, and why we are here, just to name a few. One of the biggest transformations members of LDP make is when they go from a first year member to a second year member, or in other words, from mentee to mentor.
Coming into the program as a first year, I revered the second year members. It seemed like they always had the solution to whatever problem I was having. Fast forward a year, and now I’m in their shoes. Making the transition from mentee to mentor is just like making the transition from followership to leadership. At first, you have no idea what you’re doing, and you feel overwhelmed by the task at hand, but you still try your best. Eventually you figure out something that works, and you flourish from there. Undoubtedly, I’ve grown since I was a first year member. I have much better time management skills, I can handle many more responsibilities, and I know how to be an effective member or leader of a team.
The Automotive Technology Organization or ATO is SIUC’s automotive departments first registered student organization. ATO plays an important role in further developing skills needed in the automotive field beyond what can be taught in the classroom. We have project cars we build to compete in drag and autocross racing. Through these projects, students learn how to plan events, fabricate and rebuild components, and seek outside support for the program—all of which are important skills to have. Furthermore, students have the chance to compete at sanctioned tracks for Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), both of which are environments that facilitate networking and professional development. There is a saying in the racing world, “Winters make Winners”. Living up to that, we have been busy this winter preparing for competition.
On January 17th, the Saluki Science Ambassadors (SSA) kicked off the semester by volunteering at a Gumdrops event. Gumdrops is an amazing non-profit charity in Carterville, Illinois. This charity provides at-risk children with backpacks containing a weekend’s worth of food. Their mission is to remove barriers to academic success for the at-risk children by providing them with the food they need, giving them one less thing to worry about. This charity feeds over 1,300 children every week. As a community outreach RSO, the SSA thought this was a perfect place to volunteer.
Helping at Gumdrops wasn’t only a way for us to get back into the swing of things, but also a great way to give back. At SSA, we strive to give back to the community as often as our busy schedules allow us. Another nice perk of the Gumdrops event was that it gave us an opportunity to spend time together as an RSO and get to know each other better. I’m proud of my team for growing closer as an organization while doing something positive, and it’s just another reason why I love SSA.
The LDP achieved a major goal last year when we expanded to include the other STEM colleges: College of Science, College of Applied Science and Arts, and the College of Agriculture. This is an important achievement because of its alignment with our LDP Vision: To become the premier university program that develops global technical leaders. Our goal was just to be inclusive of the other STEM Majors; however, we were pleasantly surprised by the diverse skills and ideas all the new students have contributed.
The first attribute I noticed was the invaluable resource that our pre-med majors bring in the form of first-aid training. They embraced the responsibility of being our group’s medic with passion. Our medical preparedness gets better each semester and with each treatment experience. I have even noticed a sense of confidence and safety from our team members knowing we have trained people in our group in the event that something may go astray.