Defining who I am as a leader

by Madeleine Bondy, student facilitator

Madeleine, left, talking with Isha at an Open Circle retreat

When I walked into my first Open Circle meeting one sunny September afternoon two years ago, I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a caring, open group waiting to welcome me to one of the best experiences of my undergrad. Student Open Circles has given me so many gifts. Listing these would take pages and pages so I’ll just focus on one, my growth as a leader. Marybeth and Jeff are wonderful mentors who have helped me over the course of my leadership journey and given me opportunities to shape and practice my skills, which I now continue to pass on to others. In my role as a facilitator of a volunteer group at Inasmuch Woman’s Shelter where I witness the hardships of abuse, I strive to contribute as much as I have gained.

Student Open Circles has taught me to adhere to a set of values that includes respect, courage, collaboration, encouragement, and open dialogue. At the same time, I have realized that leadership is very complex. I have learned the importance of listening with full intention and at the same time remaining organized and on task, working within a team to assign individual roles to plan our various Open Circle events. This has turned out to be a very effective form of leadership that I will continue to practice.

Learning to reflect has been wonderful, helping me to clarify patterns and to see each experience as an opportunity for growth and persevering despite the challenges of life. Through my own process of reflection such as maintaining a journal, meditating, and being involved in Open Circle, I have become slower to anger, more patient, compassionate and understanding. This reinforces my own desire to live mindfully in the present, rather than dwell in the past and to focus on actions that can be taken now in order to avoid being overwhelmed or disheartened in the future. Reflection also helps me to remain true to my values of honesty and integrity. Student Open Circles has helped me to focus on the way I want to live and interact with others.

Our communities face more challenges than ever before. In the face of such significant problems, society will need to rely on the leadership of each member of the community. I am so grateful to Student Open Circles for helping me develop into a leader, and I know that this organization will continue to create a generation of leaders ready to become even larger agents of community change.