Selfless Leadership and the Power of a Team

By: Andrea Poppiti

Coming into college, I knew that I wanted to get involved on campus, mostly to avoid becoming completely consumed with academics, which was a dark and dangerous path to life as a hermit. What I did not know was that this journey of successes, hardships, and, most importantly, leadership, would change the way I thought about myself as an individual as well as a team member. It was during the fall of my freshman year that I first discovered Rutgers Dance Marathon through my roommate. One afternoon, she came back to our dorm and told me about DM and how I could support children with cancer and blood disorders by volunteering for 5 hours and raising $100. Needless to say, I was sold.

As the years progressed and I became more involved with Dance Marathon, I learned lessons about leadership that I had never anticipated. As someone who typically hated group projects and preferred to do most things independently, I found it difficult to accept the fact that teamwork is more integral to the organization’s function than any individual work could ever be. The Dance Marathon organizational structure is designed so that each individual works as one small part of a larger team, and that larger team contributes just one aspect of what the Marathon eventually fulfills. We operate on a consensus system, there is no president or boss, and we often find ourselves collaborating and relying on each other. Essentially, you have to work well with your 31 fellow teammates to get anything accomplished.

The impact of teamwork could not have been more apparent as it was on April 7th this past spring. As the DM staff stood onstage and revealed that this year’s efforts had raised over half a million dollars, I looked into the crowd of over 1,000 people who were crying, smiling, and yelling as much as I was. I could not help but think that I had personally contributed only about 0.2% of that $500,000 total. Though I had spent the past year planning it, this was their event just as much as it was mine, if not more so. I looked at the stage and layout of the College Avenue Gym, the catering area where food was served, the Embrace Kids patient families, and the 1,000 participants. None of that was there because of my individual efforts, and more importantly, there was no way one individual could have planned such a meaningful and successful event. While I was one of Dance Marathon’s “leaders”, this event was not about me, and most people there had no idea who I was, as it should be. The event was about the families we support and the participants who attend, and the staff members are just the people lucky enough to plan it. Working with Dance Marathon has taught me that if you have the right intentions, leadership is selfless, and that if you believe in something enough, you will put faith in others to support you as you support them. It may be hard to give up power and work as a team member, but the hard work and collaboration of my teammates are the only reasons we have an event at all. Working with a 32-member team to accomplish the same goal has been the most fulfilling opportunity I’ve had since attending Rutgers, and I can’t wait to see what our team can achieve this year for the kids.

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Andrea Poppiti Andrea Poppiti is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in Biological Sciences with a Psychology minor. She is currently the Director of University Relations for Rutgers University Dance Marathon, a Scarlet Ambassador, and a Peer Instructor for the FIGS Program. After graduating in the spring, Andrea will remain at Rutgers to finish her master’s degree in education in the Graduate School of Education and hopes to someday return to the university level as a professor or administrator.

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You are the Greatest Leader in Your Own Life

By: Harjiv Singh

Three years ago, when I entered the life of a college student. I saw myself become a person that I didn’t want to be.

Coming into college, I was both excited and nervous. Being someone who had a turban and a beard, I felt as if I wasn’t being accepted anywhere by anyone. I needed to find myself, and I did that by making all the wrong decisions I could make. I started to care less about everything and everyone around me, but care more for myself. My parents lived an hour away from school and worked about fifteen minutes from it, yet I only spoke to them once a month because I just didn’t care about them. I used to party not once, not twice, but up to three times a week. My schoolwork went down the drain and I was put on academic probation at the end of my first semester. The reason why I share this with you is because what happened next changed my life.

I had gotten involved with one student organization called UNICEF on campus. On that winter break following my first semester, a selected number of students were taking a trip down to Honduras to run an educational public health camp and language camp at an orphanage. I applied for the trip just because I didn’t want to be home. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea where Honduras was. Luckily, I was accepted. Then I paid the fee without telling my parents but through my dad’s credit card. I told you, I made stupid decisions. He saw his credit card bill, flipped out on me, but what was done, was done. I couldn’t get my money back. I was going to Honduras.

The reason why my trip to Honduras changed my life was because the kids at that orphanage taught me how to appreciate life. Each child had his or her unique story. From being impregnated at the age of thirteen by her stepfather and having the baby, to being left outside the hospital by his mother after being born, to even being forced outside the house with no shoes, or socks, because their parents would tie them up and starve them as they themselves would enjoy meals. However, despite these challenges and struggles, what I saw in these children was the drive to keep living life with a smile on their face. I saw love, compassion, faith, and tenacity built in all of them. I remember one girl, Carmen, who told me she would be the next president of Honduras.

My trip to Honduras taught me that life is a blessing. These children were the leaders in my life who taught me not to live a life for myself, but live a life for others. We are sincerely blessed to be in the position we are in. If we appreciate everything and everyone in our life, and live each day like it’s our last, then we become the greatest leaders we can be. Throughout our life, we will face challenges and struggles. It is our job to stay true to our values and fight through these hardships.

Life is a battle between you and yourself. Dig deep down and you will find the qualities of a leader embedded inside of you. However, don’t change who you are. Stay true to yourself, and you will see yourself become the greatest leader not only in your life, but in the lives of the people around you.

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CaptureHarjiv Singh is currently a senior studying Exercise Science and Nutrition. Alongside his academics, he serves as a Resident Assistant. He is also a member of the Rutgers Men’s Volleyball team. Outside of his academics, he takes part in many community service organizations and projects. He is a misl director for the Jakara Movement, a non-profit organization based in California. He is a founder of another not-for-profit organization called Students Helping India. He takes a lot of pride in working with underprivileged children and families both locally and abroad. He served as a public relations chair for UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and has taken numerous trips to run public health educational camps in Honduras, Guatemala, and India. He is an aspiring orthopedic surgeon who is currently working on a project to provide better access to sports for young children in both local and abroad communities.