The notion of leadership is often difficult to define, but this week’s campus celebrity truly embodies the qualities of a strong leader. Ashtin Helmer, a junior health and exercise science major and a pitcher on TCNJ’s Varsity Softball team, has learned what it takes to be a leader both on and off the softball mound.
Ashtin participated in TCNJ’s first ever LeaderShape Institute this past January. The LeaderShape Institute is a six-day interactive and intensive leadership program, and this year’s program featured 60 TCNJ students and 10 staff and faculty from different schools and departments on campus. The program taught students to develop their leadership skills and personal leadership style. Throughout the week, each participant created a “vision,” and a plan of action to implement this vision in their organization, community, school or workplace.
Before the experience, Ashtin admits she was apprehensive about the program, as she said, “I was actually very nervous to go, since I only knew one other person attending the program. The other participants and I really didn’t have a clue as to what we were going to be doing for a week in Avalon. So, we couldn’t really form any expectations. Personally, I tried to go in open-minded and just experience what was in store for me.”
Ashtin became fully engaged during the week away and reflects on her experience positively. She said, “LeaderShape was a once in a lifetime experience that honestly changed my life. Not only did I create 59 lasting friendships, I also learned so much about myself in such a short amount of time. The program taught me how to lead with integrity in ways that I had never thought of before. It also made me really think about what I value in life. There was a lot of time for self and group reflection. During this time, I dug deep into myself and learned things about my personality, actions and values. I returned from LeaderShape a new person with a new knowledge of leadership.”
Ashtin, along with other LeaderShape graduates, presented the “visions” they created at a LeaderShape showcase in front of fellow students and TCNJ administrators last week.
“My personal vision was to create 2nd Half, a facility for athletes who have sustained career ending injuries. This facility would serve as a place for these athletes to get physical rehabilitation, psychological counseling and support. The other participants also created visions about a number of different causes. The LeaderShape Showcase was a night for a handful of us participants to present our visions to the TCNJ community. It was a very successful night and it was great to see a lot of the other LeaderShape participants again!”
As a member of Student Athletes Advisory Council and Athletes Intervarsity, and a student athletic trainer, Ashtin continues to use the skills she learned at Leadershape in her daily life. “The one skill that really resonated with me was active listening. I think too many people don’t really participate in conversations. They simply wait for their turn to speak again rather than really hearing what the other person is saying.”
With newfound confidence and an arsenal of leadership techniques at hand, Ashtin looks forward to a stellar softball season, which kicks off March 2 with a game in Salisbury, Maryland. “I am very excited for this season. I believe that we are going to be a very successful team in the NJAC. We all have similar goals and are working together very well. If we can keep this dynamic throughout the season, I believe we will dominate.”
Ashtin truly represents what it means to be a leader – we cannot wait to see what she accomplishes in the future!