This week for Feature Friday is Kappa Delta's Gabby Dardis!
I began working in the Community Service Office at the beginning of the fall of my freshman year after being introduced to the office through the Volunteer Experience Prelusion. I had volunteered and belonged to service clubs before in high school, but being a staff member of the CSO felt different. Everyone in the office was highly dedicated to the work they did, and everyone made the effort to include new staffers and make the office feel like a family. I loved that our events brought Lehigh students from all across campus together to serve South Bethlehem.
I learned a great deal about meaningful action and our South Bethlehem community in the CSO, and after joining my sorority during Formal Recruitment, I was inspired to run for Vice President of Community Service the following fall. I believed that I would be capable of handling the entitled responsibilities since I had already been coordinating volunteer opportunities and learning about the principles of service for a year. However, I faced adversity and unexpected challenges on Executive Council that my time in the CSO could not have prepared me for.
Our Kappa Delta chapter had only been on campus for just over one year at that point, and my member class was the first formally recruited. Serving as only the second VP-CS in our chapter, I was faced with daily questions and conflicts that had no chapter precedent to utilize in making decisions. I had just my handbook and the suggestions of the nine other Executive Council members, each in the same position as myself.
Through small but regular challenges, such as low attendance at events and commitment issues on committees, I quickly recognized the difference between being a service leader among other service leaders, versus having that role among your peers who do not necessarily prioritize that commitment. Despite the fact I met the overall goals of my position during that busy year, my personal goals derived from my CSO training to educate my chapter on the South Bethlehem community and engage all of our members in meaningful service were not entirely met. At the time my term ended, this disheartened me and did not motivate me to commit to further leadership positions in my chapter.
However, it wasn’t until about a year ago when I took on a larger role in the CSO that I realized how positively impactful my experience in sorority leadership was. Being on our Executive Council taught me about effective service leadership and how I personally can be the best leader for a given group of people. In my position as the SERVE Trip Coordinator, I work with several different groups of people - from Dean of Students Offices’ Directors to Lehigh students looking to get involved – in planning service trips over winter and spring break, so I have to adjust my style of leadership to best achieve my position’s goals. As I welcomed the precedence and history behind the SERVE Coordinator position to make decisions and improvements upon, I realized that my work as VP- Community Service was building the very precedent my sisters will welcome years in the future.
As I reflect back now as a senior, two years after first beginning my VP- Community Service role, I am thankful for the difficulties I faced then that challenged me to grow, and allowed me to now be the best leader I can be in any situation.