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Inside the mind of an ELP Student

Apr 18th, 2017

By: Karen Meek

The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) has a mantra, “you’ll get out of this program what you put into it”.  Cliché?  Perhaps.  True?  Yea, I think so.  They say that people apply to ELP for all sorts of reasons.  Job prospects, professional growth, personal growth, networking, make new friends, etc.  In July, my engagement and 8.5 year relationship ended.  In July/Aug/Sept/Oct, I did a great deal of running/kayaking/volunteering/networking/try-new-things/do-all-the-things/personal-growth 101 & 201.  In November, I switched careers from a job trajectory that I’d been on for over 10 years.  While on this personal growth journey, I came across YPAL’s website, which led to ELP.  As a graduate herself, my boss was really supportive of me joining YPAL and participating in ELP. The Program checked lots of boxes for me.  I was/am extremely happy in my job, but professional/personal growth, networking, new friends.. take your pick.  I applied to ELP in February.

Seven weeks ago, I walked into the Eagle (restaurant on B-town Rd) wearing a pillow-like, stuffed fat belly under my shirt, a 3-pointed carnival hat with bells and an array of mardi gras beads.  It was Day One of the YPAL Emerging Leaders Program - the Opening Reception.  I’m a person of fun, adventure and excitement.  It was Mardi Gras – FAT Tuesday (thus the fat belly).  I’d worn my costume all day at the office, colleagues have come to expect these things from me – but driving to the Eagle I was torn between the “Fun” and the “Professional”.  I thought about changing into the usual “work casual”, but I ultimately decided to let my belly hang.  Hey YPAL – I’m Karen! aka: Captain Awesome!

The Emerging Leaders Program is broken into 5 sessions.  The sessions are full of fantastic speakers, team building activities, food, sometimes drinks and homework assignments (individual and group).  The homework after the first session was to identify my values, focus, purpose and a 90 day goal.  YPAL provided worksheets in the ELP Binder to guide me through these seemingly daunting and ambitious tasks.  After a few days of marinating on word piles of things I find important, I narrowed down and identified my 5 most prominent values – turns out “tradition” is my 5th value; alongside “joy/adventure/zest” and a few others.  Inner thoughts: I quite literally started crying this past Christmas when my parents wanted to do presents in the basement instead of the living room…  I ALWAYS wear costumes for holidays (even if other people don’t consider them to be holidays..)  I worn the ridiculous costume things as a 1st impression to YPAL’S ELP – so yea, “tradition” (as defined by me) is apparently important!  In the midst of my personal-growth mission, identifying my values, honestly couldn’t have come in a better time in my life. 

So, 8 weeks later, I sit behind my desk, blogging my ELP experience.  Let’s start with the homework.  I think all people have a general idea of what is important to them; but ELP forced me (in a good way) to sit down and objectively and transparently identify my values.  This caused me to look at all areas of myself and my life.  Starting ELP I didn’t have a full or clear understanding, but now, after examining things under a harsh light, I can say “yea – this is really important to me, and here’s why”.  I identified some areas of focus – professionally and personally.  Then – with their powers combined – I know my purpose!  How many folks can say that?  Do you have a purpose, a personal mission statement?  Something that is 100% you to the core?? – I’ve got that.  (I already told you:  “transparency”..)  My purpose: “To live a colorful life of adventure, fueled by honesty, kindness and genuine connection”.  Everyday I’m able to reflect back and identify how I did or didn’t live up to my progress.  It’s a measuring tool and I’m extremely grateful to have identified it.

A few more things, things before the end.  The Northwestern Mutual Personality test we took before and reviews at session 3 helped me label things about myself I already knew.. (like I love to tell stories, I have a tendency to get off task and have the ADD focus of the squirrel chasing his nut down the snow-covered mountain in an avalanche)..

-The Strengths Finders Test.  Awesome/hilarious (because it’s a book with test results quite literally written about you!)  I LOL’ed the entire way through my 6 page assessment results.  I now go about my daily life and often say to myself.. yea, you are totally a WOO.  Well done kiddo.. the power of woo.  (Google it.. or better yet, check out ELP next fall or spring).

-The Group Project.  Awesome.  I hit the jackpot in terms of random people matching.  If I were to get nothing else out of the class, I’d leave with a group of 6 new friends.  We’ve met outside of class twice, bonded over lots drinks, research, brainstorming, vulnerabilities, acceptance, one bottle of wine and an ongoing group text that includes meeting minutes in the form of emoji’s.  (Side note: During our first group meeting my new future BFF’s told me they were a little nervous to start the ELP program, but when they saw me in my Mardi Gras garb, they were totally put at ease)  #TraditionValue

-The Emerging Leaders Program.  Awesome.  As a personal testimony to the clichéd mantra – “you’ll get out of this what you put into it”-  I’ve put in my time, my effort, my honesty and my vulnerability.  Half way through the Program I’m better equipped with knowledge about me, how I function, and how my strengths, personality, values, focus and purpose affect others.  I’m also being forced to take on tasks I don’t necessarily enjoy or want to do for the betterment of my team.  These are all leadership things. 

Before you can grow others, you have to grow yourself – and to grow yourself you have to get to know yourself.  ELP is an ongoing education of oneself – fueled by great speakers, challenging tasks, yummy noms and fun folks.  So today, 39 days into my 90 challenge goal challenge – I am full of gratitude to call myself a part of YPAL, and a part of the 2017 Spring Emerging Leaders Program.  If you’re on the fence about doing the program, take the plunge (even if in costume).  It’s not as scary as you may think.  In five months, if you try, you’ll be a new (and better version of you). 

Namaste, thumbs-up and high-fives for everyone!


Karen Meek
Events & Marketing Coordinator



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