My Story - Lo Cassidy
Lo helped to start a Chapter of STLF on her campus at Bradley University last year. They had an incredible first year. Here is her STLF Story!
Written by: Lo Cassidy
“STLF’s mission is to reveal leadership through service, relationships, and action.” Throughout all of my high school experience I was an incredibly active student, but because I spread myself so thin, I burned myself out. When I went to Bradley for my first year of college, everything changed, and I closed myself off. My freshman year of college got harder as I lost a good friend I had had for many years and I started to lose grasp of the determined, bright girl that I was in high school.
And so it begins...
The first time I even heard a whisper of STLF was my sophomore year at Bradley. My friend Sara started talking to me about spring break. She found STLF through her friend that went to Western University. I barely knew anything about the organization, but I took a leap of faith.
As I sat on the bus with Sara, two of our bus core stood up - Brittany and Trent. They started telling everyone that we needed to be open to the experience; that these people sitting next to us would become like our family. I laughed to Sara, how would these 38 strangers become family? It was that night that I met one of the most special people I have ever had the chance of knowing: David Mooney. David and I met at our first stop for dinner; I didn’t know it then, but David would become one of my very dearest friends, and my biggest role model.
It turns out, I left the Tour with 40 new family members. Suddenly, I was alive again, I was me. The Tour had given me my compassion back. I realized how much time I had wasted trying to be this uninvolved person that I was just not meant to be. With this rush, some amazing women and I began work to bring a chapter to Bradley’s campus.
During this time, I remembered at our celebration city Jon and Cash mentioned something about a camp. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I told myself I’d at least apply. Weeks later, I received an email telling me I was chosen to be a part of camp crew. To say camp was a life changing experience would still fall short of explaining how mind blowing and outstanding it was. It was there that I got my passion back. Working as a GAP camp crew, is easily one of the most indescribable experiences I have ever had in my life.
Camp reminded me what my passion truly is: people. The leaders I had the opportunity to work with opened my eyes to so many things I had never realized. They made me want to be better. They opened up, they questioned things, they were so much more themselves then I think I had ever let myself be. I learned more from them then I think I could have ever taught them. I owe a lot to the campers, but also to the crew. Tanya, Danny, Cash, Clare, Jon, Ellie, Will, the list goes on. These people believed in me, almost instantaneously. I left knowing I could turn to these people for absolutely anything.
The Power of Relationships
Over the next couple months I met so many INCREDIBLE people. People who really changed me, challenged me, and embraced me. One person I met, who has become like my twin, is Brianna Barnes. Bri came into my life when I needed her most. It’s funny how STLF has a habit of saving me at my weakest moments and showing me how to be strong again. Bri was one of the biggest influences in helping me get through all the hard times that go with planning a tour, and all of the hard times that come with life. She was experienced in being strong, and mentored me throughout my entire process.
Starting a Chapter at Bradley University
Sam, Molly, Brandis, Jen and I set are hopes high, promising national core that we would get our first tour out in our first year at BU. Six long months later, after tons of hard work, we were getting on our bus for Bradley University’s first tour ever. This Tour was where I got my confidence back. As we pulled away from the bus stop I looked at our full bus of participants. There were two faces that I could not have been more honored to have on the bus. Looking out I saw Sara, my best friend who showed me STLF, and David, my best friend and hero, looking up at me, supporting me.
I won’t lie, I was terrified to fail. But then I realized something: If STLF has shown me anything, it’s that you are never alone, and there will always be someone there to support you. I am blessed to have met so many people who believed in me. I then realized if they all had so much faith in me, then why shouldn’t I? On the third night, after our yarn activity, when my good friend David announced how proud he was of me, the tour really sank in. We had really done it. We were on a Pay It Forward Tour. One we had put months of effort in. We were helping people across the country, as they unknowingly helped us. I had never felt so proud, accomplished, and honored to be living the life I was living right then. Seeing our participants go from strangers to family was probably the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen.
STLF is where I got my life back. STLF is where I set my future. You know, each experience I have had with STLF has given me another piece of myself back, and I only hope I can give back to them as they have to me. I am going into my senior year of college at Bradley University as an education major with dreams of getting my Masters in nonprofit work. It is insane how much has changed in four years time. I went from participant to bus core and chapter core, Crew member to now Camp Director.
In my eyes, I have nowhere to go but up. You better believe that I will keep up with this organization. I can’t be positive of what my future will bring me, but if I have anything to say about it STLF will be seeing so much more of me for as long as possible. I was once a struggling teenager; I am now an honored product of STLF. I am strong, proud, enthusiastic, and determined. I am Lo Cassidy and I am changed.
“The mission of STLF is to reveal leadership through service, relationships, and action”…. I hate to say it but the use of the word “mission” is the first thing I have ever disagreed with STLF on. That isn’t a mission; a mission implies a wish for something. Consider that statement a promise. A promise implies fact. I can promise, if you let it, STLF will change your life, I know it changed mine.
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