Guest Blogger: Jeff Meray, Tillman Military Scholar Class 3, University of Oregon
Last weekend, a dozen Tillman Military Scholars met in Eugene, Oregon, on the campus of the University of Oregon for the Tillman Military Scholars Northwest Regional Gathering. The cool wet climate of the Pacific Northwest provided a change of pace for Scholars traveling from as far away as Texas and Arizona. In between workshops covering team building, leadership, career decisions and effective communication, Scholars worked hard to spruce up a low income housing complex, toured the first-class Oregon Duck athletic facilities, and spent time building the Tillman Community network.
To kick off the weekend, we met on Friday night for dinner in the atrium of the John Jaqua Academic Center and were introduced to leadership expert Bill Grace, who provided an illuminating experience as he helped us look within ourselves to find our core values – a theme that would continue throughout the weekend. Saturday morning we met for an incredible team building workshop with Nancy Heapes. Group juggling, flipping a parachute and placing a ball in a bucket seem like simple enough tasks; however, they proved difficult for a group of leaders. Some of us found our voice while others found our “mute button.” We all found friends and all of us left for lunch hungry. After dinning on Sy’s world famous pizza, we met with Bill Grace for a second time. Bill is an amazing speaker. It is impossible for me to accurately depict the intensity of our discussions. But, by the end of the afternoon we were all contemplating how we can use our core values in order to work towards the “common good.”
Later Saturday afternoon we had the opportunity to tour the un-paralleled Duck athletic facilities. Walking down the tunnel that my Ducks traverse prior to each game was, I hope, as exciting for everyone else as it was for me! However, the training tables covered in Maserati leather, the underwater treadmills and the 117,000 square-foot indoor football field all took a back seat to the 2012 Pac-12 and Rose Bowl trophies!
Sunday morning Scholars attended workshops on career development and effective communication. In the afternoon the Tillman Military Scholars teamed with approximately 25 volunteers from the UO Law School’s Public Interest Public Service program (PIPS) to serve a low-income housing complex operated by St. Vincent de Paul. Scholars and PIPS volunteers painted a community room and laundry facility, removed weeds and laid bark-mulch in playground areas and around buildings. They also began preparations for a raised community garden to be used in the near future by residents of the complex.
Scholars ended the weekend with a tour of the Rogue Brewery in downtown Eugene. Dinner provided one last opportunity for Scholars to swap stories and build relationships. The weekend gathering was filled with fun engaging activities that provided, at least for me, plenty of life-defining moments. I can only hope to be a part of another Regional Gathering soon!