Past Delegate Reflections – Lauren Marks, Georgia Macgregor, Levi Walford-Smith

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Lauren Marks, WA

When my Manager told me they were nominating me for the NSLF I was firstly flattered, they think ‘I’ could be a leader? They’re nuts! The idea of ever becoming a leader had never crossed my mind. I had always thought of leaders as being people in power, politicians, extroverts, wealthy, not someone like me, and definitely not someone who hadn’t even been to university.

The feeling of excitement and pride was soon replaced with a feeling of fear and dread. The idea of stepping out of my comfort zone and opening myself up to 300 strangers made me feel sick to my stomach.

Upon receiving the application form and being asked to state three random facts about myself I already felt like the world’s most boring person. I racked my brain trying to think up something interesting and impressive.

The most exciting facts about Lauren Marks:

Her first job was at aged 10, counting bags of 1000 screws into smaller bags of 10 The first thing she ever purchased with her own money was a Pokemon card She has an obsession with teeth. While other kids played with their Barbie dolls, she played with her dentist kit and made teeth out of playdough. SO deep, right!? I hadn’t even arrived at the Forum and I was already comparing myself to everyone else.

On the first day of the Forum as I walked around the foyer in search of the number 6, I overheard the same conversations amongst the crowd – “What do you study? What university do you go to?” I felt like a complete fraud.

Over the course of the Forum those basic conversations about university quickly vanished and were replaced with soul baring discussions.

It can be daunting, opening yourself up and allowing yourself to feel vulnerable. Vulnerability was something I had fought for as long as I could remember but in that moment we were all in the same boat – away from home, family, friends, routine and security. We were there and we were raw.

As each person shared something about themselves I realised that the snap judgements I had made the first morning we met could not have been further from the truth. Each person had a story, so much more to them than meets the eye. In that same moment, I realised I did too. I wasn’t defined by my lack of a degree, nor should I ever let myself be.

I had wasted so much time worrying about what ‘I’ was going to say and fearing that I would be a disappointment once people got to know me that I was missing out on hearing about other people’s stories and learning from their experiences, their struggles and their journey’s.

NSLF gave me confidence and taught me to open my heart and let people in again. I left wanting to serve others and help people find their way in the same way the Forum helped me find mine.

I will forever treasure this experience and the wonderful people I met.

Levi Walford-Smith, NZ

“ki te wairua, ki te whaiao, ki te ao marama”

My personal journey at NSLF was centred on my own self-worth.

It’s amazing how we can walk through life with heavy weights on our ankles, never realising how they are slowing us down, determining where we can and cannot go; can and cannot do; can and cannot be. It isn’t until someone points to it and shows how much we are limited.

My personal journey at NSLF was centred on my own self-worth.

I went into NSLF as someone who shouldn’t have been there, believing that it was extraordinary luck that I actually made it. I had a huge sense of un-worthiness. It’s something I can look at now and understand, having seen how much it held me back. It was very present, from never driving because I didn’t believe I should be trusted with lives of pedestrians, to not wanting a girlfriend until I can be perfect and give her everything.

It is in this mind-set that I entered the Forum, but in feeling the power of those attending, I lifted my head so I could see from their heights. In simply lifting my head because the space demanded it, I was approached all through the weekend and acknowledged, as a Kiwi (the New Zealander), a Maori (for my haka) and a person (for my questioning). It was being in this space that gave me the chance to step back and think “maybe I’m a bit alright. Maybe I am a bit worth it.”

In Maori we talk about ‘ki te wairua, ki te whaiao, ki te ao marama’, translating to ‘the spirit, the glimmering dawn, the world of light’. I think it is a brilliant metaphor of the potential that is held in a relationship between people. When connected, there is a new dawning of what may be brought into being.

I walked away from NSLF as a better man, free from this false barrier we give ourselves called unworthy. That is the magic of what a safe space and awesome people can do – lift others up, so they can keep climbing, helping people along the way.

That is servant leadership.

That is love.

Georgia Macgregor, NSW

“And with that, the star exploded, spreading its ‘stardust’ throughout space, each individual particle full of hope and potential.”

When asked about my experience of the National Student Leadership Forum 2014, the word that continues to come to mind is ‘hope’. Over the duration of the forum, I had the privilege of listening to many people share their stories, and I found that hope was a key element of each person’s journey. Upon reflection, I believe that I identified with this notion so strongly because I myself, was loosing touch with ‘hope’.

Sometime ago, a friend asked me, ‘If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?’ My response was not quite world peace, or a wish to end world poverty but a desire to shift people’s attitudes. After unpacking this, I found that I wanted to ‘hope’ that people held the potential to put love and service above hate, greed, honour, judgment and selfishness; however, with the prominence of these destructive behaviours, so blatantly present in society, it is not surprising that this hope can fade.

The Forum was a microcosm that inspired hope. It was a perfect world. It fostered a specific attitude; one of openness and acceptance, a desire to love, value and serve others. So in reference to my metaphorical comparison, I use a star not only because it is a symbol of hope but because, if you stretch the imagination, the forum experience was somewhat similar to the life cycle of a star; its birth through the gathering of particles – or in this case, people, its maturation – the development of ones values and ideals and the stars death.

It is the death of the star that I believe to be key aspect of the forum experience. We delegates, ‘the stardust’, are expulsed back into our individual contexts, full of hope and a desire to serve. It is in what we choose to do with this that lives the true value of the forum experience.

Title: Past Delegate Reflections
Author: Lauren Marks, Georgia Macgregor, Levi Walford-Smith
Format: Blog Post
Year Published: 2014
Publisher: National Student Leadership Forum
Access: Online Library of the National Student Leadership Forum

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