A "Students To Leadership" Grant Recipient Shares What the Program Meant to Her
(and what it's prompted her to do next)
"First and foremost, I learned that a leader is not always a strong, valiant person who knows what they are doing. It is often the person who is unsure, learning to find their way, and willing to make a difference. Leaders are not born; they are developed through experiences and support from others.
"At the OAA Leadership Conference, not only was I exposed to some of the most knowledgeable and passionate leaders in the industry, but I met with some of the most inspiring future leaders. We had amazing breakout sessions hosted by great speakers. We had informative sessions, where we learned about new technology and current challenges in opticianry. Blair and Dibby encouraged students to bond and interact with one another. I do not think that all of us in the room expected to make the connections that we did in only three days. We walked in as strangers but left as friends and colleagues. Nothing could have prepared us for the friendships and bonds that were created. Despite all the different goals represented, we all held one thing in common from the start: striving with determination to make a difference in the field of opticianry.
"One of the best activities we did during a breakout session, one which offered me an important perspective as a leader, was an activity called “Who Are You? What Are Your Strengths?” We had to list five leadership qualities we felt we currently had, along with five qualities we wish we had. As I looked over my list, one that captured my attention was to be more vocal. Over the course of the conference, I made it a goal to be more vocal once I returned to Connecticut, to seek to make improvements or bring change wherever I could. As it turned out, I didn't have to wait until I got home. An opportunity arose when I was speaking with a former OAA student leader. He told me that his school had an optical club. I decided that I would be vocal and begin the process of starting an optical club at my own school as well, with the help of my professor and classmates. As of right now, the realization is clear that the smallest actions can have the biggest impact.
"As I returned to Middlesex Community College, even with so many words and pictures from the conference, I realized nothing could describe the energy and enthusiasm of the weekend that I had experienced. My hope is that, by my actions in improving and advancing the profession of opticianry, I will be able to express how much this conference changed my outlook on the profession. My goal is to spread awareness of what we can do as opticians and to encourage others to join the OAA as well as their state organization. As we continue our work in the field of opticianry, we should not think solely of where we want to be in the industry, but also what can we do for the industry."
~ Minerva Maldonado, Students To Leadership Grant Recipient 2019, CT