Familiar Names and Unfamiliar Faces

by Kristina Dehlinkristina blog photo

I’ve never had a very sharp memory. I constantly lose my keys and forget what I had for dinner the night before. I usually don’t do so well with memorization tests, but I’ve found that if I see something enough times, I can’t forget it. That’s the case with the names of the 24 participants in the MCLP Class of 2016.

As an MCLP summer intern, I’ve gone over the list of their names countless times. I’ve triple checked their information in our database, crossing off each name on various lists. I cut out all of their nametags and slid their printed names into the spines of each of their binders. I don’t think I’ve ever counted to the number 24 so many times in my life. Eventually my memorization of their names allowed me to effortlessly pick out any tiny misspelling. I felt confident in my knowledge of the names I’d come to know, but I didn’t really know much else about them.

On the evening of the Orientation Reception in late July, participants walked through the giant glass doors of Heartland Community College’s Astroth Community Education Center in a mixture of nervousness and excitement. Each time a participant walked up to the table to pick up their nametag, I got to briefly match a new face to one of the many names I had been working with.

At the reception, participants mingled with MCLP alumni, committee members, board members, and volunteers over iced tea and appetizers. We interns and office staff ran around them setting up rooms, folding brochures, handing out information sheets, and generally making sure everything behind the scenes went smoothly. Still, amid all the busyness, we had some time to look around and take everything in. There was handshaking, smiling, laughing, and new introductions being made among the diverse group of leaders that had gathered together in the room. It was so rewarding to see the result of all the hard work we had done in the office (along with the hard work of MCLP’s many other volunteers) in person. All the scheduling, proofreading, emailing, and printing had come down to this, and I was happy to have had even a small part in helping the start of the program be a success.

One of my tasks at the event was to check off the participants’ names as they got their individual photos taken. It was practically the same thing I’d been doing for weeks: read the name, check it off, repeat. However, this time, the person fitting the name stood right in front of me. I think you can learn a lot about someone by the way they act when their photo is being taken. I saw which participants had a goofy sense of humor as they laughed and made funny faces. Others were a bit shyer, smiling politely before thanking the photographer. I saw participants’ friends and family supporters stand and watch. Each participant stood a little differently, but I saw all 24 of them smile as they began their first day of this rewarding, ninth-month program. The participants were more than just names to me now. They were hopeful leaders, learners, hard-workers, and chance-takers.

The photographer also happens to be an MCLP alumnus. He told me that the program is definitely intense and challenging, but that those who go through it grow and learn a lot. Of course, I only learned as much about the participants as one could in such a short period of time, but I wish them the best and know that they will learn a vast amount about themselves throughout the course of this program.