United 7

Written By | Lexi Byler


I’ve been to a handful of leadership trainings because I believe it’s important to invest in myself and to always continue growing. Some have been good, others have been great. This one was extraordinary. Before I go into detail about the experience I had at the Heart of the Leader training, I want be clear about one thing: it is impossible to accurately describe how impactful this was to the people who were there. With that said, here goes my best shot at explaining what it meant to me.

A person who went through this training in the past told me it was going to change my life. Naturally, I was skeptical. The idea my life could be changed in just two days seemed unfathomable. Long story, short: I was wrong. Don’t rush to conclusions though, I’m still me, I’m just becoming a better version of me. I’m leveling up!

The people who participated in the training alongside me were five of our campus organizing interns, and eight of our board members, dubbed the “United 7.” We decided on the name because we had people from all seven state universities at the training. I knew who each of these people were prior from seeing them at Delegates Conferences and was looking forward to getting to know each of them better. At the beginning I knew each of them as their position and by the end I knew them all as people.

Ryan Penneau is the man who led our training. Three words to describe Ryan are: energetic, motivated, and passionate. Now take what you just imagined Ryan as and multiply it by ten—that’s how he really is. He’s the embodiment of a person when they unleash their fullest potential.

In what ways could you be a better person? What’s stopping you from becoming the best version of yourself? Any excuse you can conjure up isn’t good enough. There’s no viable excuse for holding yourself back. You’re choosing to not be your best self. You will never be as young as you were yesterday. The time you have to reach your fullest potential is becoming less and less every day, so start right now.

It’s easy to roll your eyes at the previous paragraph and wave it off as cheesy or a cliché, but I challenge you to take it seriously. There’s nothing cliché about chasing your dreams or challenging yourself to be a better person. What is cliché is pretending you don’t care because at the end of the day, the only person you can 100 percent rely on having your back, is yourself. The only person holding you back is yourself too.

Through Ryan’s exercises and activities, this is what we came to believe. We’ve all heard the “be your best self” speech before, but now we truly believe it. We’re choosing to believe it. Ryan was able to empower us to empower each other to break down our walls and create a space for vulnerability and connection. This training wouldn’t have worked without.

I’m excited to move forward with this team knowing we all have each others back. I trust each and every one of them. This year, Students United is unlocking its full potential. Stay tuned, trust the process, and you’ll see.

Lexi Byler