It’s hard to imagine how significantly my life would change because of a red, clip-in hair bow.
It all started in June 2019. I was 18 years old, driving up from New Jersey in my mom’s minivan, trying to mentally prepare for my first overnight stay at college. I was never away from home much growing up, and Sacred Heart’s Orientation would be the first taste of my new life in the fall.
As a kid, I was selectively outgoing; being in new places always made me nervous. I knew this two-day, one-night extravaganza would set me up mentally for the next four years.
First impressions are huge. I couldn’t afford a rough experience.
After two hours of driving, my parents pulled into 5151 Park Ave. We were immediately greeted by a lively, smiling group of students, cheering and jumping around to get any reaction from the families.
I remember my dad waving at them and looking back at me, saying, “Hey, maybe that’ll be you one day!”
“Yeah, no,” I said, trying to disappear from my window seat.
Way to foreshadow there, Dad.
When I had settled in, waiting for the program to start, I spotted the Orientation Leaders, or OLs, filing into the back of the room. Despite never owning or wearing one, I remember being intrigued by the little red bows the girls wore with the team’s red polo outfits.
The following 24 hours held the best experience I could have asked for. I was eager to tell my parents about it on the way home, raving about my leader, new friends, and how excited I now was for school.
I remember joking with them, asking, “Hey, do you think I could pull off a red bow?”
Something about that bow stuck with me all the way up until my sophomore year when applications for OL came out. I was quick to apply but was nervous about where I stood against the other applicants.
I was still trying to find my place at SHU and needed a prominent leadership role; would my application be enough?
Finally, the moment came: I was offered a position on the 2021 Orientation Leader team.
From that moment, something in me changed. My confidence grew, and the way I saw myself altered.
My friends noticed it, too. The program gave me a purpose at Sacred Heart.
Now, I was a friendly face for students like me who were anxious about entering a new phase of their lives, even if they weren’t showing it. I was somebody’s person they turned to when they had a question or needed advice. My voice felt heard, and I could make someone feel seen.
For the first time, I felt like I was making a difference on campus versus merely being a part of it.
The rest of my involvement at SHU blossomed because of OL. Since the summer of 2021, I have tried different opportunities because I believe in myself more. If this one thing worked out, what else was in store for me?
Being an orientation leader may have only been three weeks of my summer. Nonetheless, the impact it has had on me will last forever.
To this day, my little red bow sits proudly on my shelf. It reminds me that it’s okay to go after what you want because the things meant for you (even if you have never worn a bow) will never pass you by.
And for that, I am endlessly grateful.