Tell us about yourself. Your major, where you are from, family, etc. My name is Will Heideman, and I am a senior Administrative Management major with a minor in Marketing. I am from St. Louis, Missouri where I grew up! My mother and father both attended Missouri State at some point in their college career, and my younger brother just started college back home. I also have a Dalmatian puppy I recently adopted named Luna!
What activities are you involved with on campus? How has being involved on campus helped you to be successful at Missouri State? One of the best aspects of Missouri State is their commitment to encouraging students to get involved on campus, and I am very thankful for all of the opportunities I have had to do so since beginning my college career. Throughout my time here I have participated in the Commerce Bank Emerging Leaders Program, facilitated the URSA Experience, joined and lead a social fraternity, weighed in on the Student Government Association, and gained employment on campus as a Building Manager of the Plaster Student Union. In the spring, I will also have the opportunity to help new students find a home on campus as part of the new Bear POWER Program! Getting involved on campus has given me more opportunities than I could have ever asked for, and allowed me to grow as a leader, student, and person while making connections to students all across campus that I would have probably never met otherwise. Getting involved on campus made me feel more at home and connected to Missouri State, while at the same time strengthening my desire to get the most out of my college experience.
Tells us about the Journey of Hope. What is the Journey of Hope? How did you get involved? The Journey of Hope is an event put on every summer by my fraternity’s philanthropy, The Ability Experience. The goal of The Ability Experience is to “create experiences that promote the abilities of all people and to eliminate the labels that unfairly define us, especially for those living with disabilities.” The Journey of Hope is a cross-country cycling event that raises money and awareness for people with disabilities, and is the largest philanthropy event in the country. Three teams comprised of members of my fraternity start on the West Coast in either Seattle, San Francisco, or Long Beach, California, and cycle their way across the country to the capital building in Washington, D.C. Each team makes stops in various cities along the way, meeting with organizations that assist people with disabilities and spending time with their clients by participating in events like dance parties, sport nights, or a day at the zoo! Over the course of 60 days, the Journey of Hope touches the lives of thousands of people with disabilities across the country and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Ability Experience, which is given back in grants to the organizations we met along the way.
The Journey of Hope was something I learned about when I was joining my fraternity, and something I knew that I wanted to do right away. My younger brother is on the Autism Spectrum, so helping people with disabilities has always been a huge passion of mine. Participating in such an amazing opportunity as the Journey of Hope let me devote a whole summer to doing just that, all while getting to explore our beautiful country. I applied to be a crew member on the trip and after a whole semester of training and fundraising, I found myself on a plane heading for Seattle at the end of May! The Journey of Hope gave me the most rewarding summer of my life, and is an experience I will never forget.
What lessons did you learn from participating in the Journey of Hope? There was so much to be learned during the Journey of Hope that I am extremely grateful for. I got a great amount of future job experience as I got to help run the Ability Experience’s social media accounts for the summer, and I learned a lot about logistics and how to manage the safety of others as a member of the crew on my team. However, the best lessons I learned over the course of the summer came from the people that we served. Our clients come from all sorts of backgrounds and have many challenges they must face every day, many of which are things that we take for granted like being able to speak, drive, or even walk down the hallway by our own power. However, they never let any of this stop them. These people approach every day with a sense of joy and determination, and refuse to let anything slow them down or stand in their way. The mentality fostered by these amazing people is what I strive to live by every day.
Why do you think students should step out of their comfort zone and become involved in their community? Getting involved in our community is one of the three pillars that make up Missouri State’s Public Affairs Mission, and that is because of how important it is to improve the lives of the people around you. Losing yourself in service to others is a remedy that I think can fix almost anything, and I have gained so much through the volunteering opportunities I have been given (in both tangible skills and life lessons).
One thing that Journey of Hope gave me was the chance to see just how much your time can make a difference on someone’s life. At one of our stops, there was a client that really stood out to me. She told the team that the day Journey of Hope came through was her favorite day of the entire year, even more so than her own birthday! Even though we only spend a few hours with her each year, that was all it took to have a huge impact on her life. A few moments of our time doing something outside of our comfort zone is all it takes to make a profound difference on the lives of those around us!
What is your favorite Missouri State tradition? Why? My favorite Missouri State tradition has to be Welcome Weekend! I remember the excitement I felt when I first arrived on campus and took part in awesome activities like Bear Bash with thousands of other new students, and I love getting to be a part of this same tradition several years later and giving new students the same experience I had.
What piece of advice to you have to share with our family members and their student(s)? The best advice I have for Missouri State family members and their students is to not be afraid to jump right in and get involved on campus! Whether it’s joining a large organization like Student Government Association or finding a home with the Art Club, there are so many ways to get involved and find your place on campus however you want to. Getting involved has given me so many life-changing opportunities and let me develop skills and make connections that I will have for the rest of my life, and has really let me feel at home on a big campus like Missouri State.