Alana Linde completes LEAD capstone in Belize

Alana Linde’s time at Drake has taken her many places she never anticipated.

When Alana registered for LEAD 001: Principles of Leadership her sophomore year, she said she never expected to be flying over the Caribbean Sea en route to Punta Gorda, Belize to contribute six weeks of her time to an international non-governmental organization.

This summer, Alana completed the first ever international leadership capstone for the Leadership Education and Development concentration at Drake University. Alana worked with Plenty Belize, a non-governmental organization committed to the betterment of Belize’s schools.

“I worked with an organization called Plenty Belize and they worked primarily with the Punta Gorda community and partner with schools,” Alana said. “They work on sustainability and building school gardens for all of the schools in the southern Toledo area.”

Plenty Belize also helps provide local farmers with solar powered energy and seeds and resources to start a garden at home.

When we sat and reminisced of our capstone work, Alana said she considered the international version of the capstone a life-changing course.

“If you really want to see and understand the needs of people, you kind of have to go outside you comfort zone and what your norms are to really push yourself to learn how to assess others,” Alana said. “What became a big part of my experience was learning how to ask the right questions to bring out how I could make my best contribution while I was there.”

In her time in PG, Alana saw herself being forced to get to know several groups of people in her short time there, a task that allowed her to explore many different community needs.

“The hardest and best part was really trying to do things that made a lasting impact, instead of just things to check off a list,” she said. “Something that would stick with people throughout their time there … I really tried to do things that would help them in a long run.”

For the first two weeks of her time in Belize, Alana worked with a Plenty Belize at their kid’s camp. The camp centered on nutrition and was made up of children from the Punta Gorda community. After the camp ended, Alana spent much of her time partnering with the Ministry of Education working on developing comprehensive lesson plans to implement in school that integrated nutrition based education into the primary school curriculum.

In fact, this summer wasn’t the first time Alana had travelled to Belize through Drake. While not through the LEAD concentration, Alana said her first trip was one of the reasons she wanted to return for the capstone last summer.

“When I first found out about the international capstone experience, I was drawn to it because I had just previously gotten back from a trip to Belize for J-Term,” Alana said. “I went to Belize for J-Term and spent 10 days on the island of San Pedro for service learning.

“Ten days just wasn’t enough,” Alana said.

Alana said the capstone got her thinking outside of Drake on how she can make an impact in a bigger community.

“I wanted to figure out how I could apply what I learned inside the class to the real world outside of Drake,” she said.

She thought back to why she declared the LEAD concentration to begin her path to PG.

“I believe I declared right after I took LEAD 001,” she said. “I really liked the class, the atmosphere, the open table discussion, the multi-disciplinary students, from all different majors. It just kind of progressed from there.”

Alana said the concentration has gone further than defining leaders.

“There’s a lot more to leadership than having a position in front of your name. The leadership capstone goes beyond what you’re doing on campus and really gets you to think about becoming a leader in your field,” Alana said.

Alana has been lucky enough to take on some exciting projects throughout her time in the LEAD concentration. In “LEAD 100: Influence and Change,” Alana and her classmates worked closely with Dress for Success on planning the main fundraising event for the organization, Passion for Fashion.

“For Dress for Success, we focused on a few different things. Our group worked on student ticket sales to see if that was a target market for Dress for Success,” Alana said.

The LEAD 100 helped with logistics and planning like gathering student volunteers for the event, planning the refreshments and assisting with the oversight of the event.

Dress for success serves Des Moines women who are going back into the job market and prepares them for success.

Asked whom she thought influenced her LEAD story most, Alana struggled to pinpoint a single person.

“I can think of so many. But down in Belize, I think of Ms. Palma,” Alana said. “She was an incredible women who worked for the ministry of education and she also partner with Plenty Belize. She always had a way to put her touch on things.

“She would drop anything she was doing just to help another,” Alana said.

Alana said she would recommend LEAD to anyone, especially the lead capstone. She said she has one thing to tell people on the fence about travelling to Belize.

“Go,” Alana said. “Don’t think twice.”

Asked why she was so adamant, Alana had some convincing reasoning.

“Fresh. Mangos. And pineapple. You’ll never have fruit more fresh,” she laughed. “If you want to push yourself, I would say go. If you want a new experience, go. If you want to experience a tropical climate, definitely go.”

Beyond the capstone, Alana, a secondary education major, said the concentration, as a whole is beneficial for anyone curious about leadership regardless of field of study.

She said it doesn’t matter what major you are, since leadership is a widely sought after trait in the professional job market. Alana believes she sees leadership applicable to all Drake students.

“I want to teach business classes and a huge component of business is leadership,” Alana said. “Whether that’s from a management perspective, or being on a team are working collaborative, I find that the skills and dynamics we talk about in lead, the models are also models that transfer over to education.

“I would recommend LEAD to people just so they can gain a greater experience of how important people are in everything leaders do,” Alana. “That goes for every major.”

Asked to describe her experience and the leadership capstone in three words, Alana aptly describe LEAD.

“Eye-opening, unforgettable and challenging,” she said.