While attending the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities (APCA) National Advisors Institute in Las Vegas this past January (2-4, 2011), I caught up with one of my long-time friends, Justin Core. Justin is the Director of Student Programs and Residence Life at Treasure Valley Community College (TVCC) in Ontario, OR. Ontario is just over the border from Idaho, along the Snake River, about an hour west of Boise. He is also a fellow past Circle K International President and we have had some fun and interesting times over the years!
Justin is a great guy who is very devoted to his students. He is a bit of a renaissance man as well, producing projects in Hollywood and hob knobbing with the elite of the entertainment industry. I have been blessed to come to his school twice before to work with his students. It was a complete surprise to see him at the conference and we quickly caught up.
As we were waiting for a session to start, he turned and asked, “What are you doing in two weeks?” I had nothing planned.
“We do this thing every year called ‘Las Vegas Nites’ and you would be great to do marriage ceremonies as ‘Elvis’. If I got you a plane ticket, could you come out?”
“Wait, would you be able to stay until the weekend and do a leadership program with our student leadership team?”
Within minutes, I had typed up the contract on my laptop and printed it off in the business center of the Mirage Hotel. I was going to be Elvis! I bought my plane ticket moments later and the deal was sealed.
My wife researched places to get Elvis costumes. Nothing on the internet could get to me quick enough, so we would have to try local costume shops. We went all over Atlanta, saw some great sequined jump suits, but none of them were made for someone as tall as me. We did find, however, a great pompadour wig that went with a pair of sunglasses we had gotten years earlier when we renewed our vows at an Elvis wedding chapel during a different Las Vegas trip.
Time was running short. I had already planned the leadership retreat with the SGA president, sent the handouts, and prepared the Power Point. But, what would I wear as Elvis? We finally hit on the idea of a white sweat suit that my wife adorned with rhinestones, including spelling out “Elvis” across the front. I was set!
I flew to Boise and made the short drive to Ontario. I met my friend in the student center while the setup was taking place for the show portion of Las Vegas Nites. Students were already in another room with casino games, playing for fun money and prizes while “The Hangover” played on TV screens around the room. Students were dressed as dealers, hostesses, and there were even a few shady types like you might have seen in an “Oceans 11” movie. After students cashed in their winnings for MP3 players, cameras, movie tickets, and other prizes it was time for the entertainment portion of the program.
This included rapper DTox, hypnotist Jerry Harris, DJ TVO, and me as Elvis in a corner decorated as a little wedding chapel. My ceremony script included vows such as pledging to “don’t be cruel,” “always be his/her lovin’ teddy bear,” and to never “return to sender.” I “married” tons of couples, small groups, and even one large horde. It was fun and the students seemed to enjoy it.
Then it was off to a late night breakfast! We laughed and talked about the night, other cool programs they have done, and what goals the students have for their lives. It really showed me the close connection that someone in Justin’s position can have with students and the impact a student life professional can have on the lives of those with whom they work. I also saw an incredible, professional and well done program that brought community college students out to campus on a Thursday night and that had them engaged and participating. The creativity of their leadership gave a something-for-everyone feel. Playing Elvis is clearly one of the highlights of my career.
So was the leadership retreat on Saturday. We started early and worked until lunch. We made Buddy Charts so they could get to know one another, did the Culture Walk to illustrate differences and similarities , and I led sessions on communication and conflict resolution. I apparently had done such a convincing job as Elvis that one of the students who was an organizer of Las Vegas Nites didn’t even realize I was the same person until nearly the end of the retreat! At the end of the day, the students honored me with these comments:
“I thought this was probably the best leadership training I have had the opportunity of attending. It has given me new tools I can use in leadership, at not just this community college, but also other colleges, as well.” – Kasey McFetridge, President, Association of Student Government
“Mr. Kelly, you are not only a wonderful person to have a conversation with, but are also a very talented speaker and educator. Thank you so much for your time & willingness to share & inspire myself along with the leadership here at TVCC!” – Brenda Cleaver, Social Media Coordinator
“I really, really enjoyed this retreat. I am brand new to the team and position and did not know my team well, but after this retreat I now know them more than I thought I ever would. The activities were very fun, and so were the lectures. All-in-all, I had a great time! I hope to see you again next year!” – Seri Kimball, Public Information Officer
“I love how you incorporate activities with your ‘lectures.’ You make everything fun/funny. The listening exercises were so fun and true. You helped me and everyone realize how to step back and evaluate yourself and set goals for myself. You’re Awesome!” – Kylee Holden, Entertainment Coordinator
“I really enjoyed all the interactive activities. I learned some things about our group along with myself that I may not have really paid any attention to before today. Along with that, I also enjoyed the teaching you did. My favorite was probably all the stuff about goals and goal setting! I would love to thank you for working the event Thursday, you were a huge hit! Along with all you’ve taught us!” – Kendra Babcock, Special Events Coordinator
Leadership, fun, programming, and activities can go hand-in-hand. What are you doing to bring these various elements together on your campus? Please share your ideas below!