Student Leadership and Involvement hosted the 2006 Student Leadership Experience at Sykes Student Union on Friday, Feb. 24. The event began at 4:30 p.m. with a presentation by keynote speaker Chad Crittenden from “Survivor: Vanuatu” and was followed by informative leadership sessions. The event was sponsored by the WCU Alumni Association, Student Government Association and State Farm Insurance. The conference served as a great opportunity for students to develop leadership skills. Chad Crittenden spoke to students about overcoming obstacles with optimism and confidence. His motivation and ability to step up as a leader even in the worst of circumstances was an inspiration to all.
Chad Crittenden was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma in his foot a year and a half before appearing on Survivor. To remove the cancer, his leg was amputated below the knee. Synovial sarcoma is a rare and dangerous form of cancer that forms in muscle, fat, fibrous tissue or blood vessels. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is common for synovial cancer to recur, usually within the first two years after treatment. Crittenden was forced to decide between a wide incision surgery to remove part of his foot which would leave him with a permanent limp and future surgeries or amputation.
One of Crittenden’s major concerns about amputation was an ability to play soccer. He got in contact with a young man who lost his foot and continued to start on a Division II soccer team. Crittenden cites him as his inspiration and he is now an inspiration to millions of others because of his exposure on “Survivor.”
He competed in a triathlon just nine months after his surgery and discovered he could still participate in the physical activities he did before his cancer. He wanted to go on “Survivor” to prove to America what people with disabilities can do. On the show, he waited to show his cast mates his prosthetic foot until after they had seen his abilities. He wanted to see if they treated him differently than they had before they knew he was disabled. “I wanted to see if their preconceived notions were dispelled, what they thought people with disabilities were capable of doing,” he said.
His optimism helped him to get through his cancer and amputation as well his experience in Vanuatu. He said of his time on “Survivor,” “It was an amazing experience and something I will never forget. It was a lot of fun but we suffered big time.” He told the audience that all they are given when they get there is a machete and a pot and they had to make their own shelter. They went a week without fire because the women’s tribe won the first three missions. This meant that they were not able to drink clean water for the first week.
He told the audience of an acronym that he came up with that he believes helped him get through his ordeal. SCORE stands for steps (break down your goal into steps), circumstances (make your own circumstances instead of blaming the ones that you have), optimism, risk and experience.
Crittenden’s inspiring speech was followed by information sessions to help enhance student’s leadership skills. Students were given the option of choosing from seven different sessions each block. There were three 45 minute blocks. Sessions covered such topics as time management, life skills, the safety of Facebook, program planning, group collaboration, delegation, motivation and teambuilding. All of the sessions included important information for any student collaborating with others.