Today’s guest blog come from Mindy Bartleson, Program Assistant at the College Diabetes Network. A former College Diabetes Network chapter leader for Dawgs for Diabetes, Mindy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000 at the age of 7 and has been involved in the diabetes community since then. She is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in sociology.
If anyone told me four years ago I would be here right now, I never would have believed them, but here I am in Boston working at the College Diabetes Network as the new Program Assistant. My path began about 15 years ago at the age of 7 when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Fast forward 9 years, as a teenager, I was starting to feel a little alone regarding diabetes, but I learned about this group called Dawgs for Diabetes, D4D. Someone I looked up to since I was 12 started this student club at the University of Georgia, and I felt like something was waiting for me. Fast forward to college, and I immediately got involved with D4D. In January 2013, I started leading D4D, and shortly after CDN found us, we became a chapter of CDN, thank goodness! Our chapter gets so much support from CDN in everything we do as a chapter but also on a personal level.
CDN is more than just a non-profit that helps young adults with their chapters all over the country, but part of what CDN does is host the CDN Student Retreat in a beautiful place in Maine each year.
I just started working at CDN and less than a week later, we were on our way to Maine. I attended last year as a student, which changed the direction of my chapter as well as my year. This year we jam-packed so much into four short inspiring days. In the sessions, we talked about starting a chapter, being leaders, leadership transitions, event planning, and so much more. We had a surprise session involving the Lilly Diabetes Journey Awards, which inspired me to add up the years of retreat attendees thriving with diabetes, including students, staff, volunteers, and guests. The grand total? 416 years of thriving with T1D! Another highlight for me was the session about “Bringing the Retreat Home.” We asked everyone to share their highs and lows of the retreat, and I had no idea how emotional the room would get.
Overall the impact of the retreat was broad and, in my opinion, life-changing. I was awed at how the 25 students from all around the country instantly bonded and showed each other their support. I saw students identify as a part of the national network of CDN and truly identify as leaders, while also realizing how important their stories and work are. Students are thrilled to bring their ideas and everything they learned back to their own chapters, and CDN cannot wait to see what they accomplish. I didn’t think it was possible, but the retreat provided me more momentum, inspiration, passion, and motivation for my new job. There’s so much I could say about the retreat and CDN, but you can read more about the retreat from student perspectives and more about CDN on our website.