Pioneers showcase leadership with “Plarn” at California conference

Pioneers showcase leadership with “Plarn” at California conference
Pictured left to right are Dylan Klein, Mikayla Ney, Caroline Norman and Ashley Blevins.
Mikayla Ney
Mikayla Ney

Four University of Wisconsin-Platteville students recently presented “Plarn,” or “Plastic Yarn,” at the National Society of Leadership and Success’ annual conference at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California.

The group consisted of students from the UW-Platteville chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success. These included president and senior chemistry major Mikayla Ney, success networking team coordinator and junior business administration major Caroline Norman, community service chair and senior agriculture education major Ashley Blevins, and inducted member and electrical engineering major Dylan Klein.

Plarn is created by collecting, folding, cutting and stringing together plastic shopping bags. When finished, the strands of plastic are donated to groups that will crochet them into mats. These mats are then distributed to homeless individuals in the Milwaukee area. Each mat extends from about 4 feet to 6 feet and requires between 500-700 plastic shopping bags to complete.

The project was introduced to the chapter last October by their vice president and has expanded in scope since then.

“The goal of this project is to help out the groups we donate to as much as we possibly can,” said Ney. “One group, Mercy Mats West Allis, has a goal of creating 150 mats a year. They have already passed their goal and have collected 114,800 bags to create 164 mats. We’ve had a great response from campus when it comes to collecting bags, and this year we partnered with our Rotaract Club and another group to hold monthly ‘Plarn Nights.’ It not only helps us work through our stockpile of bags but allows us to network with other organizations and help bring awareness to the project.”

The presenting group and UW-Platteville chapter will receive acknowledgement by the national organization for their work on the “Plarn” project.

“It’s really inspiring to know that a large organization like the NSLS takes notice of projects created by the chapters,” said Klein. “They also gave us a platform to show off the project and possibly expand the project to other universities around the nation.”

While at the conference, the group participated in networking with other chapters. Keynote speakers were also in attendance and gave advice to all the student members. In breakout sessions, the team developed ways to manage goals, failure and success.

“It was really exciting representing UW-Platteville at the conference,” said Norman. “It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to go to the conference and get to bring back all the empowering, inspiring, encouraging and motivating advice that was offered to us. It was also super fun showing off our ‘Wisconsin accents.’”

“I took part in different sessions about goals and dreams and overcoming fears and failures,” said Blevins. “I learned that failure isn’t a setback and that it just gives you more information, and to find a person you can have as a mentor.”

The UW-Platteville chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success aims to expand their “Plarn” project on and off campus. By introducing their project at this conference, the chapter hopes that the greater notoriety of the project will allow it to take off nationwide.

The National Society of Leadership and Success is the nation’s largest leadership honor society and provides a step-by-step program for members to build their leadership skills through participation in events such as inspiring speaker broadcasts and goal setting improvement. UW-Platteville’s chapter has 1,200 students who are invited in the fall semester if they are sophomore standing and meet the GPA requirement or in the spring semester if they are leadership and management students.