Ryan Blew has known what he wanted to be when he grew up since the third grade.
The USF junior says the feeling has stuck with him into the present day. He was inspired by his third-grade teacher, silver-medalist Olympic swimmer Kristy Kowal, but she didn’t inspire him to become an Olympian.
She inspired Blew to become a teacher.
Now an Elementary Education major in the College of Education, Blew is not only an aspiring educator, but he is also someone his coworkers and peers describe as a standout leader in the numerous roles he plays outside of his classes.
An out-of-state student from Reading, PA, Blew is active on campus as President of Bulls For Kids, an organization in USF’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement that hosts USF’s Dance Marathon, a movement of student-run philanthropies benefiting the children at Shriners Hospitals For Children— Tampa.
Bulls For Kids frequently hosts DanceMarathon fundraisers, both at USF and at local schools through partnerships, and Blew served as a coordinator for the organization, collaborating with community schools to help them organize their own Dance Marathons.
After collaborating with these schools, Blew created a leadership development program that helps students to go beyond their checklists and to pause, reflect and be able to articulate the skills they are using to learn and grow as leaders.
“It’s really putting meaning to the work that they’ve done,” said Justin Fitzgerald, Assistant Director for Leadership & Civic Engagement.
Blew continues his work with Bulls For Kids because of the children that the group’s efforts support. At last year’s Bulls For Kids USF Dance Marathon, amidst the competitions between student organizations, students dancing, other students frantically studying for midterms and all the other commotion at the Olympics themed fundraiser, a child came up to speak.
The child was, Zavi, from Shriners Hospitals for Children. He was a young boy of about 8 years old whose right leg was amputated and replaced with a prosthetic. Blew said looking at the boy, one of many children who would show up each hour to come share their stories, reminded him why he volunteers his time for the organization.
“When I saw him, I saw a kid who could be in my class at some point,” he said. “... I think knowing that one day I could have him in my classroom and would have to accommodate for him and I wouldn’t want him to be excluded from anything, I think that’s what really pushes me to want to keep helping the kids.”
Blew rose through the ranks of Bulls For Kids, mastering the different skill sets required at each level along the way. Fitzgerald said he’s truly seen Blew grow as a leader because of it.
“What that says to us, as staff, is that he is really diving into one set of skills in one level and then he is mastering those as much as he can and then growing the next year into a whole new set of skills,” Fitzgerald said. “... To see him in the highest now position in Bulls for Kids, it’s pretty inspiring because he has really gone through all the other tiers to figure out what it is about himself that he needs to learn, but also what about others and how to lead others.”
Blew said he ties his passion for education into everything he does, from his coursework, to his work with Bulls For Kids, to his student employment in Student Academic Services, an office in the College of Education that provides academic advising and support to undergraduate and Master of Arts in Teaching students. He said that’s just the kind of personality he has — someone who is always looking to help out in the various organizations he is involved in, and who dives full force into his work.
“I’m one of those type of people that I push to try to do more, so I think working (at Student Academic Services), I got a lot more out of what a lot of other students might get out of it, because I’m always trying to help with tasks and do anything I can to help make things successful,” he said.
Fitzgerald said Blew’s passion to do more has helped him stand out on a board of people all dedicated to Bulls For Kids.
“He’s very focused, very passionate, very dedicated,” he said. “He’s overseeing a board that is essentially, in many ways, like their own non-profit, and so that means having vision and dedication and leadership to others, but it also means … operating from your heart.”
Lindsey Williams, Assistant Director for Recruitment and Retention and Blew’s supervisor in Student Academic Services, said it’s the perfect kind of personality for the kind of work he does in the College of Education and for what he will be doing as an educator.
“I think if he’s any indication of the future educators we’ll have working with youth in this country, that we are well positioned to bring about a lot of positive change,” she said. “He looks at something that’s good and he want to make it better and he’s not afraid to do it.”
Outside of his role at the front desk, Blew leads training sessions for Junior Achievement, an organization that works to inspire young people to succeed in a global economy. Through this work, he coordinates about 75 USF student volunteers to go teach at Miles Elementary School in Tampa. Williams said the command Blew garners while working alongside his peers is a true testament to his character.
“If you go into a classroom with kindergarteners and you’re an intern, a lot of times it’s not very difficult for them to see you as an authority figure because you’re like twice their height, but I think the fact that he can get the respect from his peers speaks to him,” Williams said. “He’s confident, but he’s competent too.”
For Blew, leadership and service isn’t about gaining a good reputation. It’s about the impact of the work that he does.
“It’s more important to me that I know that I’m helping others,” he said.