Class Two Reunites In-person in New Orleans
“We are a powerful force. I have said that throughout this journey, starting in Battle Creek to here in New Orleans three years later.”
~ Reena Evers-Everette, Class Two fellow with the Mississippi cohort
In October 2022, WKKF Community Leadership Network Class Two fellows gathered in person for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The fellows had adjusted to virtual gatherings, including their graduation and closing ceremony in August 2021.
Reuniting in New Orleans, fellows had the opportunity to renew their connections with each other, reflect on their fellowship journey and share in new successes. The gathering was filled with excitement, hugs and lively conversations. This energy continued throughout the gathering as the group had another chance to learn, grow and connect together.
“The more we connect, the more we have power,” said Patrick Young, Class Two fellow with the New Orleans cohort.
The schedule included large group discussions, breakout sessions and a dinner with W.K. Kellogg Foundation board members and staff.
Class Two fellows also visited Equest Farm to work with TeachingHorse, a leadership development company specializing in experiential learning with horses. Fellows got to put into practice TeachingHorse’s “Diamond Model of Shared Leadership” – using enhanced skill in paying attention, setting direction, focusing energy and being congruent. They worked individually and in small groups to connect with and lead horses. Following the TeachingHorse activity, fellows remarked on the transformational experience, leaving the farm with new confidence and deeper understandings of compassion and trust.
Among the highlights of the gathering was fellows sharing how the WKKF Community Leadership Network had prepared them for their next steps on their leadership journeys. A number of fellows talked about transitioning to new roles, where they were applying the skills and lessons they had learned in the fellowship. Several had written and published books. Others told stories of navigating hardship and how the network helped buoy them through it.
“A learning from one of my faculty advisors who helped me grow in my own journey is that community is not something that you can compel, but it’s a gift to be received,” said Awale Osman, Class Two fellow with the national cohort.
In both celebrations and challenges, the profound impact of the network was evident. From peer-to-peer relations to the mentorship provided by faculty advisors and other staff, fellows reflected on the love, care and community felt by one another and on the connections made to collectively strengthen equitable change for children and families.