A Shoulder to Lean On

In true Discovery Center Style, I start with an ice breaker.

What’s one word that comes to mind when you think of the past year?

As I reflect on this year, the word that stands out is – support.

As our fellowship year comes to an end and I finally pause and allow myself to reflect, I can’t help but be incredibly grateful, for the opportunity that we have been given. Thanks to the benevolence of the Paul Newman and his legacy, we have been given the chance to experience what it is like to be a part of a support system whose synergy promotes the professional, personal and emotional wellbeing of every individual.

It was no small task for all of us to pick up everything we had, less than a couple of months after graduation, and move once again. For some of us even farther away from home than before, and for all of us, to places just as foreign as campuses that we’d become so familiar with. But it was made a much less formidable experience by the community and support that we have built, beginning on the first day we journeyed to Westport, CT.

As a cohort, we’ve essentially become each other’s shoulders, leaning on one another for support whether that be in the form of verbal encouragements, providing a space safe to talk and laugh, attending events together, or helping one another with the ominous post-fellowship job hunt, in some way or another, we have been there for each other.

I have a distinct memory of a the last day of our January retreat, a day that felt ominous to many of us, of being surrounded in a room of my fellow peers, the feeling of dread dissipating as I listened to these awe-inspiring folk discuss their hopes and dreams for the future. In that moment, I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t trade this for the world.” There’s nowhere I would rather have been, especially at such an emotional moment in time than to be surrounded by an extended family of people who care about the collective future of the world, so much so that, they’ve dedicated their life to making a positive impact upon it,  no matter where they may land. I look to a bright future of individuals fighting for food justice, for healthy communities, politicians fighting for justice in our communities, and service care providers who prioritize the individual over the bottom line.

The support I’ve experienced throughout this year doesn’t just stop in our cohort, it extends to Diana and the incredible staff at Newman’s Own, to the network of astounding professionals that we have at each retreat and Newman’s Own event. Professionals who were always more than willing to aid any of us who needed it, whether it be in the form of advice on how to approach our next career move, or, connecting us with someone with whom we shared similar interests. They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure that our networks of support are vast.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve been blessed with an incredible support system in the extended family that I’ve gained here at The Discovery Center. It is here that I’ve learned more about the importance of living out one’s truth, as I am surrounded by people who have chosen truth, justice and freedom, over convention and complacency. I’ve learned so much about the importance of standing firm in one’s own conviction, practicing humility and compassion, and ensuring the needs of all individuals are met to safeguard collective success. That is what support looks like, and that is what I’ve been shown during this year. It is by leaning on the shoulders of the individuals whom happenstance has connected me with that I’ve learned the importance of making sure that my own are always available for those who may need it- those who just may need a shoulder to lean on.

-Njideka

Featured photo is of me!