Finding Friendship Through Fellowship

My time as a Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow has been a wonderful experience filled with laughter, learning, and friendship. In just one year, I have found camaraderie with a group of total strangers, who grew to become close friends.

I found this Fellowship by happenstance; I just so happened to be volunteering with Sprout NOLA, a partner non-profit to Broad Community Connections (my Fellowship host organization), when the Newman’s Own Foundation Fellowship application was open.

I already knew who Paul Newman was. I saw him as a young man in Cool Hand Luke, and I also knew Newman’s Own salad dressing, because they would serve it with salads in my college’s cafeteria. However, I never made the connection between the two, and so I never knew about the wonderful work of Newman’s Own Foundation.

Taiyiana Robinson, 2018-2019 NOF Fellow

After I received that call about applying to the Fellowship, I immediately googled it and took a deep dive researching. I found that it is a year-long opportunity to work for a non-profit organization that is part of the Newman’s Own Foundations’ portfolio of grantees. During my search, I also looked at what the Fellowship would entail: receiving personal and professional development opportunities, visiting Connecticut five times throughout the year for intensive retreats, and something that made me nervous – being a part of a cohort.

After furiously working on the application; staying up late and making my best friend read through my essay answers, I finally got the call that I was being offered a place in the Fellowship. I was overjoyed and anxious to not only begin my placement, but also to meet the other Fellows. The first time I met the other Fellows was during a video conference call. I could tell right away that it was a good group; a group I knew that I belonged in.

In October, 2018, I flew to New York for the first time and caught the train to Westport, Connecticut. The first night we all went all to dinner and I immediately connected with the rest of my cohort. Throughout the week we got to know each other even more during the personal and professional development workshop exercises. I had a great time, and learned a lot throughout the week, but it was last night before we all returned back out to our respective placements, that I truly saw how cool of a group I was a part of. After dinner, everyone planned to meet up to hang out before we left the next day. Before the kick back, I received messages inviting to me to come out, but not pressuring me at all. I knew that I was going to meet up with them, but those extra invitations were awesome. The best part of the evening, and the moment I knew I had made the right decision, was when I walked into the door and was greeted by whoops and cheers. The sense of community that developed in such a short amount of time, was incredibly overwhelming.

I also had the chance to learn about community during my time at Sprout NOLA! I worked with an amazing group of community gardeners and other garden neighbors who taught me what it means to create spaces where everyone is welcome and differences are encouraged. Through my work as the Community Garden and Farmers Market Coordinator, I got the chance to meet new people near and far, like local farmers, who sold their food at the market, and volunteer groups, from across the U.S., who spent time learning about our garden. I learned, not only about how to grow food, but also about the importance of knowing where food comes from and how to help transform our food system.

It has been a true pleasure and privilege getting to know my cohort of Fellows over this past year. I’m so thankful to Newman’s Own Foundation, for giving me this opportunity, and to Broad Community Connections, and Sprout NOLA, for allowing me to learn so much about myself and others.

To Amaryst, Brandon, Cindy, Emma, Erick, Evelyn, Jen, Jodie, Kendra, Liv, Neiko, Raq, and Sharon, thank you all for sharing a small part of yourselves with me. I could not have picked a better group to experience this Fellowship with; y’all are the GOAT.

By Taiyiana Robinson, 2018-2019 NOF Fellows at Broad Community Connection, New Orleans, LA.