At the end of the summer last year, I got an e-mail letting me know that I had been nominated to apply to be an NLC Fellow. I was intrigued, but largely, I was confused – I had never heard of the NLC before, and I didn’t (and still don’t, actually) have any idea who nominated me.
Some of my best experiences in life have come when I wasn’t sure about something but decided to just go for it – participating in Ms. Wheelchair USA, starting Accessible YOUniverse. So, after some Googling to figure out what exactly NLC was (more on that in a minute), I decided this was another opportunity that I needed to just go for – and I’m so glad that I did.
For those of you who are like me and aren’t sure what NLC is – it stands for New Leaders Council, and their fellowship is a months-long training program for emerging progressive leaders. Typically, you meet one weekend a month (both days, mostly all day long) for about six months. Now, obviously, my program started out that way, and then had to pivot and figure out how to make the program work completely virtually. While the format changed, the content didn’t. We heard from people involved in progressive work across a wide variety of fields – business, non-profit, elected officials – about their work, and how they came to be involved. We also had sessions focused on ourselves, as leaders – where we learned to tell our stories, and where we dug deep to really think about our values and our goals.
It will sound incredibly cliche, but truly, the best part of the program was meeting all of the other fellows. I think the most disappointing part of having to go virtual was not getting to spend more face-to-face time together, as a group. It was just such an empowering experience to be surrounded by such a passionate group of people. While we each may have had different areas of interest, the desire to do something, to be involved and make some sort of impact really brought us together quickly. And there was really an atmosphere of lifting each other up. I think it could have quickly become competitive, but instead, everyone wanted to see the others’ ideas succeed, and wanted to help in whatever way they could.