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Voices of the Fellowship: The Season of the Fellowship

Tags: Fellowship

Matt Weigel

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work; a company work; a society work; a civilization work.” While Lombardi was probably trying to motivate one of his NFL Championship-winning, Packers squads, he could just as well have been talking to a group of El Pomar Fellows about what would be expected of them over the course of their tenure at the Foundation. Each Fellow is expected to develop not only as an individual, but also the team as a whole. Committing oneself to a team is paramount to an individual’s learning and growth, and to the development of a cohort. In essence, “individual commitment to a group effort” divides the work while multiplying the success: allowing the team, as well as the individual, to reach their goals. The Fellowship, like a football season, can be broken into a number of different phases: training camp, preseason, the season itself, and the postseason. Each phase provides a foundation to build on as Fellows progress through their two-year experience.

As any football fan knows, success begins at training camp. The team that takes shape may resemble the previous squad, but members forge their own identity and culture to ensure their ultimate success. The creation of the Fellowship team begins anew each July when the incoming class of First Year Fellows arrives and infuses new energy into the operations of the Foundation. All First Year Fellows participate in a three week orientation program designed to ensure success at the Foundation and allow Fellows to get to know one another and other individuals at El Pomar. New Fellows are immersed in the culture of El Pomar, learning about its past and present, and thinking how they and their teammates personally and collectively fit into its future.

While training camp tends to bring excitement and hopeful predictions, a team’s strength and depth is relatively unknown until they take the field for preseason games. In the Fellowship, this comes in the form of the annual Outward Bound course. Whether it’s rafting Cataract Canyon or summiting a fourteener, Fellows learn to push themselves and trust their peers under the most difficult circumstances. Outward Bound remains a staple of the Fellowship experience because it allows the team to mesh successfully in an abbreviated time frame. By the time Fellows return to civilization, they are ready to hit the ground running and begin affecting real change in the communities they serve.

Seasons are long, exhausting, and trying. There is nothing greater than achieving victory in a team setting, just as defeat and failure can be demoralizing. Fellows experience the highs and lows of a dynamic and challenging work environment over the course of their tenure at the Foundation. Many things can happen in a season. Teams change and grow, and different leaders flourish in different roles. At El Pomar, Fellows are given the freedom and responsibility to develop their own leadership philosophy within the scope of their programmatic work while performing different functions in the team environment. In the first half of the season, the first year of the Fellowship, this is largely a theoretical exercise, though as Fellows transition into their second year and begin directing programs and managing teams, effective leadership becomes critical to group and individual success. 

The goal of any season should be to make the postseason. Within the context of the Fellowship, this occurs after Fellows leave the Foundation. The program’s primary goal is to identify and develop future leaders of Colorado. Fellows, armed with the tools to succeed, are expected to springboard into the next phase of their careers and fulfill the potential the Foundation has identified and fostered within them. Though they move on from the Foundation, they never fully move on from the team and are forever considered a member of the Fellowship family.

This Fall, for the first time in two years, I will not be part of building the new Fellowship team. I am in the postseason of my time at El Pomar and look forward to embracing the inherent challenges in beginning a new endeavor. I will attend law school at University of Denver. Armed with my experiences from a full season in the Fellowship and all I’ve learned from my fellow Fellows, I am confident I will succeed.

The Fellowship is many things: a job, a team, a training ground. At its core, however, the Fellowship remains a family. It is nurturing, supportive, and it equips its members with the tools and experiences to tackle any challenge they face. I have made more lasting, meaningful relationships in the past two years than I had in the previous twenty. I have grown beyond my own expectations because the confidence I developed during my time at the Foundation has inspired me to adjust my horizons and aim ever higher. I could have never achieved so much on my own. I know I will not achieve the goals I have laid out for my career by committing myself solely to my personal development. As Vince Lombardi said, the commitment of the individual to a group effort is how success is best achieved. I only hope I can build a team as talented and driven in the future as I have had the privilege of being a part of as a Fellow.