Finding My Tribe


James Kim is a 2017 Camelback Fellow and founder of Bridging Education and Art Together (BEAT)

It’s Day 1 of the 2017 Camelback Ventures Fellowship Summit in New Orleans, and I find myself in the living room of our shared home for the week, getting acquainted with the incredible Camelback staff and eleven brilliant, freshly minted Fellows from across the country. And in a quiet and quick moment of reflection, I marveled at where I was, who I was with, and how I came to be here. The truth is, I never planned on being in the position I find myself today. Never intended to work with young people in school settings, and definitely did not plan to start a Hip Hop nonprofit organization.

As we settled in and learned about each other’s ventures, what emerged for me was a profound recognition of how immensely varied our journeys have been. Yet, each Fellow’s path led us to be in the same room in a space of synergistic fellowship, personal support, and professional growth. And, similar to my story, some of us did not intend to be on the path we find ourselves. But, along our myriad ways, all of us, including the Camelback staff, came to the realization that our personal journeys were not in fact, exclusively about ourselves at all. Rather, it is our collective commitment to a life of service for others that brought us together. Within that commitment lies the core of who we are and what we stand for. Each of us are Fellows for a reason. Each Fellow has identified a problem within our communities that we know is imperative to solve.

On that first night, I found myself being able to better understand that it is not even necessarily the problems in our communities that brought us together, but the fact that we must all acknowledge and support each other in order to solve these problems. All of our ventures are bigger than any one individual, including (or especially) ourselves. The problems in our communities are bigger than any one organization or singularly defined mission or process. The stops and starts, the pitfalls, the misguided, uninformed decisions, the murky nature of an unpaved road full of unforeseeable obstacles — these are the inevitable characteristics of all our journeys.

And it is here - amidst the acknowledgment of my own perpetual personal and professional struggles - that I recognized myself in each of my fellow Fellows; my tribe. I recognized that we - the Fellows, the entrepreneurs, the change makers, and risk-takers - are our own most powerful resources. Through connecting with new people from different backgrounds, it is possible for a multitude of individual experiences, perspectives, and even problems to become shared — and I firmly believe that nothing is powerful until it is shared. Your successes become mine as my successes become yours in that we share, educate, and illuminate each other through our collective experiences.

Bottom line: programs like Camelback mean time and money are saved, less mistakes are made, hidden insights are revealed, future stakeholders emerge, and just as importantly, a vibrant community is born - one that is intrinsically unified on a collective path towards improving the cities, systems, and the lives of young people in our country.

I look forward to continuing my journey with my new found community - my Camelback tribe.