Growth, with or without joy


Dear 2018 Camelback Fellows -

At the end of Summit 2, we had a closing activity for you all to submit a song that brings you joy, and we collected those on a collaborative Spotify playlist.

While this felt like a fun idea, the truth is, it’s been hard to feel joy in recent months. Summit 2 coincided with the separation of immigrant families at the border. Summit 3 came with the continued conversation around #metoo, the news journey from start to finish with the Kavanaugh appointment. A few weeks ago, a Black man was shot to death in his own apartment by an off-duty police officer. These issues and moments are not isolated and not surprising, but that does not make them easier. In fact, it feels necessary to stay uncomfortable, to stay ready...even as feeling angry becomes tiring and draining, making it harder to do the work...for the past year or two especially, this cycle has felt particularly painful and troubling.

The 2018 Fellowship experience has been intense for our team. We had more Fellows than ever before, whose work explored an even wider scope than ever before. Our team has been in transition, literally* and figuratively. We asked some really big questions of ourselves, resulting in a 55-page strategic plan which then resulted in creating a 9-page version for public consumption. We started an entirely new program. We gained new funders.

So, leading up to the 2018 Showcase, we were all tired -- but excited. The Showcase is always an intense and beautiful experience for our team, and of course, for Fellows. At this point, we’ve been intensely invested (emotionally and financially) in you for almost two years. We know intimate details about your lives and your work. You may not know how many hours we spent carefully reading your application materials, how many hours we spent locked in a room advocating and arguing for you to be in the program, how many hours we spent finding solutions based on your feedback and iterating throughout the Fellowship. On the flip side, you may not know that much about us personally, or what we’re all working on. You may not even like us. But for us, you all are everything. You are why we do this work. Your wins are our wins; your pain, our pain; your growth, our growth.

And what we saw at the 2018 Showcase was nothing short of brilliant. Your stories were beautiful and personal, your passion clear and tangible, your growth exponential. For example, when Janine first pitched to the cohort, she did not have a PowerPoint deck. She did not have it memorized. She had 12 index cards. At the Showcase in Oakland, she had a phenomenal story in her presentation. Not only did she have it memorized, but she spoke with vigor and charisma, deftly balancing narratives with data. There was not an index card in sight.

Each and every Fellow’s presentation had grown since we first met you all. Each presentation also featured an insight into the fantastic work they’ve done since starting our Fellowship. So, here, we’d like to spotlight each of you and something we saw and are proud of:

  • Janine -- we just gave you huge props on your pitch, but you also put notable work in on team and leadership and culture development. That’s intentional, and will be a strong building block for the rest of your organization’s life. We see you.

  • Brandon -- you’re hustling so hard you had two pitches on the same night! We know you’re so committed to growth and changing a nation, and that’s why you moved to Oakland. We see you.

  • Byron -- the charter application for your school has been a labor of love, and painful and personal, we know. But you’re so, so close now. The boys and men of New Orleans need you. We see you.

  • Vanessa -- we know this year has been a really hard time for you personally, but you showed up to every Summit with warmth and kindness and energy. We know you’ve just taken the next big step to commit to your organization. We see you.

  • Sophie -- you made a huge move across the country while also trying to film a new season and do an online campaign. It’s serious work, but you always had jokes to brighten the mood of any room you were in. We see you.

  • Yulkendy -- you were actively running workshops with a major partner in SAP, working on your own growth and development, and launching a massive rebrand. We see you.

  • Myron -- you were almost afraid you couldn’t do the Fellowship because you were having a baby. Now, your daughter is a beautiful part of your presentation, your Summer Pilot sounds incredible, and you are so ready to continue with your journey. We see you.

  • Antionette -- you’ve been through a lot this year; you’ve also had such great success. It’s a lot for anyone to balance, but you do it with a strength of will and determination that is unlike anything else. We see you.

  • Tammy -- you took the time to do some reflection and it paid off -- literally. Congratulations on your first big district sale and your new approaches to fundraising, sales, and your business model. Thank you for all your vulnerability and insights. We see you.

  • Nicole -- you’re a strong leader, and nothing will get in your way. You know your strengths and have taken the time to share wisdom with other Fellows. You see a big world full of information and opportunity out there, and because of you, we see the possibilities. We see you.

  • Damola -- in a time where politics are seemingly getting crazier by the day, we can’t wait for the moment when everyone holds Civic Eagle in their hands. You manage a determined, talented team; when you reach that section of your deck, you talk about yourself the least -- you let your superstars shine. We see you.

  • Auset -- from day 1, you were the one who said “Good morning,” who volunteered to coordinate Fellows on the bus, who actively ran her existing organization while being brave enough to change so much about it. Your energy is felt by others. We see you.

Growth ideally comes with joy, but it’s certainly not a guarantee. It often feels more painful than anything else -- for every person who is going through deep reflection, there is a moment when we question: “What could I have done better? How can I own what happened? How do I want to be going forward?” We may not always like the answer. But recognizing it, accepting it, and committing to growth is the path forward. And we can say, without a doubt, that we’ve all grown this year.

To the 2018 cohort, thank you for your passion and commitment to growth. We have your back, and are proud to know you and work with you.

With warmth, gratitude, and determination,

The Camelback Team

Read more about our Showcase and the 2018 Ventures and Fellows in this feature by EdSurge (thanks, EdSurge!)

Photos in this post of the 2018 Showcase by Morgan Shidler with Chloe Jackman Photography and Live Image Photobooth

*We moved with our friends, 4.0 Schools, into their new co-working space in New Orleans -- come visit our office some time; let us know when you’re in town. We’re enjoying creating a space where Fellows, team, and friends can collaborate together.