The End of the Beginning: Health Leadership Fellows Class of 2011 Commencement
On the evening of June 16, 2011, the Class of 2011 Health Leadership Fellows program participants made the transition into full-fledged Fellows. Rather than a graduation, this was a commencement, marking the end of the 10-month program and the beginning of a long-term commitment to achieving health equity. The evening was filled with inspiring words, big news, and the kind of energy that can change the world.
The commencement ceremony took place at the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center in beautiful downtown Wethersfield and featured the Dexter Pettaway Trio who entertained us with jazz throughout the evening. In attendance were friends and family of the Class of 2011, Fellows alumni, CT Health staff and board members.
“A leader is someone who helps improve the lives of other people or improve the system they live under,” said Kristi Rodriguez (quoting Sam Ervin), our inspired Mistress of Ceremonies, seamlessly led us through the event, ushering in each new speaker with an apropos quotation. In fact, each speaker had inspired words for the audience, urging the fellows to continue to “ignite new possibilities,” which we discovered was the guiding theme for the Class of 2011.
“The heart of what we’re trying to do is empower a new generation of advocates to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities,” said CT Health Board Chairman Sandy Cloud. Sandy congratulated the Fellows, expressing their importance to the foundation’s efforts to create the public and political will to reduce health disparities in Connecticut. He also charged them to go out and be the change agents, champions, and ambassadors in their home communities, as well as in collaboration with each other.
“Welcome. Bienvenidos. Aloha. Mabuhay,” said CT Health Vice President of Program, Lina Paredes. Lina thanked her fellow faculty members, and also the Class of 2011 for allowing her to witness her “like-minded colleagues’” growth as individuals. She also shared that going forward, Senior Program Officer Elizabeth Krause will serve as the principal leader of the Health Leadership Fellows Program. Congratulations Elizabeth!
“With firm vision, clear objectives, and a steady pace we can overcome the inevitable challenges that arise when one is trying to lead against the current,” said Michelle Silva, member of the Class of 2011. She offered testimony from her peers as to how the program helped them grow both personally and professionally. An essential ingredient to them coming together as a group was respect – for themselves, each other, and the world more broadly.
“Geese migrating south form a V shape. While there’s energy in each of them, they have greater energy together,” said Frederick Smith, Class of 2011. He compared the Fellows to geese who have greater power together, both in achieving more and in helping each other. He said that when one of the flock falls ill, the other geese will make sure that goose is okay, taking care of their compatriot to bring them back into the fold – much like his classmates helped him when he fell ill during a retreat. The group is also only as strong as it collective members and when geese need to they make another formation, they take the energy of those they have flown with and add new energy and vitality by including other (new) geese; much like the fellows coalition can build upon the experiences of newer members to join, thus expanding the “V” formation and coalition’s efforts; taking it to broader and newer heights!
“With every active listening exercise, every leadership opportunity disguised as dance performance, every beginning of the session ‘check-in’, we shared pieces of ourselves and wove unbreakable connections with incredibly intelligent, passionate, compassionate people,” said Jennifer Muggeo. Jennifer really brought the theme of “igniting new possibilities” home by echoing that sentiment several times while she shared the story of how she and her fellow program participants transformed into the leaders they are today – a transformation made possible through their connection to each other.
Congratulations to the Class of 2011 on their commencement! We welcome you to our Fellows alumni network, which now includes 120 individuals in the state of Connecticut who are part of the effort to end racial and ethnic health disparities.
More photos from the Commencement are here.