I was up early this morning, reflecting on the past four days that I spent at a Pennsylvania mountain retreat as an Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) Fellow. ELP’s mission of “inspiring visionary, action oriented and diverse leadership to work for a just and sustainable future” targets “emerging environmental and social change practitioners eager to connect their specialized work to larger environmental and social concerns.” In the form of three intensive weekend retreats, totaling 11 days, the program offers leadership/skill training, networking opportunities and time for personal/professional reflection and planning. I am a member of the Eastern Regional Network (ERN) class of 2010, as one of 15 individuals from NY, NJ, PA, DE and MD.
I arrived at Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor, PA on Thursday morning and began the process of meeting and mingling with my fellow “Fellows”. My first impression was one of awe as I spoke to one person after another, each passionately describing their work in the areas of urban farming, environmental justice, green building, youth engagement, chemical education/advocacy, wildlife study and more. From the Eastern Shore of Maryland’s watershed to the urban jungle of NYC, this group seemed ready to dive right in.
Day One of this orientation retreat focused on community building and peer to peer learning as we set the foundation for the deep work we would be doing over the next few days in the task of embracing diversity in the environmental movement. Days Two and Three took us deeper into conversations and skill building as we examined our own lenses/filters for viewing the world, participated in a stark interactive exercise in privilege and power and examined our own organization’s dedication to diversity. I had the opportunity to examine SCH’s responsibility to systematically to reach out to the many cultures in our town and to develop an action plan to help us achieve that goal. We ended the diversity training with a visioning activity that allowed us to express our creativity and to bond further as an ELP community. Thank you to Marcello Bonto and The Center for Diversity and the Environment for guiding us through this important and often challenging process. Our last day focused on setting the foundation for our “Personal Leadership Plans”, a process we will complete over the course of the three retreats and one that will serve as a future personal and professional roadmap.
I took a break from the deep work of the retreat to discover the incredible Columcille Megalith Park, an outdoor sanctuary rooted in Celtic spirituality. This park, with it’s mysterious and magical design of huge rocks, trails and sacred spaces, was a highlight of my retreat experience.
I headed home from Kirkridge, exhausted, but exhilerated. Our next retreat is at the end October and the first draft of my Personal Leadership Plan is due to my small group (Pod) earlier that month, so I’d better get to work!
If you are interested in being a member of the ELP Fellow Class of 2011, please let me know or check out the ELP website for eligibility and requirements.