The Kellogg Fellowship
In early 2019, LAUNCH’s Executive Director, Hal Bowling was selected out of 800 applicants from across the country to be one of only 17 invited to join the national cohort of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network Fellowship. There were several other place-based cohorts, as well, bringing the total number of participants to 80. What was meant to be an 18-month experience extended to 2.5 years because of the pandemic and the group recently held their final event marking, the official end of the Fellowship. During these 2 and a half years, Hal and his cohort explored our nation and the importance of community engagement, leadership development, and racial healing.
The entire group of 80 met together 4 times before the pandemic hit. They visited all corners of our nation - Jackson, MS; Albuquerque, NM; Battle Creek, MI; and San Diego, CA. The final trip to New Orleans, LA was canceled due to the pandemic. With each location, Hal and his cohort were faced with the most prominent impacts of race in that area. San Diego brought a powerful conversation around the Mexican community there, and Albuquerque centered on the indigenous peoples who have lived in that area for centuries. In Jackson, Hal was struck hardest by the overt nature of racism in the south despite growing up only a state or two away. He was honored to meet the daughter of (Medgar Evers) who was murdered in YEAR. Her history was profound but her demonstration of love is what gripped Hal most. Reena Evers-Everett picked up the destruction forced on her family and found a way to build a loving future.
As the only member from Tennessee and one of 2 from the southeast in the national cohort, Hal's perspective was unique, but he spent the majority of his time listening and learning from leaders across the nation. The fellowship provided a trustworthy space to explore the impact of race in a very personal way. Hal found trust in his cohort of 17 and much gratitude for the experience as a whole. “It was humbling to have an organization invest in me as a leader by providing coaching, learning, and leadership opportunities, and helping me understand myself better. I feel very grateful to have had this opportunity and know that it will continue to impact my future work.”
From sessions with the entire fellowship to one on one coaching, the Kellogg Fellowship offered Hal a deeper understanding of his nation, his home, and himself. Although his cohort officially wrapped up this fall, the experience has impacted him for a lifetime. There is an alumni network and connections to leaders across the globe that he will continue to be part of. Perhaps the most valuable takeaway from the Kellogg Fellowship is the honest perspective on the experiences of those LAUNCH aims to serve.