Sullivan Foundation Retreat Experience: Open Your Eyes to New Opportunities

By Ali Zaid, Rollins College student

The first thing that came to mind when I arrived at the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat camp was the feeling that I was out of my comfort zone.  I had no option, however, but to leave my comfort zone in order to enrich my experience and benefit from this great opportunity with the Sullivan Foundation.  For me, talking to people about my future plans and how much I wish to achieve those plans is uncomfortable, and therefore puts me out of my comfort zone.  This uneasy feeling is one that has developed over time as I have socialized less.  Resolutely pursuing my goals is the reason that I don’t socialize often.  For the past two years, my time has been completely consumed by two full-time jobs and the four to five classes I enroll in each semester in order to graduate early.


When I arrived at the camp and began great conversations with other attendees and facilitators, I realized that I should make it a priority to meet new people and socialize from now on.  Our perspective won’t change unless we meet new people and have conversations with them.  Moreover, I have always believed that the differences between people exist so we can learn from the way others see life.  I saw this in action when I started talking with the attendees and facilitators about their perspectives on life, and it opened my eyes to a variety of things.


I have attended a number of conferences and workshops around the country, but I have not yet experienced an atmosphere like I did at the Sullivan Foundation camp.  The welcoming, friendly atmosphere at the camp gave me just what I needed—the opportunity to share visions with complete strangers and like-minded people and receive their feedback.  I was thrilled to meet with social entrepreneurs who see the world as full of opportunities and success.  They believe success is about changing not only their life, but the life of the people around them. Making a long-lasting impact is their goal, and they won’t rest until they achieve it.


The kind of discussion I had with these determined attendees and facilitators opened up my eyes to things I had never thought about. Furthermore, the workshops that I attended were uniquely designed and structured.  They were challenging and forced us to bring forth our creativity.  I have learned from each of the workshops, but the thing that resonated with me the most was when facilitator Chad Littlefield shared his experience and difficult journey with his startup company.  He concluded by telling us that it is okay to not know the answer right away, and it is okay to fail many times before we succeed. After the workshop finished, each student was asked to write his or her fear on a sticky note and then throw it in the trash.  On a second sticky note, we were asked to write our goals.


In conclusion, I encourage all my fellow students, especially those with majors in social entrepreneurship at Rollins College, to take of advantage all the opportunities that the Innovation Hub has to offer.  These opportunities are designed to be very beneficial and provide students with tools they can apply immediately to life.  In addition to networking with like-minded people, a student will have the opportunity to build on an idea he or she has after returning to school with the tools learned during these great events.




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