Applying Lessons Learned from the Sullivan Retreat

By Matias Meirelles van Vliet, Rollins College student 

Have I been truly changed by the Sullivan Foundation Ignite Retreat? I’ve asked myself that a few times since I returned to Rollins, and the answer is easy: yes. My previous blog stated that I’ve been changed by the retreat, but another valuable question is, ‘to what extent have I been changed?’ As the semester draws to a close, I am completely focused on finals and completing school projects, neglecting my long term goals.  Someone looking from the outside might say I am exactly the same as I was before the retreat, and there is a reason for that—all my changes were internal; subtle but deep.

One of the important changes that happened as a result of the retreat was an increase in my moments of reflection.  During the retreat, after most activities, we had 20 minutes for ourselves, which most of us used to reflect on the work we had just completed. I brought this habit to my academic life, and now every night before I sleep I take some time to reflect on what I learned from my classes that day.

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Another subtle change is that the retreat made me remember my first efforts as a volunteer. One of the entrepreneurs who spoke at the Event, Mama Shu, shared her story of creating a village in the middle of Detroit where kids can be safe after school and learn about the African part of American culture.  This made me remember my days as a kid at OCA – Associação da Aldeia de Carapicuíba. OCA is a non-profit that takes kids off the street and teaches them about Brazilian culture. A huge part of Brazilian culture was acquired from Africa, and in the video from the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Jakobi Ra Park in Detroit, there was a musical presentation that reminded me of my volunteer experiences. Volunteering at OCA was a huge part of my adolescence that I had left forgotten in the past, but now I wish to return to volunteering and make something for the community I live in.

The retreat also influenced me to seek more connections. I had already planned to pursue a career in the sports management business, but I didn’t know anyone that was in this niche of the market. Now I have forged some important connections in this field that I plan on dedicating myself to after graduation. I met a few college athletes at the retreat, but even more importantly, I have met more people through them. Many fellow attendees of the retreat realized my effort and put me in contact with someone they knew in this field.

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One of the facilitators, David, was introduced me to an established entrepreneur in the sports management field. David’s friend, Wynn, owns a sports management and marketing business that is also involved in social causes. The professional athletes he manages regularly give generous donations to non-profits. He works in San Francisco, a long way from Florida, but I’ve called him a few times, and I consider it extremely important to have a connection like this.  I feel extremely comfortable to call him anytime if I have a question about the field of sports management.

Another connection I made through the camp was Andrey from Ukraine.  He also works with sports and social causes, and he works on a project with a church to educate children in social issues and sports. Even though I am not a religious person, I’ve talked with him a few times, and he gave me some important feedback on my current ideas.

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When I started this blog post, I felt like I hadn’t accomplished much, but I now feel as though I have made significant progress towards my long-term goal of opening my own business.  I believe Rollins could provide a better atmosphere for entrepreneurs, but part of my goal is to improve that, after my experiences at the Sullivan retreat. I have already started planning to participate in an entrepreneurship event next semester, the Ideas for Good Challenge.  When I returned from the retreat, ready to put my ideas into action, other obligations began to take over, and I felt as though the changemaking environment of the retreat had gone.  I believe Rollins should offer an environment to stimulate changemaking on a daily basis, and I am currently helping to make this happen.

Considering my project is long-term, I have accomplished a lot: I started talking to people about it, including two experts in the field, and I will present it next week as my fictitious project in my Business Law class.  There’s still a long way to go, but at least I’ve taken the first few steps.

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