2015 Soulforce Leadership Presentation Day

Our 2015 summer fellowship program culminated on a hot August Saturday morning in front of nearly 80 community members and supporters who came together around common values of justice, community, love, and youth leadership in our beloved hometown of Mountain View. 15 brave, passionate, and dedicated young leaders stood up in front of their parents, family, and friends, as well as city leaders including our Mountain View Mayor McAlister and Councilmember Kazperzack and Councilmember Siegal, and spoke passionately about what matters to them and what kind of change they want to see in the world.  

Below are some more pictures and highlights from the event.

Picture Slideshow

Guest Speakers 

We had the privilege of learning from 5 inspiring guest speakers:  

We had two "love experts," as I like to call them who anchored our program.  Panchos Ramos-Stierle provided an emotional and engaging talk about the global community we live in and that it are powerful moments of love that transform injustice. Nipun Mehta spoke about Vinoba Bhave and the choices you have to make when you view the world, and ultimately love transforms relationships with power.

Our session ended with some inspiring remarks from our city leaders. Mayor McAlister brought up the idea of using meditation in his City Councel Members!   He also talked to us about learning all sides of the story. Councilmember Kazperzack reminded us that city leaders are human too and that he would be ready to have coffee with anyone.  Councilmen Siegal offered us perspective and encouragement to simply keep going and hold the perspective that the seeds we plan now will continue to nourish for years to come.


Summary of Projects & How to Get Involved

Team Despoina spoke about strengthening images of positive girl identity, particularly around body image and self-worth.   They conducted a survey and surfaced surprising statistics that revealed the extent of issues happening in our own community, including a high rate of self-harm & being abused by a loved one, even in high school.  They build a dynamic and interactive website as a place to share resources, stories, and get educated around these issues particularly targeted at middle school students. Here is a link to the Despoina Prezi presentation if you want to learn more.  

Team ASE is concerned about the lack of student voice in high school, particularly around issues of students connecting with other students, teachers, and administrators.  They ran a pilot meeting this summer to learn about the format they would want to adopt for the structure of their meetings, which includes meditation and time for sharing in pairs and raising issues as a community that matters to them.  Here is a link to their presentation if you want to learn more.

Team Youth Initiative for Housing (YIH) is focused on housing displacement.  Sign the petition here.  They received over 1000 signatures and would like to go to a City Council meeting, as well as link up with other housing groups to create broader systemic change.  Here is link to their presentation.

Finally, Gentrification Awareness Project is all about sharing stories and the human side of gentrification.  They cared videos and story montages of what this kind of displacement looks like and ask people to get involved and to start reaching out to their neighbors.  It is the people who have privilege who are not aware of these issues that need to start speaking up.  Here is a link to the presentation.

If you would like to get involved with any of these projects, please email us at poonamsoulforce@gmail.com to get an introduction.

Gratitudes

We are so grateful for the support from our community.  We had several local teachers, school members, business leaders, and city leaders attend, along with many friends and family members.  Even our local newspaper, Mountain View Voice, wrote a piece about us you can check out here.

Although the projects what was they did externally, it is the change within themselves that was profoundly transformative.   It was the friendships that will change the way they see in the world.  

Probably my favorite moment of the event was the last 15 minutes when the program ended and our beloved Jiwon Chung  led us into a closing circle, where we meditated and connected with ourselves again.  Jiwon reminded us about why we do our work, and had us connect with each other with our hearts and remembered that our work is really not about the event, but it about the work we do in our own hearts and with each other.  

 

Finally, this program would not have been possible without Mady Miraglia and Marie Thullier. They were 2 coaches that were involved the entire summer and they blessed everyone in this program.   We love them, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to learn from them and with them.   I also want to thank the coaches and guest speakers and community mentors who helped out during the Leadership Institute and community mentoring sessions:  Dorit Perry, Gautam Biswas, Natassia Pura, Belinda Liu, Kim Grose Moore, Maria Marraquin, Sima Sanghvi & Jenny Wun.

We as coaches were so humbled to serve these leaders.  Thank you 2015 Fellows!  

  • Donna Trot 
  • Chris Remplado 
  • Ana Cortez 
  • Anna Antonio 
  • Simge Yildiz 
  • Sonia Iyer 
  • Christina Pao 
  • Kevin Chan 
  • Tino Tugwete 
  • Valery Padilla 
  • Sydney Casey-Dimirtijris 
  • Nusly Zuniga
  • Adera Ahern
  • Joceline Montebello
  • Emily Mez

 

Closing inspiration 

Anand Giridharadas says in his 2015 Ted Talk that we can either become more divided and polarized from each other, or we can work toward a common vision for improving the future.   What that requires is elevating important values of dignity, democracy, compassion, and love for all. We believe educating the next generation of leaders will help us achieve this larger goal.     

Thank you all for a successful first year! 

The moral challenge of my generation, I believe, is to reacquaint these two Americas, to choose union over secession once again. This isn’t a problem we can tax or tax-cut away. It won’t be solved by tweeting harder, building slicker apps, or starting one more artisanal coffee roasting service. It is a moral challenge that begs each of us in the flourishing America to take on the wilting America as our own
— Anand Giridharadas