Project Pengyou Leadership Fellows Raise a Toast for Their Coaches

For the Project Pengyou Leadership Summit this spring, we condensed 10 weeks of community organizing coursework into two-and-a-half days. The job fell to nine coaches to teach all that material to 40 strangers over a single weekend.

But these weren’t just any coaches—they were veterans of Marshall Ganz’s organizing and public narrative courses at Harvard. Each coach lectured on an aspect of the training and led a group of fellows through the material, from constructing a story of self to organizing a leadership team and mobilizing action.

The fellows spent 11-hour days studying the art of crafting a narrative and asking for commitments from strangers and their coaches were with them every step of the way. Emotions ran high as the coaches pushed them to look inward for the truest stories of self. Some fellows felt we were going too fast while others were frustrated they didn’t have more time to practice what they learned, but time, or the lack thereof, also proved to be a saving grace. As one fellow put it, “You had to let it go; there was no time to dwell.”

In spite of the ups and downs—or perhaps because of them—the fellows grew to appreciate their mentors. On the coaches’ last day, each group prepared a short toast. Some sang songs, others gave heartfelt speeches. Their honesty made us laugh and cry.

The wonderful coaches deserve our thanks but we have to hand it to our fellows too. Even with all their work they still had the energy to thank their coaches in a fun and creative way. See for yourself what they had to say:

南方周末 (Nanfang Zhoumo)

Dorronda Bordley, Olivia Henshaw, Avinash Mahbubani, Marjorie Perry, Orin Lincoln and Matthew Werth showing appreciation for coach Serena Zhang.

大苹果 (Da Pingguo)

Tyler Bleuel, Ymara Magloire, Sara Monteabaro, Natalie Nagorski and Mei Ann Teo showing appreciation for coach Emily Jendzejec.

Midwest 味儿 (Midwest Weir)

Alyssa Farrelly, Kelicia R. Hollis, Mack Lorden, EJ Mitchell, Adam Bohan and Andrew Switzer showing appreciation for coach Xiaodi Chen.

West Coast, Best Coast

Shahin Firoozmand, Lillian Prueher, Lillygol Sedaghat, Annabel Virella and Matthew Williams showing appreciation for coach Mark Diaz Truman.

加油站 (Jia You Zhan)

Emily Cheung, Jordan Hayward, Meredith King, Kyle Obermann, Karen Thang and Evan Staff showing appreciation for coach Inbal Ezer.

中美成功 (Zhongmei Chenggong)

Russell Brodie, Maria Loverde, Michele Helen Reyes, Meg Rudy, Alicia Underhill and Simonetta Simmons showing appreciation for coach Stephanie Aines.

North East Corridor

Han Chen, Charlotte Cotter, Frank Dolce, Alec Grigorian, Natalie Sammarco and Brice Turner showing appreciation for coach Abel Cano.