A Class of Their Own: Team IMPACT’s 2023 Fellowship Summit Brings Together Student-Athletes from Around the Country

This summer, 120 student-athletes and Team IMPACT Fellows (of the 186 total in 2023) traveled to Boston from around the country for the annual Fellowship Summit. From July 12-14, these dedicated athletes embarked on a journey of growth, empowerment, and community-building at Boston University. Together, they enjoyed three days of skill-building trainings, inspiring speaker sessions, and professional and personal development opportunities with their peers. 

The Team IMPACT Fellowship program launched in 2018 and has since welcomed more than 300 student-athletes across 67 campuses over the years. Of the 186 in this year’s Fellowship class, 116 are participating for the first time. The annual Team IMPACT Fellowship Summit provides an environment where they can increase their impact and flourish personally, professionally, and as agents of change on their campuses and in their communities. 

Travis Dowd, a member of the Rice University track and field and cross country teams, returned to the Summit for the fourth consecutive year. “Last year’s Summit was great because I met many Fellows in person for the first time. I didn’t expect to grow so close with those that I had met in the years prior,” said Travis, whose sister joins him as a Team IMPACT Fellow for the first time this year. “I believe that growing much closer with my peers has helped both our friendships and our dedication to the organization.” 

The core of the Summit is a series of thoughtfully crafted sessions designed to enrich every facet of the Fellows’ Team IMPACT experience. Over the three-day event, the athletes engage in skill-building workshops, participate in inspiring speaker sessions, and challenge themselves and one another to grow as leaders, mentors, and change-makers. The first day of Summit included athletic and family panels, where Fellows had the opportunity to listen to the experiences and wisdom of seasoned athletics administrators and coaches who have been integral to the growth of Team IMPACT and the participating families who make our program possible. These panelists highlighted the profound influence that collaboration between children and student-athletes can have, offering a glimpse into the real life impact of the program that transcends the field to enrich individuals, build community within athletic departments, and make a lasting impression on everyone involved. 

“As a first-year Fellow, the Summit provided a clear rundown of the expectations of my role and established a support network,” said sophomore gymnast from the University of Minnesota, Sarah Moraw. “The Summit also highlighted the parallel effect that this role can have on both the matches and the athletes involved. The holistic approach is vital for a child’s health, and taking the time to check in on them and talk about their favorite activities allows them to smile, which is sometimes the medicine they need.” 

 Additional sessions — including “Mamba Mentality” with Northeastern University’s Lisa Markland and “Climb, Lift, Pause” with Lisa Cregan — challenged Fellows to think about themselves as more than student-athletes and use their platforms and personal experiences to influence change. HIVE Diversity, a relationship that was forged with Team IMPACT through the Equity Collective, led a session on resume building, professional development, and how to continue being the impact even after graduation. The Equity Collective, a consortium of 27 financial services firms committed to diverse communities of next-generation talent. This venture between industry leaders, who are typically only seen as competitors, is pivotal for reshaping the current landscape of recruitment and building new communities of next generation talent. Creating new pathways for students who represent an ever-evolving range of diverse lived experiences, like being a student athlete, the first in their family to attend college, or many other backgrounds of resiliency, is essential. HIVE’s collaboration focuses on working to support college athletes in their career readiness as they grow into civic-minded, empathetic leaders through their experiences mentoring and supporting children living with a serious illness or disability.  

Day two of Fellowship Summit wrapped up with an invaluable opportunity for our Fellows to expand their horizons through a dynamic networking event hosted by our partners at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Our Fellows engaged in meaningful conversations with dozens of local accomplished professionals from a diverse range of fields in and around the Boston area. 

Partnerships like those with the Equity Collective, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and HIVE Diversity open doors to unique opportunities for our Fellows, offering a dynamic blend of resources, perspectives, and experiences rooted in a shared commitment to inclusion, camaraderie, and acceptance.  

“To be honest, I didn’t come to Summit with many expectations apart from learning more about the organization,” said first-year Fellow Kendall Dowd, a rising junior on the field hockey team at Stanford University. “I was so excited to see the number of personal and professional development opportunities included in the programming. The weekend in Boston gave me more confidence in my role with Team IMPACT, as well as confidence in my personal pursuits.” 

This growing self-confidence is a sentiment shared by many Fellows coming out of this year’s Summit. “I took from Fellowship Summit that I am doing better than I thought I was. Every effort I make is causing a ripple for good, and I am a valuable member of the Team IMPACT team,” says Danja Collins, a rising senior and first-year Fellow on the Santa Clara women’s basketball team. “Team IMPACT Fellowship is awesome—not only for the people that we serve, but we can become better people through the Fellowship program.” 

The Fellowship Summit isn’t just about honing existing skills and interests; it also is a breeding ground for fresh ideas and inspiration. Fellows from diverse backgrounds and studies united in their thoughts and ideas, brainstorming innovative ways to amplify Team IMPACT’s mission. With a new invigoration in their important leadership role as Fellows, these student-athletes return to their campuses with new friendships, a new confidence, and an even stronger commitment to our program. 

“Being a Fellow has been one of the biggest, most important, and most impactful experiences in my college career,” said Julia Nagy, a returning Fellow and senior on the DePaul women’s volleyball team. “It has encouraged me to never be afraid to lead and be passionate about things that I really love and care about. Being able to give back through Team IMPACT has been humbling, and the matched kids and teams have taught me so much about what really matters. I’m so thankful for my Team IMPACT family!” 

The 2023 Team IMPACT Fellowship Summit stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment of this group of young leaders to drive positive change. These three days of skill-building, inspiration, and growth have not only fortified each Fellow’s individual journey but also amplified the collective impact of Team IMPACT. As these Fellows return to their campuses armed with fresh perspectives, they carry with them the spirit of teamwork, unity, and empowerment that define the Fellowship program. Their stories, ideas, and dedication are helping Team IMPACT shape a brighter, more compassionate, more empathic, and more impactful future, one community at a time.