15 Oct The Importance of Belonging
I’ve never considered myself much of a joiner. In high school, I didn’t neatly fit into one of the cliques that seem to develop at every school. I wasn’t a jock, I wasn’t a cheerleader, I wasn’t the brilliant tech geek. I tried to make friends in every group.
When I got to college – as the first in my family to attend – all of that changed. I felt completely lost. I didn’t know hardly anyone at Auburn University, which was a six-hour drive from my hometown of Nashville. I heard about sorority rush and decided that it might be a quick way to meet people and make new friends.
I ended up joining Phi Mu, and in that environment as a clueless college student, I found being part of something comforting. There was a camaraderie that I enjoyed, and it gave me a little bit of a social base.
Fast forward and years later, I still keep in touch with many of my sorority sisters. We have shared experiences and history. Auburn Phi Mu alum Susan Wilson Detwiler has put together a reunion of 10 years’ worth of pledge classes over the weekend of Oct. 27’s Auburn home game. I haven’t been back in years, so I look forward to seeing everybody. The campus bookstore is hosting me for a book signing that day for “My Orange Duffel Bag: A Journey to Radical Change” – time to be announced once the university releases the game start time.
Thinking about what being part of something meant to me – especially as an insecure, scared college freshman – I understand why being an Orange Duffel Bag Foundation graduate is so important to the kids who we serve with our coaching. Many of them have missed out so many of the social opportunities that are naturally available to kids who aren’t in foster care. The rules that teens in foster care live under mean that they often miss school field trips, they cannot spend the night with a friend, they may not get to participate in after school activities or sports. The sense of belonging to a community of people who have a shared history can be empowering. We’ve seen a support system spring up among the classes who go through out 12-week coaching program. There’s a sense of pride and that same sense of camaraderie that I remember feeling at a time when I needed it.