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Meet the Ignite Retreat Coaches: Ajax Jackson Teaches Yoga as a Technology for Life Transformation

The internet abounds with apps and tools for yoga practitioners, but Ajax Jackson, owner of Magnolia Yoga Studio in New Orleans and a coach at the upcoming Sullivan Foundation’s Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat, knows yoga itself is a technology—one that has been delivering results for more than 5,000 years.

Although viewed by most as a spiritual practice, yoga, Jackson says, is also “an ancient technology still relevant for our modern-day ills. It’s a technology focused on the mind and body. Think about it: Humans have been using tools for a long time. In fact, we have progressed so much because of tools. Yoga should be used and viewed in the same way. Life is considered a process, and yoga prepares us for this process called life.”

Related: Learn more about the Fall Ignite Retreat, Oct. 18-20, in Asheville, N.C.

Many in the medical field agree. “Along with offering direct health benefits, the various yoga tools—including the physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation—are part of a systematic technology for life transformation, a step-by-step method for changing bad habits,” notes Dr. Timothy McCall, a physician and the medical editor of Yoga Journal.

this photo captures both the spirit of New Orleans and Ajax Jackson's colorful personality

Ajax Jackson, owner of Magnolia Yoga Studio in New Orleans, said she will serve as a “living, breathing case-study coach” at the Fall 2019 Ignite Retreat.

Jackson founded New Orleans’ first black-owned yoga studio because she wanted to teach others to make this proven technology work for them. With a background in socio-cultural anthropology, education and the nonprofit sector, she said, “I have been in the business of understanding, educating and caring for people most of my adult life.”

She opened Magnolia Yoga after receiving her own “life tune-up” through yoga. “I decided to study the technology formally with a world-renowned yoga teacher, training to open a studio to make a living doing what I love while supporting people’s healing and development of self. With this plan, I knew I could help transform the world!”

Magnolia Yoga offers private instruction for individuals as well as group classes and corporate yoga for businesses looking to improve workplace morale, increase productivity and encourage teamwork. Offering classes seven days a week, the studio is only closed on Christmas Day, Jackson said.

Related: View a pictorial of the Sullivan Foundation’s Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat

“We have become a beacon of light for New Orleans residents, locals, natives, transplants and all of her international visitors,” Jackson said. “The city at large and our surrounding area have never seen a business like ours before, and because of that and the positive impact and influence of the work, we are considered a gem!”

this photo depicts the healing nature of one of Ajax Jackson's yoga classes

For individuals taking Ajax Jackson’s classes, yoga is both a spiritual practice and a technology that promotes healing and self-improvement.

For Jackson, every new challenge is an opportunity to learn and improve herself, and the upcoming Ignite Retreat will be no different. “Participating in the Ignite Retreat allows me to focus on several areas of my own education and professionalism that need development while I share and cultivate with others,” she said. “I want to serve and learn from our younger generations as well as teach them the value of self-care and radical self-development through yoga and meditation.”

Jackson said she will serve as “a living, breathing case-study coach” for students at the Ignite Retreat and share her own experiences as an entrepreneur with a strong focus on helping others. She will also lead a yoga class for interested participants.

“I think having coaches accessible in this format is brilliant and a great model for other organizations to consider using,” she said. “With hope and inspiration, I plan on weaving in themes and teachings that correlate with and complement the Ignite Retreat’s mission.”

The Fall Ignite Retreat will be held Oct. 18-20 in Asheville, N.C., and features workshops and seminars led by dynamic facilitators, speakers and social entrepreneurs from around the U.S. Click here for more information or to register to attend.

this photo demonstrates a yoga pose taught in Ajax Jackson's class

“We are in a hard-fought moment right now where much of our hard work on all fronts is paying off,” Jackson said. “I’m very proud of this moment because I just put my head down and worked for it. I just happened to look up and realized we actually made it out of the swamp!”

University Students Learn Social Entrepreneurship Skills at Sullivan Foundation’s Upcoming Ignite Retreat

Students from throughout the southeastern United States will meet in Asheville, N.C., October 18-20, to attend the Sullivan Foundation’s social entrepreneurship-focused Ignite Retreat.

Sullivan retreats are designed to immerse students in a series of targeted workshops that help them “ignite” ideas for making positive change in their communities or develop a social business enterprise or event that might solve or alleviate a problem.

this photo conveys the energy of the Ignite Retreat attendees

Ignite Retreat attendees learned how to build social enterprise businesses and made new connections and friends at the Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat.

“The Sullivan Foundation recognizes students and community leaders who have led lives with integrity characterized by service above self and service to their communities. We’ve presented awards each year since 1890 to outstanding students primarily. And since 1934, we have provided scholarships to deserving students,” said Steve McDavid, the Foundation’s president. “In 2008, we added focused programming, including the Ignite events, to foster social enterprise activities.”

Related: View a photo gallery of the Spring 2019 Ignite Retreat

Students interested in the Ignite Retreat may attend a series of workshops and activities and connect with many socially conscious, like-minded individuals from throughout the southeast and beyond. They may also choose from three educational programming tracks for the weekend based on whether they are just beginning their social entrepreneurial journey, have a set of social challenges they would like to learn how to address now, or have a specific social venture they would like to bring to life.

this photo depicts a self-empowered yoga instructor who will facilitate workshops at the Sullivan Foundation's Ignite Retreat

Ajax Jackson, founder of Magnolia Yoga in New Orleans, says that once you can get your body into an open and flexible, you can do the same with your mind.

Students can also pitch their projects to experienced social entrepreneurs, gain access to and get feedback from Sullivan Award alumni, and receive access to Sullivan scholarship funding.

Spud Marshall, founder of the co.space and innovation director at 3 Dots, will lead the Fall Ignite Retreat, along with Harrison Wood, program coordinator for the Teach For America Graduate Fellows Program. The event also will feature an impressive roster of dynamic, experienced facilitators, coaches, innovators and social entrepreneurs, including:

Holley Murchison, founder and CEO of Oratory Glory and founding partner of HOLI. Brands

Crystal Dreisbach, founder of GreenToGo and executive director of Don’t Waste Durham

Ajax Jackson, founder of Magnolia Yoga

Abhinav Khanal, co-founder of Bean Voyage

Reagan Pugh, founding partner of Assemble

Tessa Zimmerman, founder of ASSET Education

Chad Littlefield, founder of WE!

Interested students may purchase tickets for the Ignite Retreat until October 2. General admission is $425. However, a select group of students from the 70-plus Sullivan Network Schools may be eligible to receive a sponsored ticket. Meals and housing are included with admission.

this photo shows that Crystal Dreisbach is a social innovator with a unique product

Crystal Dreisbach, founder of GreenToGo in Durham, North Carolina, is also leading a campaign to reduce single-use plastic in the city.

For further information go to www.sullivanfdn.org/events or call 662-236-6335. To register go to www.sullivanfdn.org/ignite/#tickets.  You may also e-mail questions regarding the events to admin@sullivanfdn.org.

Related: Ignite Retreat speaker leads charge to reduce plastic waste in Durham, N.C.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation was founded in 1934, but its roots date back 60 years earlier when U.S. President Grover Cleveland and a group of other influential persons created the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to honor those that inspire a life of integrity and service. Sullivan Awards have been presented to people whose lives of service have changed the world with little fanfare as well as those who have become household names – recipients include First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, to name a few.

this photo shows the fun energy that Chad Littlefield brings to his Ignite Retreat presentations

Team-building expert Chad Littlefield of We! helps groups of people engage in conversations that matter. (Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography)

7 Things You Should Know About the Ignite Retreat

How does spending a weekend in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina learning about how to change the world sound? Oh, did we mention you’ll go home with a ton of new friends who have the same passions and interests as you? And that you’ll gain invaluable insights to help you make your dreams a reality?

If any of this sounds good to you, you should consider attending the upcoming Ignite Retreat, to be held April 5-7 in Raleigh, N.C. This three-day event focuses on sparking change and helping young people start on their changemaking journey. Registration deadline is March 20, so click here to sign up NOW!

Meanwhile, here are seven things you should know about the Ignite Retreat.

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Upcoming Sullivan Events

The Sullivan Foundation exists to support those who work to make their world a better place, and one of the best ways we do that is through our events. From our retreats to our field trips, Sullivan events are places of inspiration, information, and connection for changemakers. And this spring, we have a great lineup of events.

This March, we’ll be holding a field trip for budding changemakers in Chattanooga. In April, we’ll be hosting our spring Ignite Retreat and a Faculty Summit. Read on to learn more about our upcoming Sullivan events and how you can be a part of them.

The Ignite Retreat

The Ignite Retreat is an awesome weekend that happens twice a year in the mountains of North Carolina. Participants spend three days focusing on learning, networking, and igniting change in their worlds. The retreat happens in April and October and rotates between Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina.

You can choose from three tracks for the Ignite Retreat: the personal track, the problem track, and the project track. No matter where you are as a changemaker, you can find tools to help you take the next step. Our next retreat will take place April 5-7 in Raleigh, and registration is open through March 30.

The Chattanooga Field Trip

We also have an awesome opportunity coming up for those in the Tennessee area. In February, we will be taking a field trip to Chattanooga to talk with some local business owners. These leaders are working to tackle pressing social and environmental problems in creative entrepreneurial ways.

This year’s field trip in Chattanooga will feature ten social enterprises who are changing the face of their city. These include the Glass House Collective, Lookout Mountain Conservancy, and Mad Priest Coffee Roasters. You can register online through February 13.

The Faculty Summit

If you’re on the faculty side of college operations, don’t worry; the Sullivan Foundation has programming for you, too. This April, the same weekend as our Ignite Retreat, we will offer a chance for faculty to learn more about social entrepreneurship. You will deepen peer relationships and connections and gain a deeper understanding of social innovation and the entrepreneurship community.

During the Summit, you’ll gain fresh new tools that you can apply in your classroom and on your campus. We’ll also provide a forum for you to get actionable feedback and suggestions for you to put into practice back home. Registration is open online through March 20.

Sign Up for Upcoming Sullivan Events

We are very excited about the upcoming Sullivan events we’ll have this spring. We hope you and your campus will get involved. If you’d like more information about any of our events, visit our website!

Penn State Ignite Retreat

This year, the Sullivan Foundation held our first-ever college-sponsored Ignite Retreat. Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College partnered with us to host an Ignite Retreat this September on the Penn State campus. The event was free to all PSU students, and we had forty attend.

The weekend was an amazing time of connection, inspiration, and discussions about changemaking. Students formed amazing bonds, and the weekend kick-started a new wave of change in Pennsylvania. Read on to learn a little more about the Penn State Ignite Retreat.

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Ignite Retreat 2018

This weekend, ninety-four students and a couple of dozen faculty came together in Black Mountain, North Carolina for a weekend of inspiration, learning, and discussion about social change. We had six facilitators, three tracks for students to choose from, and about forty-eight hours dedicated to exploring how to save the world.

These numbers are a good way to get a handle on what happened this weekend, but they don’t begin to show how powerful the weekend was. The 2018 Ignite Retreat was an event to be remembered.

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From Student to Leader

Last fall, we talked with Diane Ford, who is the operations coordinator of Forward Cities and a former Ignite Retreat attendee. Forward Cities is a network of more than two dozen cities across the United States dedicated to advancing inclusive innovation and economic development in their communities.

This year, Diane will be serving as a facilitator at the Ignite Retreat, to be held April 5-7, 2019, in Raleigh, NC. She will join a group of other talented changemakers who lead the retreat and help college students figure out what they’re passionate about and how to take their dreams and turn them into plans and actions. We talked to Diane about her experience with the Ignite Retreat and how it has affected her work as a changemaker.

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