Sahir Patel drove 1,300 miles, from Raleigh, N.C., to Austin, Texas, for his summer internship in that state’s procurement department. Cross-country travel for internships is not unheard of, but this was one of several significant journeys – both physical and personal – that Patel has taken in the past few years.
The first was to leave his parent’s home in Ahmedabad, in western India, to enter the Jenkins MBA program at the NC State University Poole College of Management in Raleigh. The second was to act on a personal leadership challenge that he set for himself as part of the MBA program’s McLauchlan Leadership Series: To start going to the gym and work with a personal fitness trainer.
The third was to parachute out of an airplane. That is something he has wanted to do since he was 12 or so, Patel said in an interview with Poole College communications.
“I couldn’t figure out who would allow me to do that,” said Patel, who has used a wheel chair for mobility for 15 years due to a spinal cord injury early in his life.
The Challenge: Independence, Fitness and Skydiving
He came to the NC State Jenkins MBA program because he wanted to gain independence and explore the world, Patel said. In his second semester in the program, he discovered there was a way to also fulfill that childhood dream – seeing the world from the sky – when classmate Dana Lanner spoke about the tandem parachute jump she had made for her McLauchlan personal leadership challenge, one part of the McLauchlan Leadership Series.
“I discovered that tandem jumps were meant for people like me,” Patel said.
He had already committed himself to his gym program for his personal challenge, so he set aside thoughts of the parachute jump, but not for long.
Living on his own for the first time, Patel said he realized he had to take better care of himself, including working on his physical fitness. “Without that, you’re nothing,” he said. “The first step is to take care of yourself. And, I want to say, there’s been a complete change.” It’s still hard for him to do everything for himself, he said, “but going to the gym, burning calories, is healthy.”
Going “out of the chair, into the air,” as his tandem skydiving partner said while they prepared for the jump, has also been healthy for Patel. “It gave me confidence, broke the chains that had held me back,” he said. “This was an opportunity for me, and I now have confidence in myself.”
What did his parents think of his skydiving? “I told them, and they were so happy because they could see that the reason I moved to the U.S. was to become independent, and I’m actually doing that – living my life.”
Patel had sent his parents a link to a video showing his tandem jump. “They shared it with the whole village,” Patel said, including those in a program for children with disabilities, where he had been a volunteer. “They were very happy. I’m proud that I made them feel empowered.”
Video produced by Mark Forget and made available courtesy of Triangle Skydiving Center.