This summer I had the honor to assist a friend who served as the program coordinator for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. This fellowship began in 2014 and is the flagship program of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. The utility of the program is to empower young leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. This year out of nearly 70,000 applicants from Sub-Saharan Africa a total of 1,000 young leaders were chosen to participate in this program hosted at many universities across the United States, one of them being the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Twenty-five leaders attended daily workshops for six weeks through the Business School at UNR.
I had the very easy task of serving as a peer collaborator. I essential participated as a companion, with similar professional interests.
There is really something to be said about the energy you can get from being surrounded by a group of people who are like you; motivated, young, and professional. The one thing we all have in common is we have a dream. All of our dreams may not be the same but the journey we must take in order to achieve to our dream, is the same.
For almost as long as I can remember, I have been interested in setting out into the world to find something bigger than me. Something that I can make my contribution to in order to make the world a better place, and creating a better future. However, I rarely thought that my contributions would lead me to be interested in Sub-Saharan Africa.
After participating as a peer collaborator I learned so much about the regional diversity of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was a sensory overload. And this is the part where citizen diplomacy changed my life. I learned something about many different cultures, just enough to grow a deeper curiosity and understanding. Africa is often portrayed in western media, as one country. This is not the case. Africa is a continent of 54 independent states. All different. All unique. All filled with young people ready to move Africa to the forefront of the global economy.
If you ever have an opportunity to learn about another culture, and share your own, do it. The rewards of expanding your understanding of the world are the gift of an experience that is truly your own.
Myself and Josephine, Mandela Washington Fellow- Liberia