I spent Wednesday July 26 learning from an amazing and dynamic group of young world leaders, the Mandela Washington Fellows, at their Africa Ideas Summit. This group of 25 young women and men representing 18 African nations each spoke on their plans and projects to better their communities. These leaders inspired us with brilliant ideas and concrete action steps. During each of their presentations at the summit, I was struck by how many of the issues and challenges facing various African nations today, (such as patriarchy, high incarceration rates, the privatization movement in education, healthcare, and bigotry to name just a few) are also problems we are facing in the U.S. today.
Each of these young leaders is returning to their nation and their local community with empowering solutions to the particular issue they chose to focus their time and talent on. They are also returning with a network of friends who have their backs and who they have grown close with during their six-week experience as YALI 2017 in the Presidential Precinct. The sense of community and caring felt amongst this group was palpable. Some of their projects are in collaboration with each other. YALI 2017 truly became a family, and that was evident to all in attendance.
Historically, July used to be commencement time at William & Mary. For YALI, it still is. At the end of the day, we gathered in Wren Chapel to celebrate their graduation from the program in the closing ceremony. The group dined in the Great Hall and rang the Wren Bell to celebrate their commencement. YALI 2017, you are part of our William & Mary family now too.
Williamsburg, Charlottesville, & all the places they’ve traveled here in Virginia & all the people they’ve met, we are all better for having had this time to learn & grow from each of the Mandela Washington Fellows. It was an honor to meet and learn from them. My experience at this year’s Africa Ideas Summit was truly one of the most educational and inspiring experiences I’ve had here at William & Mary. Thank you, #YALI2017!
Find more information about the program.