When asked what my greatest takeaway is from a yearlong Fellowship in the U.S, my response has always been ‘‘youth voice and people.’’ While working as a Broadcast Journalist and activist advocating for youth development; civic engagement, children’s education rights and gender parity in Nigeria, I always believed in the power of collective action driven by youths towards positive change. This form the basis for my advocacy for sustainable development in Africa. However, my knowledge was radically amplified on getting to the United States in 2018 where I served as an International Exchange Program recipient under the Atlas Corps Fellowship.
During my service time at the Center for Teen Empowerment, a non-profit in Boston Massachusetts, I worked with teenagers and young adults ages 14 to 21 who work on both small and large scale community events on issues youth face in Boston. I was completely blown away by their intelligence and commitment to driving real change in their communities. I worked with teens who were advocating for a reduction in the voting age, policy change in gun reforms, youth development and other issues youth face in Boston. My scope of youth leadership and development had a fundamental shift after seeing teenagers recognizing the power in their voice and utilizing that power towards positive change in their communities. This experience has broadened my scope to the vast possibility of youth-driven sustainable change in Nigeria and has sparked the desire to amplify youth voice in ways we’ve ignored as a nation.
My other takeaway is people and relationships developed in the past year. The connections made and lessons learned from my interactions will be a reminder to the importance of developing a community that transcends race, age, and country. I’ve had the privilege of having a family in a foreign country with my loving housemates and Atlas Corps Fellows, these people perfectly embody the beauty and empowering effect of diversity.
I am also reminded that life isn’t always about poetry and I am not so special, but I am also aware of my intrinsic connection to poetry and grateful for the opportunities and network built with creatives in Boston. There are professional connections and relationships that will shape the coming years of my professional and creative journey and for this, I’m grateful to the Atlas Corps Fellowship for providing the opportunity to serve and grow as a leader.