On 29th July, the Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) program kicked off in Accra, Ghana. Akili Dada’s two outstanding Young Changemakers representatives, Phyllis and Yvonne share reflections on the seven-day high-intensity academic and leadership residential program.

Written by Phyllis N.

The D-day finally arrived. I got to the airport with Samantha and we got at the entrance. She hugged me goodbye and she left. First, I felt nervous. It was my first time at the airport and I did not know the procedures: how to check in until I got to border the plane. I took a deep breath and checked in. Finally, I boarded the plane. I had never boarded an airplane before. Once I took my seat, I was so excited that I could not wait for the plane to take off!

Here I come, Ghana!

Everything happened in a series. The plane took off, and the next thing I realized was that the person sitting next to me was one of the most popular ladies in Kenya. Her name is Helen Saruni. She works for the United Nations. Spontaneously, we had a conversation and everything was going quite well between us. We had a lot of similarities. For example, she was raised by a single mother just like me. This led to us to foster a friendship. She gave me her contact and promised to check up on me once she travels back to Kenya.

Without realising how quickly time passed, I was in Addis Ababa. Oh my! I did not believe this! I went in courageously, checked in and boarded the plane from Ethiopia to Ghana. I was really happy to travel as I thought, “Here I come, Ghana!”. In the plane, I watched movies, ate and really had a good time. Sooner than later, I was landing in Accra, Ghana. My dream had come true!

I got to Kotoka International Airport and checked out. There, I found others students from all over Africa who were attending the Yale Young African Scholars program (YYAS). I greeted them and soon, we were all chatting as if we were longtime friends. We were picked at the airport and in a nick of time we were at Team International School.

Phyllis in Session

Taking Opportunities Seriously

We checked in and as we were being given the YYAS shirt, bag and name tag, I was so happy and counted myself as one of the lucky ones who were chosen out of thousands and thousands of applicants. I immediately promised myself that I will take seriously everything that I will learn from the program. I will not take it for granted but utilize the lessons learnt to build myself as a leader in my community enablement project and in Kenya.

In the evening, we went through orientation and were given some rules that we were to follow by the director. Her name is Laura. One of the rules included respect for one another. We were also introduced to the YYAS team. They were in charge of the different sectors and operations in the YYAS Program.

The week started very well: breakfast in the morning, lectures, discussions on what we learnt in the lecture, SAT prep, lunch, seminar, some creative activities, supper then workshop until 9pm. During my stay in Ghana, I learnt a lot of things that I cannot really find enough space to tell.

Phyllis with a friend

Importance of Research

One main thing I learnt is to always do research. Research was one of the topics that we were taught by Dr. Ian Shapiro. He taught us that through research HIV/AIDS was discovered, and because of research, the scientists were able to get the source of the disease and were able to come up with a treatment that suppresses the retrovirus. HIV/AIDS patients can live long and healthy lives. Scientists are continuing with the research to find a cure.

I learnt that research will help me as a growing leader to improve on my leadership skills. I can become a more responsible school deputy captain. Such great power has a lot of responsibilities. In my community enablement project, research will help me improve the operations to a higher level.

My Community Enablement Project

Currently, my project entails selling liquid soap so as to get money to provide basic needs for the children at a children’s home. They are presently in high school. So I am going to carry out research on areas that have low competition in terms of selling liquid soap. Through this, I will be able to get a good market and that will increase my sales volume. This will enable me to create good profit through which I will use to improve my community enablement project.

As I reflect back before I joined Akili Dada, I did not know how to brand myself to the public. Through Akili Dada, I learnt how to brand myself to customers. Through this, I was able to hold a good conversation with Helen Saruni. She got interested in knowing me. Also on Wednesday during my university presentation, I was recognized by a university administrator during consultation time because I was able to stand out in the way I asked questions.

The Leader Africa Craves

Through the YYAS program, I have really grown from where I was to where I am now. I have noticed a big difference. Now I know that I am the leader that Kenya and Africa needs. I am the one who will bring the positive change that Africans are seeking. I have to work hard to accomplish my dreams so that I get good grades and go to university abroad. I want to acquire knowledge and come back to contribute to Africa’s economic development. I will also share what I have learnt from the YYAS program with my family, friends at home, school, church and also with my lovely sisters during the Akili Dada leadership academy.

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