JOHNNIE LEE FIELDER
Director of Operations
International Youth Leadership Institute
|Event Title: Advancing Youth through Social and Economic Empowerment||Date: September 25, 2019|
The mission of the International Youth Leadership is to nurture a new generation of visionary leaders from the African diaspora who, inspired by their rich African heritage, are committed to leaving a legacy in the world. It is important for youth to be given the opportunity to express and flex their leadership capabilities and the International Youth Leadership Institute does this cultivation of leadership by introducing the concept of being a global citizen to youth who are rising ninth graders to 12th grade. The vision of the International Youth Leadership Institute is Every day, youth of African descent are assuming leadership roles in making the world a better place, wherever they are. Leaders of the the IYLI will be in multiple places simultaneously creating and generating innovative ideas and solutions to some of today’s most nuanced issues.
International Youth Leadership Institute was founded in 1989 by two African American men by the name of Keith Brown, who worked in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and Dr. Micheal Webb, who worked on education development in Africa. When the two men returned to their home city of New York, they asked themselves how can more brown and black youth experience travel as an educational and leadership tool. By encouraging young Brown and Black youth to actively engage with their communities, both local and global they are furthering the mission of some of the SDGS. Through CSDPs, or Community Service Development Projects, youth are able to identify issues in their communities and then tackle them throughout the school year. Some past projects have been focused on eliminating violence, mental health awareness, urban farming, fundraising initiatives, and gender equity. The Community Service Development projects, then culminate in our Summer Heritage Program where youth travel to South Americans or African nations where they are then able to interact with municipalities, public officials, various non governmental organizations and bridge cultural relations between themselves and host country nationals, and conducting ethnographic research reflecting the socio-economic and political climate of that specific Summer Heritage Program. The amazing thing about having youth as decision makers is that they aren’t corrupted by being categorized or conditioned to operate within boundaries of bureaucracies. They have all the energy and desire to make change a reality. Thank you.
Question from audience participant: I heard you say a lot of about work in Africa but you didn’t really mention what specifically it is that the program does. Thank you for your question and I’m glad that you asked. We have Senegalese counterparts that run our Senegalese program in country. They (Senegalese Group Leaders) are our peers, recruiting, training, and preparing our Senegalese fellows for the Summer Heritage program. We also have capacity building meetings every month with our counterparts, bringing them update on program development and building leadership capacity for partnership development with in-country. Outside of this, we also partner with organizations in Senegal. Our biggest
partner is REDES, a non-governmental organization that operates in the Sahel region, working closely with residents in rural areas to cultivate sustainable solutions to food in-security, deforestation, and agricultural degradation. I hope that helped to answer your question, thank you.
Question from audience participant posed to Sasha E Butler: I attend Columbia and I feel like a lot of people in my generation do not care about many of the issues facing today’s society. How do I engage people my own age to care about some of the issues mentioned today?
I would like to add to that. Firstly I am so honored to be here on this panel with such a diverse panel with so much experience. But I am your peer, I just turned 25 and I’m up here trying my best to make changes in the areas where I can. We are so consumed with networking in a very vertical way but we need to become more familiar networking in a more linear way. Ask yourself the question before you ask others, because what you will find is that there will be a lot of commonalities in the answers because at the end of the day we are all human. What you’ll find is that a lot of what interests you also connects and resonates with others.