International Studies & Programs

GYAN Celebrates National Mentoring Month:

Sharing Stories of Youth Mentorship

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Published: Wednesday, 31 Jan 2024 Author: Global Youth Advancement Network

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This January, the Global Youth Advancement Network (GYAN) is celebrating National Mentoring Month, a U.S. based, annual observance which amplifies the transformational power of mentorship and to celebrate mentors, mentees, and their interconnected growth.

In honor of such an important observance, GYAN has invited the mentors and mentees from last year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Program at MSU to share their youth mentorship stories. The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a U.S. Department of State program funded by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX, with the ultimate goal of empowering African young leaders through academic and professional training, mentoring, and networking opportunities. 

MSU became an Institute Partner with this initiative in 2022, and last year, GYAN became once more involved with this initiative (administered by the Alliance for African Partnership and the Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities Program) as Luna Lu (GYAN Senior Innovation Officer) and Leticia Cherchiglia (GYAN Faculty Liaison & Program Coordinator) served as project coaches for the Leadership Institute. They had the pleasure of mentoring and providing guidance to two young aspiring African fellows as they worked on their focus projects, aimed at making a difference to their local communities.

The stories gathered from the participants in the Mandela Program demonstrate that mentorship not only plays a crucial role in supporting youth towards their goals, but also brings benefits to both mentors and mentees.

A few of the mentees from the Mandela Program shared their insights reflecting upon their experiences as Mandela Washington Fellows at MSU, as well as sharing updates on their Mandela projects and ongoing collaborations with their Mandela mentors after the Leadership Institute.

WhatsApp_Image_2024_01_04_at_21.55.14_871ee0b3.jpgKahisano Kolobe, Project Manager (Lesotho):

"My experience at Michigan was, in analogy, the resuscitation of parts of me that were in ICU. It was quite reflective and meaningful. Through the sessions I had with my coach, I have been able to get more clarity on my career and project path (it was all over), and amazingly she has also inspired my personal branding through how she presented herself.

I have since registered an NPO and I am in communication with other fellows for collaborations. Currently I am finding the best learning model to contextualize for my beneficiaries. 

I also enjoyed outside interaction with Americans as it provided more insights on American culture, for instance, catching a baseball match at the stadium and attending a city council meeting."


Takunda Wilson Make, Programme Officer (Zimbabwe):

"The Mandela Washington Fellowship was an eye-opening experience for me, gaining an appreciation of different aspects and concepts from the perspective of a developed country. Coming from a Lower Middle-Income Country, the fellowship exposed me to alternative world views, opinions and a way of doing things. It also helped me build networks and partnerships with like-minded individuals who were part of the fellowship in their varying capacities.

I foresee my future being in the human rights field either globally or regionally. From that perspective, I want to be an innovator and come up with hybrid approaches to human rights. I want to be able to integrate the traditional and cultural aspects of human rights and find creative ways to fuse them with international best practices to create solutions that are nationally owned but also adaptable on the world stage through knowledge-sharing platforms and exchanges. By tapping into indigenous knowledge systems, l feel like much progress can be made into ensuring the enjoyment of human rights for all.

Personally, the mentorship helped me to explore my strengths and weaknesses. It also helped me self-introspect on my career goals and ambitions and the steps l need to take to achieve those goals." 

Priye_New_Headshot.JPGPriye Diri, Filmmaker/Programs Manager at Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (Nigeria):

"My Mandela Washington Fellowship experience at MSU was life-changing. I did experience shared culture and knowledge among other Africans, but that is not what stood out. What stood out was the hand-holding by the institute staff led by Prof Salah and his individualistic approach. One of my favourite experiences was the film sessions for select filmmakers at MSU; it showed that our needs were listened to and considered. My second favourite experience was the personal coaching sessions held by Salah for all the fellows placed at MSU; it showed that he cared for our general well-being, which will forever stay with me.     

I launched the FemBud on Linked In and am now working to create local activities in Abuja, Nigeria, for people to know about the movement and access to join. During my personal mentorship time with Prof Tama Wray, I mentioned that I wanted to make my film, "Dying Is Hard To Do," and I made the film, and it is now in editing." 

Calvin Manika, International Journalist & Chief Executive Officer of The Besana Mail (Zimbabwe):

"Calvin_photo.pngThe Mandela Washington Fellowship was a life changing opportunity to me. During my leadership Institute at Michigan State University (MSU) I was surrounded by willing professors, mentors and a coach. Every day was packed with both academic sessions and cultural activities, but it was worthwhile. I never managed to visit every office and block at the huge Michigan State University campus but to all offices I went doors were open and opportunities were vast. The experience was filled with networking, collaborations and partnerships. My leadership skills were honed through the interaction with other young African leaders and US citizens I met at MSU.

 My favourite experience at the campus was networking and conversing with professors and other MSU staff. The willingness to listen to my story by MSU staff made me to fully express my vision. My vision is give a voice and space to children and young people in news deserts and marginalised communities in Zimbabwe and making the world a better place for young people. It is my hope that GYAN will continue inviting me on different events and projects to fulfill my vision.

I am grateful for Luna Lu and her team at GYAN for having confidence in me. During my time at MSU I gained a lot from the interactions and coaching sessions from Luna of which she remains offering to me whenever needed. This reflects the work ethics of the GYAN and their desire to establish a global network with young leaders like me. I remain open to collaboratively work with GYAN and MSU at large."


Djamira Zorom, Peace Worker, Cofounder of FIHDP (Female Initiative for Humanitarian Development and Peace), and new Vice Chair of Africa Youth Network of the International Federation of Red-Cross and Red-Crescent (Burkina Faso):

“During my time at the Mandela Washington Fellowship, I had the opportunity to share my experiences as a peace worker with the East Lansing community. They were eager to learn more about my involvement in working with youth and women in Africa. During our discussion, I opened up about the security challenges we faced and the unforgettable memories associated with this exciting work.

I emphasized how, with a dynamic team, we successfully engaged women and youth in the peace process. It was a tremendous pleasure for me to share the richness of my Burkinabe African culture and to present its components that have played a crucial role in building peace. One intriguing aspect I shared was the concept of "cousins joking," a practice in which some ethnic groups pretend to dislike each other but always maintain a very good relationship. It's culturally ingrained that they should never harbor real hatred towards each other.
What struck me as surprising was the realization that a similar practice exists between universities in the United States. Just like the ethnic groups in my region, these universities may engage in playful rivalries, but underneath it all, they maintain a positive and collaborative relationship. This commonality was a fascinating discovery during our discussions.

I am grateful for the mentoring session our Mandela coordinator with his team implemented. I spent wonderful times with my coach, Program coordinator at MSU, she generously shared initiatives and opportunities that I was able to share with my communities in my country, but above all she contributed to the experiences and community engagement of young Burkinabe people for peace to be heard and encouraged at a global event. I am grateful for this type of meeting which can boost and contribute to great success.”

The mentors also shared their insights reflecting upon their experiences as a Mandela Washington coach/mentor at MSU. 

Luna Lu, GYAN’s Senior Innovation Officer, served as a mentor to Calvin:

“Working with Calvin has been an enlightening experience. Witnessing his dedication to his craft and his commitment to making a positive impact in his community has been truly inspiring. Supporting his professional development and seeing his growth as a leader has been a privilege. During the six weeks with the Mandela Washington fellows at MSU, collaborating with Calvin on his impactful project was a highlight. His passion for journalism and social change shines through in every interaction. I have no doubt that he will continue to make LeticiaLuna.jpgsignificant strides in his career and contribute meaningfully to his community and beyond. Our mentorship journey didn't end with the conclusion of the summer program; we continued connecting and collaborating. I'm thrilled to invite Calvin to present at GYAN’s International Youth Day: Innovation Collaboratory and to continue working together on grant applications. I remain committed to providing support to Calvin whenever he needs it. Working with Calvin has truly been a highlight of my experience as a Mandela Washington coach, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be part of his journey.”

Leticia Cherchiglia, GYAN’s Faculty Liaison & Program Coordinator, served as a mentor to Djamira:

“Being a coach for the Mandela Washington Leadership Institute last summer was an incredible experience! I truly enjoyed getting to know more about the fellow I was mentoring (Djamira), her goals and aspirations for the future, and her country of origin (Burkina Faso). Learning through one’s perspective is always insightful, particularly from a young leader such as Djamira, whose passion for peacemaking is so evident. Through an empathetic approach, I tried to provide her to the best of my abilities with helpful resources and insights based on the project she was working on. I also wanted to make the mentoring sessions more engaging and dynamic, while taking advantage of what MSU campus has to offer; hence, we had our mentoring sessions at different places on campus, including MSU’s Dairy Store. Mentoring opportunities such as this can bring many benefits for both the mentee and the mentor, and on my end I believe that it has helped me to grow professionally particularly when it comes to soft skills building. Not only that, but being able to be part of a young person’s journey is extremely rewarding!”

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