2015 Mandela Washington Fellows Kick Off 2016 YALI Campaign
120 members of the Villa Washington English Club – university students and staff, young professionals, high school seniors, teachers, and community changers – gathered on the villa’s terrace Thursday evening, October 1, to take part in the launch of the embassy’s 2016 YALI recruitment and promotion campaign. The PAO and PAS Cultural Specialist spoke first about YALI-Congo’s past and future, highlighting the program’s newly opened regional workshop centers and its innovative treasure chest of outreach resources that are now just a click away online. The message that there are free YALI instructional programs and training opportunities readily available was welcomed news to all.
The stage set and the crowd primed, the evening’s real program began with enthusiastic presentations by two of the post’s 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows, Cynthia Nkoua and Giovani Mouanda. Sharing their recent YALI experiences, they talked about the application process, different YALI training venues and programs (for them –Miami & Public Administration, Austin & Entrepreneurship), and the thrill of actually meeting President Obama in Washington, DC. Cynthia also spoke about her internship in Cincinnati and the community outreach programs for the city’s homeless and poor she observed.
They gave VW English Club members a lot of practical counsel and tips on how to successfully approach and apply for next year’s YALI program. That was useful and appreciated, but what impressed (and inspired?) them the most was the advice they got from the Fellows to be honest with themselves and sincere throughout the application process. “Good academic grades are important, yes, but not nearly as important as showing YALI officials that you are already committed to and engaged in helping others and your community, the better to serve our nation and make a difference in the lives of people around you. That is the kind of person they are looking for, and it is the kind of person you must truly be to become a Mandela Washington Fellow. You can’t fake it, you must be real.”