The Mandela Washington Fellowship (formerly known as President Barrack Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative) has chosen 15 Liberians for the Fellowship's 2015 edition in the United States.
2015 finalists include Fombah L. Kanneh, Samuel D. Karya, Rally T. Fallah, Chris Sackie, Fred D. Koilor and Ruth C. Engman, among others.
The fellowship will take them to various universities and colleges across the United States where they will undergo weeks of intensive training and in various disciplines, including Business Entrepreneurship, Public Service, Community Service, Governance, amongst others.
In her welcoming statement to the 15 successful finalists on April 9, at the US Embassy near Monrovia, Ambassador Deborah Malac expressed her delight and commended the finalists, and urged them to make use of the opportunity to impact themselves and their country.
She acknowledged that the fellowship is all about capitalizing on the creativity and talent of Africa’s young leaders by empowering them with the skills, training and technology necessary to bring about lasting change and meaningful progress in their countries.
This, she said, has been demonstrated by Liberian participants in previous fellowships.
According to Ambassador Malac, when the 2014 fellowship concluded in Washington, D.C., Liberian participants returned and actively got involved in the fight against Ebola in Liberia.
She specifically referenced public awareness about self protection and community and family protection as key initiaties undertaken by 2014 Mandela Fellows in their respective communities.
She recalled that President Obama launched the YALI program in 2010 to help sharpen skills, improve networks and strengthen partnerships between the United States and Africa by investing in the next generation of African leaders.
“I am happy to note that we have with us here 15 young Liberians who have been selected to participate in this year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for 2015,” urging them to emulate alumni whose activities have impacted their communities and country.
Ruth C. Engman, an articulate and joyous finalist, speaking to this newspaper at the U.S. Embassy, stressed that she had been uncertain as to whether the program would have considered Liberians this year since Ebola had been raging here.
“I reluctantly applied and now I have been selected. I am very happy for the level of transparency demonstrated in the selection process,” Ruth noted with joy.
She will be studying Civil Leadership at a selected university in the United States, hoping to return after her studies in order to begin her advocacy work as required in her area of study.
Journalist Fombah Kanneh, is also going to study Business Entrepreneurship. He said the selection process was very competitive and to triumph as a successful candidate was unimaginable. He thanked God for his success and wished to return with new knowledge to impact his country by creating job opportunities in sanitation.
Like Ruth, Fombah claimed he owed loyalty to his country and would come back with new ideas to help with youth unemployment. By that, he promises that he will not stay in the United States as some do when they get the opportunity to step on that soil.
Samuel D. Karya, for his part, has a passion for Agro Business and is desirous of making use of the opportunity.
President Barack Obama launched the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in 2010 with the intent of developing young African leaders to assume leadership in their communities by doing what will benefit others.
Climaxing the 2014 edition, President Obama renamed YALI to "Mandela Washington Fellowship" for Young African Leaders, in honor of the late South African President and icon, Nelson Mandela.
That same year, during a town hall meeting with participants, President Obama urged them to “be the change you want to see in your community. This program is not meant to challenge your leaders’ positions in your country.
"For any country to develop and prosper," he continued, "its people must fight corruption and put into place good governance and rule of law.”