The Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), a non-profit and voluntary grassroots organization with support from the Inquirer and Daily Observer Newspapers organized the fifth edition of the Annual Youth Leadership Summit.
The two-day event which took place from December 4-5, at the Borough of New Kru Town Community Center under the theme “Building Emerging Leaders” brought together two hundred fifty students from fifteen elementary, junior and senior high schools in the Borough of New Kru Town and other adjacent communities.
Speakers and facilitators were drawn from competent and experienced background with the requisite skills needed for various components of the summit. Swedish Ambassador to Liberia who delivered the Keynote Address alongside ten renowned and qualified speakers, educators, poets and popular writers together with the President and staff members of the Borough School Teachers Association rose to the occasion.
Delivering the Opening Address, Ambassador Lena Nordström outlined three important points for leadership, namely: identity, inclusiveness and intention.
“Our identity is not one simple thing. Part of each one of your identity is probably “being young”. To some, that may seem to mean that you’re considered being a trouble maker, or someone just lying around doing nothing useful, or someone not being serious. You yourself, however, may identify yourself as a young person being strong, vigorous, happy, innovative, and creative. And serious of course. You may think you own the world and you can solve any problem and get anywhere. Being young is indeed part of your identity” the Swedish Ambassador asserted.
The senior Swedish Diplomat stressed the need for young people to get to know themselves because, according to her, that’s the only person they will definitely have to spend the rest of their lives with. She urged Liberian youth to start thinking about their identity, pondering on the kind of leaders they want to be and contemplating on how they would like to lead.
Ambassador Nordström added: “Leadership today needs everyone’s participation in a very practical way. A more complex world needs more participative solutions. And our collective intelligence is more important than that of one individual. This means that we have to open up between teams, create new conversations about our problems, get new perspectives, work integrated. At the same time as we have to watch out that we don’t lose the capacity”.
The Ambassador underscored the need for young Liberian leaders to be curious to discover things from new perspectives and open to be questioned as well as envision endless possibilities and solutions rather than being limited by engrained opinions and traditions.
The Swedish Envoy to Liberia further pointed out five things leaders can do which include: Be a role model for someone, have a vision and share it, stimulate creativity-think outside the box, coach and mentor someone, and see someone who does good and tell them.
Speaking earlier, Matthew S. Karley, Program Officer of YES indicated that leadership has been an old age and serious problem in Liberia, which he said resulted to 14 years of intermittent brutal and devastating civil crisis that brought untold and inhumane suffering on the ordinary people. He stressed that even in the current political dispensation, many opposition politicians are of the strongest conviction that the lack of a transparent, credible and people’s sensitive leadership is still a problem, which is often attributed to inadequate leadership training program for young people who will assume leadership in the not too distant future.
Karley pointed out that the Youth Leadership Summit is designed to engage, educate and empower young people with the needed leadership skills, entrepreneurial capability, fundraising techniques, environmental consciousness, conflict resolution mechanism and advance a sense of volunteerism as well as enhance critical decision-making abilities in an exciting atmosphere that is challenging and fun.
“The two-day Youth Leadership Summit is formulated to provide greater understanding of the role of youth as natural resources and custodians of peace through analyzing concepts surrounding communication, negotiation, integrity, law, human rights, peace, sustainable living, economics, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities,” Karley noted.
Karley continued: “Through the Summit, young people are being nurtured to become tolerant, creative and critical thinkers, doers and makers and also empowered to inspire and sustain a vibrant youthful community that serves as problem solvers”.
The youth leader urged Liberians to stop shifting blame, and badmouthing mentality, and forge ahead and right the wrongdoings of the country’s past through their immigration, creativity, culture and national pride to address crucial issues in partnership with families, schools, communities, faith-based organizations, non-governmental institutions, businesses, the media and the government.
Presenting on the topic “Building Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence”, Mr. Alphonso Toweh inspired young people to believe in themselves and never underestimate their potential to confronting the present-day realities and challenges that lie ahead through patience, perseverance and persistence.
Mr. Bai S.G. Best who spoke on the topic “Life Giving Leadership” narrated the energy, enthusiasm and innovation young people have to change their future by exhibiting a high level of discipline, respect for constituted authority and the rule of law alongside practicing to learn, listen and lead grassroots initiatives to solving some of the most critical and pressing issues in society.
Mr. Joe Noutoua Wanda who presented on the topic “Mitigation and Conflict Resolution” urged young people to do away with violence, crime and drug abuse and always avoid being branded as trouble makers to becoming problem solvers venturing into education, career development, and think-tank leading more research and discovery.
Speaking on the topic “Youth and Entrepreneurship,” Mr. James Mulbah encouraged young Liberians to engage into creativity activity that yield productivity and strived to become employer and not merely chasing employment opportunities.
For his part, Mr. Quamellen George who deliberated on the topic “Building a Cohesive Society” stressed the need for young Liberians to live in harmony and avoid being used to instill violence and commit crime. “Let no one fool you to engage into unwholesome and radical practices, people can live together in spite of religion confessed, language expressed, dialect spoken, wealth owned, or the sounds of their names. We need each other for the society to be cohesive”.
Also speaking on the topic “Youth and Culture”, Mr. Lekpele M. Nyamalon cautioned young people to respect and honor their culture, learn to speak their dialect, wear their native clothes, love their music and arts, because according to him culture is the way of life and no society cannot exist in the absence of a culture that hold the people together.
Giving a lecture on the topic “Branding Yourself as a Leader,” Mrs. Barkue Tubman-Zawolo admonished the emerging leaders to see themselves as commodities to be sold, which require them to always pitch themselves as leaders capable of solving problems. “You will need to make yourself the kind leader you want to be and all we can do is to help you succeed,” she said.
Addressing the summit on the topic “Youth and Creative Writing: How Can Youth Tell their Stories,” Mr. Lennart Dodoo urged young people to begin writing their own stories about the things that interest them the most through their own creativity. “Only Liberians have the original version of their own stories and let us not wait for other nationals to tell it for us,” Mr. Dodoo stated.
Mr. Jefferson Witherspoon who spoke on the topic “Securing Your Financial Future” advised young Liberians to learn to save from their scarce resources regardless of the current economic situation in the country so as to secure a financial future for themselves and their children.
Delivering the last lecture, Mr. Chrisom Anthony Bethel addressed the summit on the topic “Youth and Volunteerism: How Can Liberian Youth Volunteer.” He stated that volunteers are the bedrock of any society, most especially a post-war country that is still recovering from the deadly Ebola virus disease. He stressed the need for young Liberians to cultivate volunteerism and social responsibility in order to remake and rebuild the broken fabrics of war-torn Liberia.