Ashinaga USA’s first Winter Leadership Retreat

January 2, 2017 — The Ashinaga 2015 cohort of students studying in the U.S. recently gathered together in Washington D.C. for Ashinaga USA’s first Winter Leadership Retreat. After spending hours studying for final exams and finishing off their first semesters at their universities, the students made their way to Crossway Community — a community-based non-profit organization that has been implementing innovative ways to end the cycle of poverty in the Washington D.C. area through education for over twenty years.

The entire group of Ashinaga 2015 scholars were able to attend the Winter Leadership Retreat: Alex Wagikuyu (Clark University), Jenipher Mpondela (University of Michigan), Juniour Kanidmire (DePauw University), Lerato Mashale (Mount Holyoke College) and Zandile Sibandze (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University).

The rest of the Ashinaga USA scholars who were not in attendance spent their breaks being productive elsewhere. Hilda Nalwanga (Smith College) instead spent her winter break back home in Uganda to be with her family and contribute to a local startup company. Joseph Ssengendo (Villanova University) also returned home to Uganda to finalize his student visa before studying abroad in Australia in February 2017. Daniel Kibuuka (Pepperdine University) remained on campus to work during the winter break. Finally, Angelique Uwabera (American University) spent her winter break in India to partake in the Caux Scholars Program, which provides training in conflict transformation and transitional justice.

The Winter Leadership Retreat was held over three days. The students began by reflecting on their semesters, and discussed their goals for the following term. They compiled their most important advice and created a “Lessons for Future Scholars” guide, to be presented to the 2016 scholars at Orientation Camp in August 2017.

The group also worked on their leadership and service skills by volunteering in various capacities at Crossway as a way to give back to the local community. This included helping the cleaning staff with daily tasks, providing administrative assistance at the front desk and offices, and spending time with the school children at the onsite Montessori school.

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In addition, the students heard from a guest speaker, Mrs. Ebony Jacobs, a former Posse Foundation scholarship recipient, who spoke about her experience overcoming adversity and being a leader in her academic and personal life. The students learned that leadership is not about being the first to accomplish something, but rather having the courage to step outside your comfort zone and explore new opportunities. The students also connected with Ebony’s husband, Mr. Tatenda Jacobs from Zimbabwe, who related his first challenges in the US with those of the students.

Finally, the students participated in a workshop about the Ashinaga Scholar Proposal, which they will begin researching in the coming months. Their topic ideas are very interesting and their drive to explore an important issue in their communities back home is apparent and encouraging.

The Winter Leadership Retreat was a great success in bringing together the students who, in many ways, are on their way to becoming prominent leaders in their communities at school, and eventually in their communities back home.