Dinner, Dancing, and Dialogue with the Pan Africa Youth Leadership Exchange Program

Young women from the Taratibu Youth Association performed at the reception.
Young women from the Taratibu Youth Association performed at the reception.

On March 31, 2015, Meridian International Center hosted a reception in honor of the first cohort of participants in the Pan Africa Youth Leadership Exchange Program. These 23 high school students from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe are in the United States to develop leadership skills and strengthen their understanding of civic rights, responsibilities, respect for diversity, and the importance of community engagement. While traveling to Muncie, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois this program seeks to empower students to become social entrepreneurs in their communities.

The students and mentors gathered to mingle as African cuisine was being prepared for dinner. The discussions were lively and full of enthusiasm as the participants spoke about their experiences and what they hope to achieve through this program.

Once dinner was over, Erin Koepke, Program Officer for GlobalConnect, gave the opening remarks, and explaining more about the program, thanked all the participants for coming. Then Bruce Armstrong, Director of the Office of Citizen Exchanges and Bureau of Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, congratulated the participants, stressing the importance of their leadership and how significant they are to their local and global communities. Meridian Senior Vice President Bonnie Glick welcomed all to Meridian and introduced the Taratibu Youth Association, a performance group that educates young women about their African heritage through dance and the arts.

The Taratibu Youth Association gave an inspiring performance that was exhilarating and a beautiful representation of African dance. The girls, ages 11 to 18, auditioned to be a part of the the Taratibu Youth Association, which provides the young women an opportunity to discover themselves and become upstanding citizens by amplifying their leadership abilities and responsibilities to the community. The girls danced and sang with incredible passion bringing the audience to life as they showcased their talents.

After the performance, the PAYLP participants were eager to speak to the dancers and even learned some moves. Conversations throughout the reception focused on how youth leaders can make a positive impact on their communities by engaging with and learning from one another. It was clear each participant had a drive to build a better understanding of culture, social responsibility, and social entrepreneurship to become force of change.

This program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by Meridian International Center, in cooperation with U.S. Embassies overseas and Ball State University.

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