Junior sociology major Ayodele Theard-Lewis was selected as a fellow for the LeadNext: Ambassador for a Global Future program. The program was created by The Asia Foundation, which seeks to connect twenty future leaders in the United States and Asia to engage in global citizenship in the 21st century and address worldwide inequities.
“Every single [zoom] session, I get to practice my global citizenship; how I deal with, talk to, connect and communicate with different backgrounds than my own.”Ayodele Theard-Lewis
According to LeadNext-The Asian Foundation’s website, the program’s goal is to connect international students who possess a wide range of cultures, disciplines, and experiences with leadership tools to inspire an innovational impact on future issues.
“Harnessing the innovation and energy of young leaders is essential. Positive and lasting change will depend on leaders who can move ideas and action forward to address rising inequality, find solutions to climate crises, mitigate conflict, and empower communities most vulnerable and insecure.”Asian Foundation Website
The students meet virtually for training sessions and meet guest speakers as they prepare for the ending conference in San Diego, California. Though only in the second month of the LeadNext program running from January to August, Theard-Lewis notes that her definition of global citizenship changes with each session.
“Before, I thought it was this big, intellectual exercise to engage in global citizenship- but now that I am doing it, it’s a lot simpler than we make it out to be…It’s really just about being proud of where you come from, who you are and the willingness to share that with other people. It’s also being humble in the fact that your experience is not the experience; People are going to have different viewpoints, and that should be celebrated rather than condemned.”Ayodele Theard-Lewis
Theard-Lewis, a member of Xavier’s Exponential Honors Program, was encouraged to apply by program director Dr. Shearon Roberts.
“One of the pillars of the Exponential Honors program here at Xavier is to foster global learning among our students…The fellowship will allow Ayodele to emerge as a young leader who innovates solutions for some of the most pressing issues facing global communities. These experiences transform our students’ educational journey, and I think this is the cornerstone of being a Xavierite.”Dr. Shearon Roberts, Program Director
Theard-Lewis, who is also pursuing a double minor in French and Education, is currently studying abroad in London, England. She expresses that not only has this fellowship impacted her future, but her current educational experience.
“[This fellowship] has made me more confident in my academic and intellectual capabilities. If I am learning about a particular institution in the U.S., I can rely on my LeadNext training and study abroad experience that I can bring to my craft.”Ayodele Theard-Lewis
Theard-Lewis’ ultimate goal is to travel the globe teaching to develop more equitable learning policies that affect all students. While visualizing her future, Theard-Lewis took time to reflect on the lessons she had learned within only nine sessions of participating.
“[I’ve learned] while starting an action group is really difficult, it’s definitely doable. Another is utilizing the support system around you. If you need help, express that. Also, make sure your support system is people who will vouch for you.”Ayodele Theard-Lewis
For other Xavierites that might be interested in pursuing this opportunity, Theard-Lewis advises this:
“One, is don’t get discouraged by the application process. It was a lot of work, but definitely worth it. Two, it is an amazing experience as you get to hear from so many accomplished activists and people, and that is something incredibly valuable. Also, remember that you belong in this space, even if you think you are underqualified. Keep telling yourself that you deserve to be in this space. Anybody that truly wants to make a difference in the world belongs in this program.”
For more information on how to apply, click here.
Source: Xula Newsroom