Yanelisa Menzangabom, YCAP Support Team member in KwaZulu Natal was selected to attend an exchange programme in the USA based on the recommendation letter Empowervate wrote for him as he is a volunteer who understands YCAP so well.
Yanelisa writes: This piece of writing seek to report on my participation in the Study of United States Institution for Student Leaders on Civic Engagement January 2020 Cohort that was hosted by FIUTS in University of Washington.
SUSI are five to 6 weeks academic programs for foreign undergraduate
students or Scholars to learn about the United States. Hosted by U.S. Universities and Colleges, SUSIs includes an intensive academic residency, an educational study tour to another region of the United States, and Opportunities for participants to get to know their American peers. Student Leader Institute also include a community service and leadership development activities. This SUSI was a full Scholarship for me all expenses were paid by the United States Department of State. SUSI 2020 comprised of 20 University Students from Africa. In South Africa alone, the embassy received thousands of applications and only three people were chosen to make the top three that would represent the country. Fortunately. I was one of those people.
The Program began on the 4th of January 2020 in Washington DC, where it was hosted by Meridian International Center for 4 days.
On the 8th of January we flew to Memphis City, Tennessee State to stay for 3 days. Memphis stay was more of a study tour, it is where we visited a number of monumental sites. One of them is National Civil Rights Museum, noted as one Noted as one of the nation’s premier heritage and cultural museums the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN, is steadfast in its mission to share the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement and explore how this significant era continues to shape equality and freedom globally. The important part of this site is that it is where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.
On the 11th of January we moved from Memphis to Seattle, Washington State to our homestay with host families. All SUSI Cohorts have a homestay minimum of one week. During this time, you are accommodated by a volunteer family in Seattle to help you acculturate, adapt and acclimate in US as soon as possible. The main objective of Homestay visit is to provide a first-hand experience of what it is like to live in US. Our SUSI cohort homestay lasted for a week. In Seattle the SUSI programme is entirely hosted by Foundation for International Understanding through Students and University of Washington.
The Academic Classes were delivered by Prof Ryan Burt who is a History senior Lecturer in University of Washington.
The academic portion of the Program was divided into three themes, namely:
1) Civic Engagement, Civil Rights, and Grass-Roots Student Activism.
2) Civic Engagement in the Community: Volunteerism and Direct Action
3) Civic Engagement at the State and National Level: Political Leadership,
Citizen Advocacy and Minority and Political Engagement
During these Civic Engagements, I personally absorbed a lot. I was actually afforded an opportunity to explore the theme of Civic engagement through a variety of activities, training sessions, and practical, hands-on approach. I felt like my perspectives and approach was always valued and validated, in the manner that gave me confidence and allowed me to grow and appreciate diverse opinions. Lastly I gained a comprehensive understanding of how individual citizens can influence community change through grassroots, organizational and political means.
The Leadership Classes were taken by Mrs Era Schrepfer. These classes focused on the development of leadership skills. The objective of these classes was to allow students participate in challenging daily activities that encourages and support each individual’s leadership development and reinforce concepts of civic engagement, service and citizenship.
The second theme of leadership classes was to build and implement small-scale community development projects, including project planning, fundraising, marketing and outreach, volunteer coordination and evaluation.
The Community projects are similar to that of Youth Citizens Action Program, the purpose is to solve any community problem using community assets, of which that’s what YCAP is advocating for. My community project is based on advancing HIV/AIDS education on Campus. My second community project will be based on Alcohol Abuse on campus.
Overall the program was very informative to me. I firstly discovered a lot about myself, my potential, skills and abilities. I was in a position where I had to go out of my comfort zone and explore thoroughly explore the world alone, and to be honest whoever said life begins at the end of your comfort zone was telling the truth.
The academic portion of it, was very interesting to me, the teaching and learning environment of University of Washington was very conducive. I was challenged countless times to grow, learn, re learn and unlearn a lot. My leadership skills were tried and tested enough to release with confidence that I am well equipped to lead no matter the circumstances.
One of the comparisons, I would like to draw between this SUSI for Student Leaders on Civic Engagement and Youth Citizens Action Program, is that both programs have the same purpose and are advocating for the same things which responsible and active citizens, alternatively youth civic engagement. Basically SUSI is more like an academic program whereas YCAP is more of a practical.
Eventually the Program concluded on the 8th of February 2020 and we were awarded certificates by the United States Department of State and Foundation for International Understanding Through students (FIUTS).