“I moved here from Malawi, and when I first came here, I was very bullied for my accent. I think this made me work harder on my English and also know how important it is to put a stop to bullying.”
There was a sympathetic silence that fell across the room full of kids ages 12 to 17 when Muhozi shared his experience. Muhozi was one of the teens I was so fortunate to interact with during Usher’s New Look youth leadership conference in Atlanta. The organization’s mission is to help ensure the success of young people as leaders throughout the world by giving them the right tools to identify issues in their community where they can make a difference and implement a solution.
Muhozi spoke with me candidly about moving here so many years ago and what his experience had been like. I asked him if he missed Malawi, and he responded with a smile that it was more that he missed his family. He went on to explain he had not been back to visit in years because of the unrest and danger of traveling there.
Muhozi was sitting with an equally charming and bright teenager named Fatmata. Like Muhozi, she had moved to the United States years ago from Sierra Leone. Fatmata also mentioned she missed home, but had been back to visit a few times. Both of these teens were smart, kind-hearted, and so open to sharing their experiences with me. I soon found myself wanting to hear more and even take a picture with them so I wouldn’t ever forget meeting these two special people!
On the second day of the three-day conference, Southwest Leaders, Captain Rob Amsler and Southwest Board Member and Atlanta-native Veronica Biggins, hosted a training workshop to show nearly four dozen youth just like Muhozi and Fatmata how to identify their special talents, pinpoint issues within their community (such as Muhozi’s example of bullying), develop strategies to address those issues, and then find ways to implement a solution to help others.
As I observed and interacted with all the kids that day, I felt very humbled by their eagerness to share their personal stories and show us their hidden talents like singing, performing cheers, rapping, or just volunteering their personal views on various subjects. Each teen in the room was unique and shared different views. One thing they all had in common is the confidence to be leaders and look forward to a successful future.
I left Atlanta that day with two new friends—Muhozi and Fatmata—who left a lasting impression and reinforced how proud I am to work for a Company that supports an organization like this that mentors, empowers, and uplifts children and teens—helping them recognize their strengths and giving them the confidence to become fearless leaders of our future.