By Zaynab Abubakar (YES 2018 - 2019, Nigeria, placed by ACES in Redding, CA)
Excellence is a continuous process. It rarely happens by accident. The narrative of my life would be incomplete without the YES program, a pivotal experience that unveiled a better version of me – tenacious, courageous, and tolerant. The warm hospitality extended by my host community helped me adapt easily to my new environment. I learned a lot and built good relationships, while engaging in volunteering activities and subconsciously building my interpersonal skills. The skills gained from this experience have already resulted in me establishing a small baking business in my hometown of Kaduna.
During a lengthy conversation with a friend, we concluded that most of the challenges plaguing our society in Nigeria stem from a deficiency in interpersonal skills. Sadly, the failure to recognize this shortfall has resulted in ruptured relationships across various domains – workplaces, marriages, schools, and other collaborative sectors. Humans are social creatures. We have a fundamental need for social skills to foster effective communication, cooperation, and mutual understanding. Each year, I help supervise the YES program pre-selection exams. I’ve observed that a significant number of students lack the interpersonal skills needed for selection.
Motivated by the need to address the deficiency in interpersonal skills among youth, I applied for a YES Alumni Grant to launch Leveraging Interpersonal Skills for Teens (or Project LIFT). In collaboration with dedicated YES alumni and Mandela Washington Fellows (a program for young African leaders with established records of promoting innovation and positive impact), we organized a comprehensive workshop will train 30 high school students.
On the first day, we led sessions on time management, organization, communication, problem-solving, and goal setting. These sessions were supplemented with group activities and educational videos to reinforce understanding.
The second day focused on topics such as team building, empathy, constructive criticism, leadership skills, and public speaking. The participants had the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills by delivering speeches to their peers. Additionally, we established a group chat to facilitate ongoing collaboration and idea-sharing among participants.
The positive outcomes of the project are evident, with participants expressing satisfaction and newfound confidence in their interpersonal abilities. One participant remarked: "I left this workshop feeling more confident in my ability to communicate effectively and build strong relationships. I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone looking to improve their interpersonal skills."
This workshop has equipped participants with the necessary skills to communicate and collaborate effectively, which is vital for success in personal, academic, and professional pursuits. The transformative power of exchange has found its place in my life, reinforcing my commitment to the goals of the YES program and affirming that my aspirations can only be realized through unwavering dedication to these objectives.
My heartfelt appreciation goes to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the YES program for bringing this project to life. Special thanks to my family, especially my aunt, and my dedicated project team for their support throughout this initiative.