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Mandela Washington Fellows Tour C4K

This week we had the honor of welcoming five of Presidential Precinct’s Mandela Washington Fellows for a tour of C4K. Our guests came from different countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and are in town for a six-week program focused on topics such as human rights and justice, good governance, and women’s empowerment through the lens of civic leadership. 

C4K’s Program Director, Chris, walked the group through our Mentor Studios and Clubhouse Makerspace, introducing youth members and their projects along the way. 

Junior, one of our youth members, spoke with the fellows about his dream of becoming an engineer for the military and how C4K prepares him with many of the skills he will need. The group got the opportunity to ask Junior about projects he is working one, one being the development of a prosthetic hand for a member of his community.

One of the fellows thought a program like C4K is his hometown would be revolutionary. He remarked, “The first time I saw a TV, I was 13 years old and was largely unaware of computing abilities until college.” The group discussed how technology literacy impacts their villages back home. Some in the group shared that to get a good job in their Liberian village, individuals needed computer literacy skills, but unfortunately, there isn’t local access to reliable electricity and technology education. People from out of town hold many of the good local jobs. 

When asked how C4K has been successful in the past 18 years, Chris shared that our program model has flexed and grown and been through different iterations, as technology has changed and as the needs of the youth we serve changed. “It hasn’t always been plain sailing, but we have reflected and learned as we evolved.” Our core learning model is:

Learning by Designing: People learn best when they are actively engaged in designing, creating, and inventing, not just passively receiving information.

Following your interests: When people care about what they are working on, they are willing to work longer and harder, and they learn more in the process.

Building a Community: When people collaborate with others of diverse ages, cultures, genders, and backgrounds, they gain new perspectives for understanding the world—and themselves.

Fostering respect and trust: In places where everyone’s ideas and opinions are respected, people are more likely to take risks and experiment—and thus more likely to learn and innovate.

The fellow’s shared that they were inspired by the way youth prepared for brighter futures at C4K, “we’d love to do something like this for our communities back home in Africa.”

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. As a host of the Fellowship since its inaugural year in 2014, the Presidential Precinct hosts 25 leaders each summer for a six-week program focused on topics such as human rights and justice, good governance, and women’s empowerment through the lens of civic leadership. The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. They are the future of the African continent.The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. State Department and administered by IREX.