“Take the path of an electron during the flow of current. One might think that it has a straight path but it doesn’t. An electron goes through collisions along its path making it form a zigzag path. I made the same mistake with my life – wishing that my life was a straight path – but just like an electron, I have now understood that my life wasn’t meant to be a straight path.”
Born and raised in Hawassa, Ethiopia is a budding future scientist Yetmgeta Shimekit Akilu. He was raised by his single mother and grandmother. His mom was able to send him to school which opened the way for him to come across the works of giants like Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Gregor Mendel and Albert Einstein. He saw the persistence, brilliance, and artistry in their work and was mesmerized. He then decided to immerse himself in his studies and not long after, he realized that he had fallen irrevocably in love with science.
Science became an outlet for him to escape his life in order to avoid dealing the very many collisions and challenges in his life. He took a dive into the realm of subatomic particles and molecules and found the world very fascinating and dynamic.
He says: “After learning a bit of quantum physics, my perspective on the world changed. I adopted the view that the world is vibrant and changing which gave me some sense of the infinite number of possibilities available in life. I was no longer the kid from the broken home nor the experiment gone wrong but I was the budding scientist with infinite possibilities. Even when life seemed sluggish at the moment, the thought that there is an infinite number of particles coming into existence from what seems to be an empty space motivated me to find a sense of purpose in my life through science.”
Although he is passionate about science, he is yet to put the limits of my passion to the test. It’s true that the giants he mentioned have been very inspirational and educative, but now as he is trying to make science his life, he hopes to have better scientists to mentor him at Vanderbilt University. He is hopeful that one day he will create the social impact to improve his community through science and possibly start a chain reaction that will seek to explore the secrets of the universe.
This New Year brought with it new tidings to the African Leadership Academy all the way from Connecticut, USA when Miss Porter’s School visited the Academy. The relationship between the two institutions has been very close with Miss Porter’s School sending students to the academy each year. This year, ALAians media interviewed some of the students to find out how their stay here at the academy had been.
Their stay here at the academy was eventful with very many highlights. From the deep conversations in seminal readings that inspired Claire to find her own voice to all the amazing humans on campus they interacted with to the student-led classes and discussions they were a part of that would pursue ideas with great depth, Miss Porter’s School enjoyed being part of this Academy.
Kudos to the groundsmen who spend their time working on our grounds as their efforts did not go unnoticed by Miss Porter’s School. They found our campus beautiful with well-tended lawns that make very nice picnic and chilling spots. Ashley described our community as “a small knit community … where everyone seemed to be in a celebratory mood.” This, I suppose, is fostered by the many support structures put in place by the administration such as the house program, the advisory families, peer counselor families and the various hall spirits.
Moreover, Miss Porter’s School found the BUILD model interesting as they worked in teams to identify various problems and develop human-centered solutions. Despite the fact that most of their classes were in the evening after a day full of excursions and classes, they still managed to learn and take away something useful. Perhaps in future, Global programs could consider having classes in the morning for visiting schools before they leave for excursions.
All in all, Miss Porter’s visit was enlightening and fruitful. During their stay here at the Academy and Johannesburg, Priyanka realized the value of being grateful from seeing a community that is motivated by their love for one another rather than materialistic ambitions. Maia was amazed to see that despite people having opposing views on fundamental topics, they were still able to argue out their ideas in a healthy way and not let that get in the way of their interactions. Sheila was amazed to see that despite the diverse nature of people in our academy, African Leadership Academy was a community that valued character over other physical distinctions unlike in certain areas of her country.
As Miss Porter’s girls depart today, we are grateful to all the chommies that hosted them and everyone that made them feel part of the academy. I hope they take with them positive lessons from our community as we wait to see them yet again next year.
“The more you fail, the more you know how not to do things. It’s like Edison – he failed like 999 times. He knows how; he became successful in the last attempts, so he knows 999 ways how not to make the good things and one way how to make the things. As you experience more failures, the more knowledge you’ll have on how not to do things. I’ve missed a lot of things, but I am happy with the things I have now. I’ll be opening my student enterprise soon, and I’ll run for student government. Still, even if I don’t make it, I’ll fail forward and learn from my mistakes”.
Humans of ALA is a series that spotlights the stories of members of the ALA community.
I was born into a polygamous family.
It is a South Sudanese tradition for husbands to have two or more wives, so my dad had four wives. I had three other mothers and so many other siblings, so you know. Life was kinda sweet although there was no, you know, modern thing like education and stuff. Everything was just peaceful and stuff. But this changed in 2006, I think, when violence intensified and so our village became unsafe. So, we had to relocate our home from South Sudan to elsewhere. So, people migrated and stuff. That’s how I found myself in Kenya. My parents went their own way and I went my own way. So, I went with a group of people who later took me in. There was no one I could follow.
That is where my second phase of life started. At the camp (Kakuma Refugee Camp in Turkana County). A new life started altogether. I went to another school, and from there, I passed my KCPE and was admitted to Alliance High School; so, from there, I had so many other experiences … and that’s where another new life started. I can say that my life has been an experience of, a stage of so many experiences; from Kakuma to Eldoret to Nairobi where I went to Alliance, and then I came to the African Leadership Academy. So, basically, that’s how the cycle of my life has been.
Humans of ALA is a series that spotlights members of the ALA community.
“I learnt how to be a shark.
I learnt how to ask for what I wanted, and if they said no, I learnt how to get what I wanted.
I also learnt how to work hard. I was talking to the founder of Draper University, Tim Draper – billionaire, wonderful guy. He told me about the 40% rule. It’s something that the US Marines believe in, and it’s the fact that at any one point when you’re doing an activity, whether it’s physically tasking or not, whenever you reach that point when you’re like “I can’t anymore”, you’ve only reached 40% of your full capabilities.
You’ve only given it 40% of your all. There’s still space to go.
So since then, I’d wake up every day, I’d look at myself in the mirror and I’d just scream “YES! YES! YES! YES!” Like four or five times because I’d keep telling myself that whenever I’d reach that block, I still have space to go. As a result, I learnt how to push myself like crazy.
For the third lesson, I learnt how to lead when you’re not in the ideal position to do so. I learnt how to get people to be on my side, how to get people to back me up, how to get people to accomplish certain tasks and be motivated while doing so, even if I wasn’t the ideal person to be in that kind of situation.
For example, I’ll start off by saying that when I was at the program, I was literally the youngest person there. Everyone else was older than me, and we had people in their twenties. They were mostly university students; and a lot of them had even graduated.
I wasn’t even meant to be accepted into the program in the first place because I was too young but again – I pushed for it and I got it; and getting there, being the youngest, I quickly had to learn how to push for what I wanted, how to talk to people to get what I wanted and also how to just be able to see team dynamics and to reason with other people.
All of those are very key aspects of leadership that I felt I didn’t know before I got there because a lot of the times you’re made group leader and at some point we were taken into the wilderness where we did some insane stuff, and you’re left in a position where people will go hungry if you don’t sort things out, your team will get lost in the middle of the ocean if you don’t sort things out; and your objectives will not be met if you don’t sort stuff out. I had to learn the hard way – by actually getting things done. Yeah, but I made it through and I did it.”
On the 14th of February, Tamasha organised a Valentines Ball for the student body. Lovely dresses and clean cut tuxedos met upbeat music and great snacks as students simply enjoyed the night.
On the 21st of January, the girls’ halls gathered together to battle it off for The Mask. Six competitions were held between Athena, Twawana, Gaga, Malaika, and the new hall: Sayyida.
Amidst the Rubik’s cube solving, choreographing and balloon relay running, The Office, Titans, Classified, Jeshi and Olympus cheered on their sister halls.
The event ended in a dance competition between the halls who were charged with forming a choreography to Sitya Loss by Eddy Kenzo.
By the end of a grueling, spirited afternoon, Malaika hall became the new guardian of The Mask, which was previously possessed by Athena.
On the 14th of January, the annual Africa Land of Opportunities Day took place. The entire ALA community came out in traditional attire to celebrate the role of women in developing the continent.
The day got off to a vibrant start with a series of performances held in the auditorium. Nour Cherradi, Daniel Chege and Asmae Bahassou kicked of ALOO with an instrumental performance riddled with elaborate finger-picking and harmonious chords. Cloud 9’s rendition of Superwoman by Alicia Keys left the room thundering with applause. The event also featured a performance by African Dance, and a theatrical performance by Marubini and Lutho.
After the event, students, guests, and staffulty proceeded to their workshops for engaging conversations about topics ranging from Gender Violence to ‘The Female Profiles in Continentally-Consumed Contemporary Nigerian Music’.
The last feature of ALOO was a community arts project where members of the ALA community left their hand-prints on a banner to commemorate the day.