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Columns : Genderational - Alicia Wallace Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM

Alicia Wallace: My Queen's Young Leaders Experience
By Alicia Wallace, The Bahamas
Dec 18, 2015 - 2:21:30 PM

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In the top photo, Alicia is standing directly behind Her Majesty the Queen and sports celebrity David Beckham sits to the Queen's left.

As my year as one of the first Queen's Young Leaders comes to a close and I prepare to hand the baton on to the 2016 winners, I have begun to reflect on how my journey will continue far beyond this inspiring year as an Awardee.

While most people were interested in my thoughts about meeting Her Majesty The Queen when I was announced as a winner, my mind was on the 59 other Queen’s Young Leaders. Above all else, I looked forward to sharing space with them, learning about their work - successes, challenges, opportunities, ideas - and their long-term goals. I wanted to learn about the issues affecting young people in their communities, and the actions being taken to address them. The thought of cross-country and cross-regional collaboration excited me, and I found it difficult to wait to explore the possibilities. Once we were connected in a private group and I had seen the other winners’ biographies, I started contacting people whose work and interests aligned with my own. Conversations started, relationships developed, and understanding of our work expanded.

One of the most valuable components of The Queen’s Young Leaders programme has been the connection to scores of other young people who are passionate about their work, and determined to create change for themselves, their peers, and their countries. Through a concerted effort, I made quality connections with people I’m sure I will continue to work with, learn from, and support.

A highlight of Leading Change, The Queen’s Young Leaders programme - developed by the University of Cambridge - is that it is unlike any other professional development programme. It is an educational portal, platform, and resource that has benefitted every participant who took full advantage of its offerings. The Leading Change team attracted a strong group of instructors who recorded lessons, gave us thought-provoking and boundary-pushing assignments, held small group sessions, and provided feedback on our ideas and responses to their presentations. The team also recruited a diverse group of mentors to help us develop our projects and provide feedback on other issues and ideas we shared with them. I am confident that I was matched with the best possible mentor who truly listened, considered my cultural context, pushed me out of my comfort zone, provided constant encouragement, and challenged me every step of the way. My year would not have been the same without her in my corner, cheering and challenging as needed.

Not only did we have a world-class leadership course and mentorship, but Leading Change also gave us a pool of advisory mentors and peer mentors, focused on any area of our choosing. We had one-on-one time with experts in a wide variety of fields who generously gave us their time, networks, and resources.

The residential week in London - complete with visits to BBC World, 10 Downing Street, and Buckingham Palace - was busy, but energising. The highlight, for me, was the programme at Cambridge University. In beautiful surroundings, we had full days of sessions with brilliant people, sharing revolutionary ideas and challenging us to think and act differently.

From formal educational tools to informal chat sessions, the Queen’s Young Leaders programme brought a group of dynamic young people together, and gave us a buffet of opportunities. We had the freedom to choose the parts that would benefit us most, and put our energy into them. Recognising the value of the programme and the network it created, I committed to full participation in every component possible, and I’m looking forward to graduating from the programme. 

While I’m leaving and making room for the newly announced winners, I carry the new friends, respected contributors, and newfound knowledge with me. They have all helped me to further develop GEMINI - an after school life skills training and mentoring program for at-risk girls - which will be piloted as a summer camp in 2016. The work continues, and I march onward, looking and working toward the better Bahamas we all believe in.

Alicia Wallace is a Bahamian writer, blogger, and social and political commentator. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from St. Mary's University, Halifax, NS. She is a women's rights activist, passionate about public education, community engagement, and the empowerment of women and girls. Alicia is the Director of Hollaback! Bahamas- part of a global movement to end street harassment - and Co-founder of the Coalition to End Gender-based Violence & Discrimination. She serves as the Youth Ambassador for The Bahamas to End Sexual Violence, and is one of 60 recipients of the Queen's Young Leaders Award in 2015. Alicia lives in Nassau, Bahamas.  Connect with her on Facebook Or  equalitybahamas@gmail.com


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