Earlier this March, a contingent of five Regians took part in the annual African Leadership Academy Model African Union (ALAMAU) conference. The only delegation representing the United States, the students participated in a series of committees and deliberations, determining solutions to address some of the most pressing issues facing the African continent.
Hosted virtually this year, ALAMAU is an annual conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa that provides young leaders a platform to practice international diplomacy by assuming the roles of African leaders. An almost entirely student-driven conference, ALAMAU seeks to bring together diverse groups of teenagers interested in global affairs and African development, providing them the resources and skills needed to become the next generation of changemakers.
Regians Brian Mhando ’22, Sebastian Huerta ’22, Christopher Chan ’22, Wilkin de los Santos ’22, and Julius Dorsey ’23 took part in the four-day conference, and were joined by REACH Assistant Director Alan Garcia ’08 as their delegation’s moderator. The theme of this year’s conference, An Africa United: Fostering Resilience Post-COVID-19, challenged the students to think critically about what life in Africa after the pandemic should look like, with specific regard towards technological advancements, bolstering economic systems, strengthening governing structures, and advancing continental unity. Mhando, Huerta, and Dorsey each won an award and recognition for their contributions throughout the conference.
“Initially, I was apprehensive about interacting with people a world away, fearful of how they would perceive me and my views, but once I began speaking with the students and coordinators, those fears melted away,” said Huerta, who won Best Position Paper for his piece on current human rights abuses in Ethiopia. “Each person brought a unique perspective, and I was able to have great conversation with other teens.”
Despite being unable to travel to Johannesburg this year, the team of Regians developed important skills in rhetoric, teambuilding, leadership, and analysis in their engagement with other students across the globe. They remain excited for the opportunity to visit South Africa next year and participate in future ALAMAU conferences.
“Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has stalled and, in many cases, even set schools back as far as their ability to offer innovative and immersive learning experiences goes,” said Garcia. “Nevertheless, the resiliency of our students was on full display during this conference. Their willingness to seek out, create, and execute an international gathering such as this is remarkable. In a very real way, they were modeling the exact behavior needed to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems!”
“The greatest thing I learned in this conference was the importance of stating my opinions and being open to other perspectives,” said Huerta. “Learning about these issues, the goal was to work towards a common solution. I learned to better collaborate with others, something I will incorporate moving forward.”