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The future of youth: 3 things I learned from youth in Mali

 

            Last week, my organization UPstander International partnered with the State Department to provide leadership training for youth workers in Mali, West Africa. This country has been labeled as being “in crisis” due to its battle with northern Islamic extremists. During the evenings, I trained more than 30 leaders of organizations that work with youth. During the day, I would travel to middle schools, high schools, and universities and deliver my inspirational message “G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!” If you didn’t know, Mali is a French speaking country so all of my presentations had to be in French. Pas de problème (no problem)! I relearned 3 main things from this Mali experience:

 

  1. Youth around the globe want inspiration. The enthusiasm with which these youth and youth leaders received my message was truly moving. I was reminded that, no matter what language you are speaking with youth, they will listen to you if they believe you are genuine in your professed care for them. In order to connect with youth you must understand your real motivations in wanting to work with them.

 

  1. Malian (like most African youth I encounter) place a serious value on education. Many Africans with whom I come across on the continent see education as the primary way to obtain success. In the United States, many students believe the same thing but mainstream media is so ubiquitous that too many youth here succumb to the false notion that their chances of success are greater by obtaining YouTube stardom, getting a record deal or landing on a reality show.

 

  1. Whether in America or abroad, youth respond to music that is uplifting. One of the travesties of our global entertainment culture is the manner in which our youth mainly see and hear music that degrades women, and celebrates drug abuse and violence. Many of us have been convinced that this is all the type of music our youth want to hear. In all of the 19 countries I have visited and performed in, I have found student after student who said they did not believe it was even possible to make music with an uplifting message. The entertainment industry is wrong in thinking uplifting music won’t sell. Our low opinion on what youth value perpetuates a continued arrogance and ignorance towards youth and we must change that.

 

While I was originally nervous about speaking to an audience of French speakers, I quickly forgot my nervousness as they continually nodded their heads in agreement with my 4 strategies for achieving greatness: giving, releasing (friends and letting hurt go), overcoming fear, and having a winning mentality. Even though these were performances blended in with motivational messages, students were studiously taking notes and posing very thought-provoking questions.

I have returned to States more committed to the idea that youth across the globe are in need of motivation whether they are in an economically developing country or the most powerful nation in the world. We have our differences, but at the end of the day, we all laugh and cry in the same language. I am going to continue to travel and speak the universal language of hope for a better day into our youth. Every day, if you think about it, you can also impact a young person. Just take time and communicate to them in the same way you needed to be talked to by an adult when you were younger and you will quickly see that you have an attentive audience. So what are you waiting for?

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The future of youth: 3 things I learned from youth in Mali

 

            Last week, my organization UPstander International partnered with the State Department to provide leadership training for youth workers in Mali, West Africa. This country has been labeled as being “in crisis” due to its battle with northern Islamic extremists. During the evenings, I trained more than 30 leaders of organizations that work with youth. During the day, I would travel to middle schools, high schools, and universities and deliver my inspirational message “G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!” If you didn’t know, Mali is a French speaking country so all of my presentations had to be in French. Pas de problème (no problem)! I relearned 3 main things from this Mali experience:

 

  1. Youth around the globe want inspiration. The enthusiasm with which these youth and youth leaders received my message was truly moving. I was reminded that, no matter what language you are speaking with youth, they will listen to you if they believe you are genuine in your professed care for them. In order to connect with youth you must understand your real motivations in wanting to work with them.

 

  1. Malian (like most African youth I encounter) place a serious value on education. Many Africans with whom I come across on the continent see education as the primary way to obtain success. In the United States, many students believe the same thing but mainstream media is so ubiquitous that too many youth here succumb to the false notion that their chances of success are greater by obtaining YouTube stardom, getting a record deal or landing on a reality show.

 

  1. Whether in America or abroad, youth respond to music that is uplifting. One of the travesties of our global entertainment culture is the manner in which our youth mainly see and hear music that degrades women, and celebrates drug abuse and violence. Many of us have been convinced that this is all the type of music our youth want to hear. In all of the 19 countries I have visited and performed in, I have found student after student who said they did not believe it was even possible to make music with an uplifting message. The entertainment industry is wrong in thinking uplifting music won’t sell. Our low opinion on what youth value perpetuates a continued arrogance and ignorance towards youth and we must change that.

 

While I was originally nervous about speaking to an audience of French speakers, I quickly forgot my nervousness as they continually nodded their heads in agreement with my 4 strategies for achieving greatness: giving, releasing (friends and letting hurt go), overcoming fear, and having a winning mentality. Even though these were performances blended in with motivational messages, students were studiously taking notes and posing very thought-provoking questions.

I have returned to States more committed to the idea that youth across the globe are in need of motivation whether they are in an economically developing country or the most powerful nation in the world. We have our differences, but at the end of the day, we all laugh and cry in the same language. I am going to continue to travel and speak the universal language of hope for a better day into our youth. Every day, if you think about it, you can also impact a young person. Just take time and communicate to them in the same way you needed to be talked to by an adult when you were younger and you will quickly see that you have an attentive audience. So what are you waiting for?

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Standing UP Against Human Sex Trafficking, a CSPAN Event

As a youth speaker, I am proud to have taken part in this wonderful event that is affecting so many people around the world but especially youth. Maya Soetoro-Ng, peace advocate and Pres. Obama’s half-sister, addresses the Center for American Progress on ending the exploitation of women and children. She highlights the challenges and strategies utilized to combat human trafficking.

You can watch the entire event here.

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1,000,000 Youth Campaign

 

The problem

In today’s mass media culture, our youth are constantly being reminded of what it is they do not have. Through the entertainment industry, they are constantly reminded of an image they may never attain. From flawless, near-perfect model images of Beyonce and Taylor Swift to television shows broadcasting the multi-room mansions of today’s athletes, our young people become convinced that their lives will never be as drama-free as the utopian images advertised to them hourly on their cell phones, iPods, televisions, laptops, and video games.

While our youth are dealing with the aforementioned challenges, there are few avenues by which they can receive support (or positive reinforcement) for their own concerns. Television shows that speak to teen issues are hard to come by. Community programs are being closed left and right due to lack of funding. School counselors are overworked and underpaid. Many parents are too busy trying to provide for their children that they do not have time during the day to properly interact with their children and learn of the challenges they face. With no consistent means to intervene in the lives of our youth, we are witnessing an increase in suicides, crime, gang activity, dropout rates, teen sexual promiscuity, and drug abuse. For all intents and purposes, our youth have been abandoned by society as a whole.

The need for the 1,000,000 youth campaign

It has been said that one positive thought can overcome an entire army of negative thoughts. The 1,000,000 youth campaign exists to speak positivity into the minds of our youth. The campaign seeks to plant a seed of greatness in the lives of many whose spirits have wilted. Sometimes it takes the belief of someone else to carry one over until she develops her own ability to believe in herself. Through participating in the 1,000,000 youth campaign, participants will learn the “Great 8” formula for personal growth. Specifically, they will learn to:

  • Realize they can overcome any obstacle
  • See suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem
  • Understand the relevance school still has in their lives
  • Create goals to pursue their dreams
  • Remove negative people or circumstances from their lives
  • Attract the people and circumstances around them that will advance their goals
  • Respect the differences of others
  • Be upstanders and not bystanders in the face of our bullying epidemic

The How

Through powerful and entertaining motivational speeches including the use of spoken word and hip-hop; through personal stories and stories of others who have overcome obstacles; through affirmations; and through dialogue, Omékongo, empowers every audience member to be an upstander and live their greatest life. Through intense breakout sessions, participants dig deeply into not only developing self-esteem for themselves, but a respect for people of diverse backgrounds. Don’t wait! Contact Omékongo today if you want to motivate your youth with this dynamic motivational youth speaker!

 

 

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G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness! for high schools

The focus on this specially designed keynote for school assemblies looks at what students need to do to change their attitude going into the new year, quarter, or semester. This presentation motivates students at all levels: 

– Seniors getting ready for college who should also be thinking about their legacy at their current school;
– Juniors who are about to become school leaders;
– Sophomores who should understand now that what happens in the next 2 years will be crucial for their college application or whatever line of work they go into;
– Freshmen who now have to realize that next year students will be looking up to them so they need to be more responsible.
 

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Real Talk

Real Talk, hosted by motivational youth speaker Omékongo Dibinga, looks at issues concerning our youth today. Whether it's issues such as racism and bullying to music and distracted driving, Real Talk is an honest conversation with and about youth. This is the show where the lives of our future leaders matter most!

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