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So you call yourself a leader?

The chosen few are the few who chose

To step up to open doors tightly closed

So you call yourself a leader, but what does that mean?

Getting green, turning green, badly running your team?

Sadly killing the dream of hopeful teen?

Madly willing your ideas not even listening?

Does it mean you celebrate on election day

Cause you can add your new position to your resume?

Can you handle criticism when your peers dis’ you?

Cause you don’t care about theirs but only your issue?

Pass the tissue, makes me sad how some leaders let

Power get to their heads, constituents they forget

You’re just a leader in name if you’re just searchin for fame

For acclaim, it’s a shame why some get in the game

Leadership ain’t for the lame, don’t take it in vein

Time to rethink your position understand why you came

See a leader is someone who listens first then speaks

Someone focused on being the change we seek

Someone who understands they represent all people

Don’t get that your leadership will never have a sequel

Do you seek to understand before being understood?

Do you take time to visit other neighborhoods?

A leader builds coalitions, builds community

Builds unity, ain’t subject to impunity

We need real leaders to step up to the plate

To take a swing at racism, other types of hate

To stomp out bullying, help end genocide

Do your best to help others hold their heads with pride

A leader builds a team, can’t do it all by yourself

A leader remembers to practice good health

Cause you’re no good to no one if you’re not good to you

So let me ask you again, is leadership in you?

National Student Council Conference: a better future IS possible

This past weekend, I had the true honor of speaking to over 1,000 students at the National Association of Student Councils’  (NASC) annual conference. I have spoken to youth across America and across the globe, but I had never participated in a Student Council conference before, even though I was president of the Student Council in high school. This conference was a refreshing reminder of why I chose to serve my school in this capacity when I was a student. In short, student council leaders are awesome!!!

From the second I walked in the door of the lovely Ocoee High School where the conference was held, I felt the student energy. Whether in the hallways or in the sessions, these students were actively engaged in everything they did. They were not just there to get away from home. Over three days, I saw them engage great speakers like Cara Filler, Mark Black, Kimyung Kim and others in serious conversations about leadership, service, and decision-making. What NASC does so well at their conferences is that they do not just have keynote speakers speak and leave. The speakers and students also lead smaller workshops, so we got to engage the students at a deeper level.

When it was my turn to speak, I truly felt like a rockstar because the students and incredible advisers gave me such a great reception over the prior two days. I was so moved that I just HAD to put on one of their capes when I took the stage! I have NEVER worn a cape on stage before but I was feeling the spirit after a great introduction by Tori and Cooper, two powerful student leaders! After my speech, I spent about an hour just talking to students who came from as close as Florida to as far away as China! It was an event I will never forget.

Theses student UPstanders at this conference had me feeling extremely confident about the future of America. I really believe that these youth will right our wrongs. It is a shame that I cannot point to our “adult” lawmakers in my town of Washington, DC as an example of what can happen when we put service and country first but I believe these incredible leaders of today (not tomorrow) have figured out how to build communities together just fine. I truly hope that I am blessed with future opportunities to work with NASC at state conferences and summer leadership programs. These students and advisers have created an incredible model that other programs should follow. As I said to so many of them at the conference, ROCK ON!

The future of youth: what 6,000 students just taught me

             The absolute best thing about being a motivational youth speaker hands down is travelling this country and globe and meeting incredible young people. I look forward to the start of every school year because I relaunch our national “Be An UPstander, Not A Bystander” tour. The goal is simple: travel to as many schools and organizations across the globe as possible and build with a community of like-minded young people focused on doing nothing short of changing the world one person, one school, one city, one state, one country at a time. Whether it's ending bullying or celebrating cultural differences, our goal at UPstander International is to build better communities. This fall so far has exceeded my expectations and more importantly, reminded me of the great work our youth are doing across the globe and proved to me again that our youth are greater than the negative images of them portrayed in mass media.

            In October, I spoke to over 6,000 students across Washington DC, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New York. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I partnered with NFL player Aaron Rodgers, actor Emmanuelle Chriqui, and the Enough! Project’sRaise Hope for Congo” campaign to create a rally for Congo. It was phenomenal event that brought the sports, acting, and music community together along with great students and called on the leaders at the University of Wisconsin to pledge to have their campus be conflict mineral free. In New York I spoke at 5 different colleges as part of the Price of Life’s campaign to end global slavery.  In Boston, I watched perfomed at one of the best showcases of youth artistic talent—the OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center 19th annual benefit entitled “Twist & Shout.” In DC, I launched year two of the UPstander Leadership Training Institute at the Upper School Washington International School. Everywhere I went, I was more and more inspired about the future of youth.

            Anyone who believes that our youth are a lost cause needs a vision adjustment. Whether I am speaking at the poorest school in the most crime-ridden city in America or a top Ivy League institution, I see a bright future in the eyes of every young person I am fortunate enough to interact with. Some may have their brightness blocked by the cloud of low teacher expectations or a society that views them as a suspect before a prospect, but I can still see it. If we as adults could work a little harder to extract that brightness like we extract gold and diamonds from mines, we would find those diamonds in the rough and refine them until they shine. Most youth I encounter are passionate about something and just want to make a positive contribution to the world. It would be so amazing if we adults simply met them half way.

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!