First, let me welcome you to the 2017 (MWF) Reunion Conference. For those just returning from their fellowship experience, I would also like welcome you back to Nigeria. For six weeks (or more, if you participated in the internship program) you attended leadership sessions, collaborated with colleagues and made connections that span the continent, all while being hosted by some of America’s top education institutions. I hope the experience was useful!
The Mandela Washington Fellowship was instituted by President Barack Obama in 2014, and since that time our government has sent a total of about 3000 young Africans to the U.S. to empower them through course work, leadership training and networking opportunities. Of this number, about 300 were Nigerians.
You are gathered for this Reunion Conference for a number of reasons. You will compare notes on your experiences, you will plan methods for expanding and increasing the sustainable impact of the Mandela Washington Fellowship in your communities and across the country, and you will solidify the existing network of alumni so you might magnify the positive changes they are already accomplishing.
My staff and I look forward to seeing you engage in activities during these two days that will broaden the already strong MWF network, enhance its community service work and improve its ability to mentor young Nigerians.
Specifically, you will attend sessions that outline the benefits of participating in the network of alumni, including accessing U.S. funding sources to support your positive programs, and you will participate in a program development break-out session after learning about grants writing dos and don’ts. Finally, you will lead a “pitch” session in competition for an award granted by a panel of judges.
Each year since the inception of the MWF program, the U.S. government sets aside millions of dollars to support alumni activities, which attests to the strong work you and your colleagues do and to the importance of this flagship US exchange program.
Over the next two days, I’m sure you will step up and amplify the positive impact you have already begun.
Thank you attending, thank you for committing to do the positive work you do for Nigeria and Nigerians, and thank you for working with us!
I wish you all a happy reunion and I look forward to hearing about the highlights at tomorrow night’s reception!