We Aspire, the youth initiative nurturing global leaders

 We Aspire, the youth initiative nurturing global leaders

If you dream it, you can achieve it. Safe to say, your dreams are valid. This is a mantra that We Aspire Youth Mentorship Initiative stands for, and strongly so.

Just like Mary asked, the people of Akure, who weren’t familiar with the initiative’s vision, inquired of Angel Ifeoluwa in 2015, saying, “How can these things be?” They obviously needed substantial evidence to embrace it.



However, after almost a decade of impacting lives, the vision birthed by Dr. Ifeoluwa no longer needs pitching. Its light burst forth despite encountering the darkness of the “Doubting Thomas” syndrome. We Aspire Youth Mentorship Initiative is no longer crawling or walking but now flying, as seeds carried by the wind and germinating on good soils all over the world.



 

What’s the We Aspire Youth Mentorship Initiative all about?



We Aspire Youth Mentorship Initiative is a non-governmental organization born out of the drive to birth global leaders for sustainability. Our vision is to innovate pragmatic solutions to educational system challenges in Nigeria and beyond.

What inspired the start of We Aspire Youth Mentorship Initiative, and what was the vision when you began?

We Aspire was started due to the drive to bring about positive changes in society. A survey into the society, with the intention of making a significant impact, pointed towards youth empowerment. So, the thought was to go to secondary schools, which is the grassroots level, unlike what other initiatives would do. A search for raw talent began with the aim of providing necessary mentorship and training to refine the talents and help them emerge as leaders. That’s how it all started, and it’s been almost a decade.

Dr Ifeoluwa Osundare and mentees

Can you share some of the initial challenges you faced when starting We Aspire and how you overcame them?

Starting from the inception of We Aspire focused on secondary schools. However, it was difficult reaching out to secondary schools. In the beginning, we were restricted to just three major public schools in Ondo State: Aquinas College Akure, St. Louis Girls Grammar School, and Fiwasaye Secondary School.

We had the intention of spreading our tentacles far and wide. Fortunately, we were able to connect with some stakeholders in different secondary schools. We were also able to showcase what we were offering society through our career fair. We had our first career fair in Aquinas College, which brought about the inclusivity of other schools. It helped other schools to know more about We Aspire, which brought about the acceptability of We Aspire into the community, and that’s how we were able to surmount that challenge.

We also had challenges with finding mentors who shared a similar vision and passion for the youth. However, along the line, we were able to get mentors in different fields of expertise who were able to support the cause.

Also, people did not initially believe in what we were doing. Comments like “You need to go make money first before starting an NGO” and “What are you doing with young people? They can’t give you money” were thrown at us initially. But that’s just how society is. If people don’t understand what you are doing, or it’s not done in the conventional way, people will always doubt. Here we are, and we thank God for how far we’ve come.

How has We Aspire impacted the lives of young people in Nigeria since its inception? Do you have any success stories you can share?

Standing right, Dr Ifeoluwa Osundare and mentors at a We Aspire mentorship programme

We Aspire has made a tremendous impact on hundreds of youths in Ondo and beyond. Some of them may not be in Akure, but they are making an impact, which is like a seed that has germinated and is bearing fruit.

We’ve had a series of internship opportunities. Many of our mentees and members have had the opportunity to intern in their dream companies. Many had their first real-life career practice under the rubric of We Aspire.

Almost all founding members of We Aspire are graduates, and We Aspire supported them throughout their days in tertiary institutions in terms of career mentorship and finance, and has not stopped doing so. We’ve had some of our mentees who have had the opportunity to travel abroad for their masters. In May, we had our first tech event, and we’ve had a series of tech scholarships that have been rolling out. It’s a whole lot, and the impact continues.

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Can you elaborate on the specific programs and services offered at your Youth Friendly Service Centre?

We Aspire started in Alagbaka, Akure, precisely in February 2015. We started with free counseling, a free library, seminars, and game sessions, among other activities to make it fun-filled. Over time, we have fine-tuned our activities. In Alagbaka at the moment, we have reopened and relaunched. We currently have a workstation and a tech hub for tech enthusiasts who want to learn digital skills. We have weekend training sessions, and we have resource persons on the ground who take you through the whole journey. We also have our free library, which is open to school students, free counseling services, and you can also reach out to our mentors for academic or career guidance. You can term it a multipurpose hub.

How does We Aspire embrace collaboration?

Adebola Balogun in a mentorship session with students of St Louis Girls Grammar School

We Aspire has put in place the necessary structure to facilitate our mission and vision. We work with professionals who align with our vision. We share our vision, and they gladly join. We have bright prospects and many goals we want to achieve, and some people buy into this vision willingly.

What are the future goals for We Aspire, and how do you plan to expand your reach beyond Nigeria?

We Aspire is essentially about the people and their life goals, which automatically become the goals of the organization. Whatever they are doing, we support it. We have a large network of professionals in and outside the country, and we connect individuals to mentors doing similar work to what they aspire to do. This allows them to see a prototype for their future, and we support them in any way we can. For us, the future is our young people, and we’ve continued the same model. We currently have We Aspire school clubs in Aquinas and Fiwasaye to drive this vision. Essentially, as our young people grow, we grow with them, providing the resources they need to reach their goals.

What advice would you give to young people who aspire to become leaders and make a difference in their communities?

 

Dr Osundare and students of St Louis Girls Grammar School

Our advice is to be your most authentic self. There’s always an answer if you put in your time and effort and surround yourself with the right people and community. Put yourself into whatever it is that you are seeking.

We have people who are just waiting to go for the National Youth Service Corps programme, as well as those who just finished their senior secondary school exams, getting busy at the hub. This goes to show that at any point you are, there is something you can do. If you find yourself in the right atmosphere, or a place with free internet and a library system, go there, interact with like-minded people, read books, and expand your horizons. Your dreams are valid; whatever you have in mind, just go for it. It may not be easy. Push yourself beyond the limit, and with God’s grace, the sky is your starting point.

 

We Aspire service hub is located at P 33 Cuda complex, Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo state. You can visit the website www.weaspireyouth.org to find out more about the youthhub.

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