1050 Printech Ave
Honeydew, South Africa
Letter of Appreciation to the Great Class of '72
In 2010, I interned at the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) in Liberia. My team was responsible for writing a proposal to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. One thing that surprised me was the lack of research to determine which of the ongoing interventions has worked in Liberia. This puzzle motivated my senior thesis, Value for Money: Evaluating the Efficiency of Malaria Prevention and Control Interventions in Liberia where I explored the role of various intervention programs on Liberia's malaria mortality and morbidity. My experience at the NMCP was a turning point for me. No longer was I happy to simply accept policies as given but I challenge myself to explore alternatives.
My Princeton-in-Africa Fellowship was a great opportunity to return to the continent and continue exploring ongoing development work. Knowing the immense support system available in the PiAf network was reassuring in terms of allowing me the chance to discover my potential contribution to the African continent.
I began working at African Leadership Academy (ALA) as an Internship Coordinator. My responsibility was developing partnerships into potential internships as well as working with organizations and students to make win-win matches. I spent the first couple weeks preparing marketing tools. This included an Internship Overview Document which explained the basics of what the Internship Program looked like as well as a FAQ to answer some recurring questions. I also conducted a survey in order to record the relationships our students are building with various organizations.
I am also tasked with overseeing the Community Service Program where I maintain constant communication with community partners and support the students to make their service meaningful and complementary to their overall ALA experience. My main accomplishments in this area include identifying faculty to supervise each site, designing a recording system to track attendance and student engagement on a weekly basis.
My work on Internships and Community Service has taught me the importance of proper documentation. I look back now and realize those weeks in the beginning where I was bored sitting at my desk were not in vain. In fact, the initial work has made things easier for my current team because information is readily available should they need to reach out to any partner organization. It was a humbling experience learning that to achieve my goals, I had to see beyond the now and use my long term goal as motivation to get through the not so exciting part of my job.
In as much as my day job has been rewarding, I definitely feel my greatest contribution has been after work hours. As a hall mistress, I'm in charge of the general well-being of the nineteen girls living on my floor. My role ranges from organizing hall meetings to simply being there should anyone need me. My most memorable moment at ALA was when one student said "My hero is Ms Sheila.” This was at a group discussion after her second week here. According to her, she keeps remembering my smiling face when I greeted her on her first day here. Already homesick at the time, she felt a sense of hope that this new community could be good to her. For me, this was another ordinary encounter with a first year student but after her observation, it became obvious that sometimes, the most impact we have is when we are not trying. It comes with simply being there and having our actions speak for themselves.
Several students were puzzled when they heard of my life before ALA. Why anyone would leave the United States was beyond their imagination. I challenged them to think of their legacy and the immense opportunities Africa has to offer. Seeing a young African returning home and happy to be back is worth more than any act of persuasion. This is another example of where action did all the talking.
In my nine months at ALA, I have begun to appreciate the schools model of Potential + Practice+ Opportunity in creating successful leaders. In my case, the great class of '72 has been instrumental in giving me this unparalleled opportunity. I have gained the experience and confidence to propel myself to my dream of leaving behind a legacy for my successor to better the work I started and my personal goal of maintaining close ties with the students when they graduate and begin to make important life decisions.
I will forever remember 29th July, 2011- the day I set foot on ALA's campus with class of '72 and PiAf cheering for my success.
Thank you all very much.
Sheila Agiti, Class of '11 (2011-2012 PiAf Fellow at African Leadership Academy)