A friendlier and more ambitious person would be hard to find after meeting 17-year-old Ashoerah Mwinami. She is one of the top achievers at her school, currently head prefect and on the honor role for academic excellence for the fourth year in a row. For Ashoerah, chasing good marks is always at the top of her list which made choosing to join Leaders’ Quest program an easy decision. However, as she discovered, Leaders’ Quest was much more than tutoring and gently guided her to discover the servant leader within.
“When I attended the Leaders’ Quest induction we were told about the free tutoring that Salesian Life Choices would offer – I knew in that moment that I had to join because I had always been focused on improving my marks. I also heard about the leadership training but I thought it would be a nice extra to have but did not give it too much importance,” says Ashoerah.
Leaders’ Quest is a Salesian Life Choices intervention aiming at molding a generation of young leaders from developing communities to become influential decision makers in a quest to better their lives and their communities. The intervention works with Grade 11, 12 and post matric youth, offering leadership training, experiential activities and academic tutoring.
Ashoerah says that during a Saturday leadership session that focused on the topic of Servant Leadership she felt as if a lightbulb went on and she began thinking of her peers.
“Over the year, many trainings and experiential activities were centered on helping those around you being aware that not everyone has the same past – that we are all different even though in essence we all have similar needs and wishes. It highlighted the fact that a true leader serves others and values diver-sity. It really made me think.”
“On Saturdays, we got together with Grade 11’s and 12’s from different schools from Cape Town. We were almost 200 kids in the premises, this exposure was really different for me and gave me the opportunity to learn how different people’s lives are. It made me more empathetic and more conscious. Another great thing about Leaders’ Quest is that I became surrounded by like-minded peers. Leaders’ Quest participants are all motivated, we take our education seriously and we support each other while learning new things all the time.”
During her Grade 11 year, Ashoerah was faced with an opportunity to serve her peers.
“I wear many badges on my blazer mainly for academic excellence, it does attract attention but normally I wouldn’t want to talk about it much. After the servant leadership training I saw it as an opportunity. Since then, each time my peers asked about how I managed my academic performance – I would use this opportunity to talk about more than just my academics and I became interested in their stories.”
“My classmates would general ask for tips on getting high marks. I was surprised by some who would ask because they were the ones who I thought weren’t interested in school. In the past, I never saw them as students who were committed and I would probably just have dismissed them. But after what Leaders’ Quest taught me, I now wanted to understand them. Talking to them made me find out that they had lots of responsibilities at home, some of them have younger siblings that they need to care for, or they need to cook and clean when they get home from school, so studying is not always easy. I was so touched by their stories that I offered to tutor them in the morning before school – that’s how the morning sessions started.”
“It mostly takes place in the morning but also during intervals. We meet at school at about 06:30 (school starts at 08:00) and revise Physical Science, Maths and Accounting mostly. It’s really rewarding because I am receiving tutoring at Leaders’ Quest and now I have the opportunity to tutor my peers and motivate them. I think I have discovered a new passion of mine – to serve others and I am loving it.”
A budding Doctor, Ashoerah says that being part of Leaders’ Quest program has helped her refine her focus on studying medicine after school because it also speaks to serving people.
“I had the opportunity to spend a few days at the Hanover Park Day Hospital (a facility in the heart of one of Cape Town’s most impoverished communities) as part of the Leaders’ Quest job shadowing activity. The experience made me aware of what the patients go through, but also the stress that the doctors face. It was the real world of medicine, not a movie. I am really happy that I got to see this. I am now even more interested in becoming a doctor and more specifically a gynecologist. I want to help and empower women.”
Ashoerah concludes by saying that since finding out that her true passion is to serve while leading, she is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to serve. She strongly believes that if everyone lived like that, then society would be kinder and warmer. She now understands that real change in the world, can come from the simplest choice of serving.