Nurturing The Leader Within

Sinethemba Dyasi, 21 was one of the first Leaders’ Quest learners to join the program in 2013. Now in his 3rd and final year of study at UWC, Sinethemba tells us how joining Leaders’ Quest opened up his world of opportunities and ignited a leader within.

Originally from Nyanga, Sinethemba’s world was small “I have always gone to school in the same community and within walking distance. I never even needed to take the bus so my exposure to different people and opportunities was very limited. Moving to my secondary school was also a big challenge as their standard and pass rate was very low and it felt like I was being degraded just by being there.”

In grade 10, Sinethemba was one of only eight students to pass his year, and those learners that failed grade 11 made up his year group. But it was in this year that he heard of the Leaders’ Quest program from his Life Orientation teacher who encouraged him to apply.

Leaders’ Quest  intervention that works with Grade 11, 12 and post Matric youth from communities in the Cape Flats. It combines leadership training, experiential activities, academic tutoring and career guidance.

“As I read more about the program I became more interested in joining, even the name of the program ‘Leaders’ Quest’ was appealing as I knew I wanted to achieve more in my life. The career guidance and job shadowing components particularly interested me because I wanted to learn more about my future career.”

Sinethemba has always been an achiever and aspired to be the top of his class, this attitude and determination towards his life and work made him a perfect candidate for the program and he was accepted.

“The commitment Leaders’ Quest needed was a challenge at first because we needed to meet after school and Saturdays, but I soon got into the rhythm and loved it.”

“I enjoyed meeting different people from different cultures and background. It was also a space I could express myself, a space where I could interact with like minded people. From the start we were challenged to become more self aware, connect with others and how to master ourselves in everyday life.”

In Grade 11, learners are exposed to various leadership modules, in conjunction with this, learners must complete experiential activities to put theory into practice. It was one of these activities, the diversity exchange program, that had a profound effect on Sinethemba.

Learners are challenged to spend 24 hours with a peer from another community and walk in the shoes of another. “I am still friends with the person I exchanged with today” Sinethemba says excitedly “going to another school was scary and took me out of my comfort zone, but it also made me be more adventurous. The experience made me realise that what we see from afar is not the reality and how we look at others can be wrong, but when we come closer we realise we are not so different. For example myself and Shaun we have been brought up by our grandmothers, this was a big thing we had in common.”

Sinethemba says that he has taken this experience forward into his life “My world is bigger and I embrace diverse as a good thing. I have taken this even into varsity, I am not afraid to make friends with anyone regardless of their race or background now.”

Sinethemba was committed to the program and embraced the teachings and training that Leaders’ Quest offered however at the beginning of Grade 12 Sinethemba began to struggle academically “I felt I couldn’t function, all I could see was being a failure. The academic stress was becoming too much, on top of this I felt the pressure to succeed from family and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I was close to breaking point”

It was then that Sinethemba’s coach referred him to Leaders’ Quest therapist. “I became a victim to maths, my weakest subject, and this made me stuck and doubt about myself and my ability to pass Matric. The therapist helped me so much. She was a motivation and a resource to me.  I was given handouts with notes from our sessions to read that I could relate to and go back to whenever I needed them and practical exercise for me practice. One exercise she gave me that I still do today was to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself positive things like ‘Sinethemba you are great’, ‘Sinethemba you are smart’ and ‘Sinethemba you can do it’. I practiced everyday and over time my mind started to believe what I was saying and this really helped me to cope with the stress of Matric. I felt like I was able to master myself better and be a victor in my situation”  Sinethemba saw the therapist for three sessions, but he always knew if he needed her, she would be there for him.

Sinethemba went on to pass Matric with full exemption. Sinethemba was accepted into UWC to study BA Linguistics and Psychology. It was at university where many of the connections and skills he had developed through Leaders’ Quest really came to light.

“The first year was a challenge in adapting to a completely different environment to what I was used to in Nyanga. Suddenly I was completely independent and free to do whatever I wanted, this was quite overwhelming. I was assigned a mentor which really helped but many of my friends were from Leaders’ Quest and this gave me a sense of security. I was also able to use the teachings from Leaders’ Quest, it was like I had a tool box with me all the time. I could just pick which tool I needed that would suit the current situation I was dealing with”

Now in his 3rd year, Sinethemba says that he has embraced ways to give back and pass on the skills that were given to him through Leaders’ Quest. At the beginning of his 3rd year he was part of the peer facilitator program at UWC.

“I was responsible for leading a group of 40 students and orientating them into the university, answering all their questions and giving support to them as well as their parents. I am also part of the mentorship program that helped me in that first year and I have four mentees that I take care of. They look to me for guidance and this has given me opportunity to pass on some of the skills I learnt in Leaders’ Quest. I have also become a volunteer Tutor for Ikamva and I go back to my community in Nyanga to assist learners with their studies, I even recognise some of them from my school’

When we asked him what motivates him to seek out leadership opportunities he said “Leaders’ Quest ignited something within me to become a leader. The skills I have learnt are no longer just practical exercises in my head but I feel like they have become part of me and come naturally. The Leader’ Quest experience has inspired me in continuing to find opportunities for self development and self empowerment.” Sinethemba was selected to be part of a program at UWC for leadership and social responsibility, and recently completed a personal mastery and empowerment course.

It seems there is no stopping to Sinethemba as he goes from strength to strength, having achieved eight distinctions in his 2nd year he is well on the way to success. Sinethemba is testament that with the right training and the right support we can nurture the leader within and these are the leaders that will change the face of earth for better.

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