Hamilton’s Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center is committed to addressing “persistent social problems in innovative, effective and ethical ways.” Tsion Tesfaye ’16 has taken that mission to heart and significantly engaged with the Center. Last summer she was chosen to participate in the Levitt Social Innovation Fellows program, through which she received funding for her pilot project, Youth for Ethiopia. That project led to her selection to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) in March.  Now she’s seeking help to keep the program going.

Youth for Ethiopia focuses on three domains: leadership, academics and social innovation; Tesfaye explained that, “the leadership classes focus on key leadership lessons such as self-awareness, conflict management and team building, while the academic courses focus on essential math and English skills.”

The social innovation classes are unique in that they incorporate the Asset Based Community Development model (ABCD), which “has been proven to be sustainable since it relies on available resources to address a problem,” instead of designing a solution and then addressing the question of available resources, according to Tesfaye.

Although last summer Youth for Ethiopia “offered SAT sessions with the aim of making [their] students internationally competitive, some of the students had never heard of SAT before joining Youth For Ethiopia and most knew very little about it.” This year, Tesfaye and her team have decided to “offer math and English courses instead of SAT preparation in order to increase [their] students’ academic confidence while continuing the leadership and social innovation lessons.”

Tesfaye explained that “the idea originated as a final paper for my Anthropology class with Professor Haeng-ja Chung, and has been developing ever since.” In particular, Tesfaye stated that, “the Levitt Center and all of its staff have been vital supporters of Youth for Ethiopia since its conception. Similarly, Professors Anke Wessels, Emily Conover and Barbara Britt-Hysell have been invaluable.” The Levitt Center also provided support for Tesfaye in the CGI U application process.

Beyond the Hill, Tesfaye received strong support from the Practical International Language and Leadership School, as well as the program’s partner school in Addis Ababa, Ethio-Parents’ School. Tesfaye was “encouraged and inspired” by other leaders at the CGI U, including fellow students, the Head of Education Programs and the President of the University of Miami. At CGI U, she “met social innovators from across the African continent who have similar social ventures and was able to discuss ways in which [they] could collaborate for better outcomes, showing [her] that Youth for Ethiopia has the potential to expand to other countries.”

Tesfaye commented that Youth for Ethiopia plans to continue as a summer program for the next three years, while concurrently “expanding the scope of [their] volunteering program in order to deepen the students’ empathy for the society they live in.” She explained that, “the 2014 graduates were so moved by their community service activities that they are still volunteering at a nearby rehabilitation center for children with disabilities.”

As if these goals were not admirable enough, Tesfaye confidently stated that “by 2024, we hope to have launched Youth For Ethiopia Academy, a school dedicated to helping every single student become the best leader they could be.” Previously, the program has worked with a group of 15 potential leaders, although this summer, Youth for Ethiopia hopes to double its impact by “training 30 students and providing a ‘Training the Trainers’ workshop for the Youth for Ethiopia staff in order to increase their workshop leading competency.”

Tesfaye has until June 25 to raise $4,000 to sponsor this summer’s four-week program. The Levitt Center has generously agreed to match donations dollar-for-dollar, explaining that, “With your assistance we hope to keep our promise that Youth for Ethiopia is more than a one-summer project.”

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