Two dozen young leaders from all across sub-Saharan Africa are now honorary citizens of the City of Lubbock.
Twenty-four fellows from more than 20 countries who are participating in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders were granted their honorary Lubbockite status during a City Council meeting Tuesday night, where they were honored by the council as future leaders of their continent. The U.S. State Department-sponsored program brings leaders aged 25 to 35 from every sub-Saharan region of the continent to the U.S. for six weeks of academic and leadership training.
Since June 8, the fellows have been participating in academic, civic and cultural events across West Texas, hosted by the Texas Tech Office of International Affairs. The experiences so far have included volunteering with Lubbock Meals on Wheels and the South Plains Food Bank, hiking in Palo Duro Canyon and enjoying a performance of TEXAS Outdoor Musical.
They'll round out their trip by attending the 4th on Broadway festival Monday before heading to Austin to spend some time at the University of Texas. They will head home on July 17.
"These fellows come from such different backgrounds and have made tremendous impact on their communities. It is very inspiring to interact with them and realize how much more I can be doing in my own community," said Michael Johnson, assistant director of International Grants Administration and Partnerships at TTU. "Overall, it is a very humbling experience to see what they have been able to achieve in such a relatively short time."
During the Tuesday meeting, Mayor Tray Payne stressed the importance of maintaining an international dialogue.
"It is important to take advance of these opportunities for dialogue and to exchange ideas with people from different countries and different cultures and different backgrounds," Payne said. "Their goal and purpose is to take what they've learned and what they've seen, how we operate and take it back to their countries and the organizations they're involved in, so we hope that they will return not only with knowledge that they gained, but we hope you return with happy memories of your time in Lubbock and West Texas."
Of course, Johnson concurs.
"Americans have a very servant-leadership mindset that is somewhat unique to other cultures,” Johnson said. The fellowship "also helps break down some of the typical American stereotypes and shows these young professionals the global perspective we all share. I also hope they experience the welcoming nature of Texas Tech and the Lubbock community and build strong relationships and partnerships that will positively impact their home countries."
This is the first in-person fellowship hosted by Tech in more than two years, with the COVID-19 pandemic halting the program in 2020 and shifting it online. This is the fourth time Texas Tech has participated in the program, hosting the public management track.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Mandela Washington Fellows recognized as honorary Lubbock citizens