Palmer Award Finalists: Nabeel and Le’Otis

In the third installment of our Palmer Award announcements, we have our final two Palmer Award finalists to share with you. Please meet Nabeel Ahmed and Le’Otis Boswell-Johnson!

Nabeel attended Central Michigan University’s session of the Institute. While there, he developed a vision that was focused on a world where clean and drinkable water is valued and available for everyone. Recognizing that there is much to learn about water treatment, Nabeel got to work and focused his masters’ research on the purification and reclamation of wastewater.

Through this research, Nabeel is working to discover solutions to the problems related to water treatment. By writing and publishing articles about this research, he hopes that he is building awareness around the world’s water crisis as well as demonstrate the possibilities that exist through research.LSH-all-banners-LO-RES-7

Nabeel’s Institute experience continued this year when he served as a challenge course facilitator for CMU’s 2018 session.

Le’Otis, Institute graduate from the Florida State University session, has a vision of a juvenile justice system that is rehabilitative in nature, giving youth an opportunity to turn their lives around.

To prepare to make an impact on a long-established punitive judicial system, Le’Otis is now pursuing his Juris Doctorate at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern. Prior to enrolling on law school, he spent a year tutoring and mentoring at risk students with City Year. His work at City Year fostered the academic and personal growth of those he mentored, potentially lowering their risk of ever entering the juvenile justice system.

Le’Otis is also the co-founder of Sons of Sophistication Mentoring Program. Based in Tallahassee, FL, the program provides high school aged men of color with mentors from Florida State University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Tallahassee Community College.

Join us in wishing Nabeel and Le’Otis success in their work to create a more just, caring, and thriving world!

If you haven’t heard who our two other finalists are, you can read about Malik and Pooja here. Then visit this post to learn all about this year’s Palmer Award recipient, Briana Landis.

2018 Palmer Award Finalists: Malik and Pooja

We received so many impressive and inspiring applications for this year’s Palmer Award! Earlier this month we announced the 2018 recipient, Briana Landis. And now we are excited to share with you some of the finalists for the award. Today we want to introduce you to Malik Amir Mix and Pooja Trivedi.

Malik attended the Institute at Michigan State University. In his award application, Malik shared that one of the things he learned during those six days was how to optimize his purpose. As he went through the process of identifying how he’d like to activate his purpose, Malik wrote a vision headline that read, “Detroit Youth Will Attend Any College in the World for Free!”

OYLFAs a step towards his vision, Malik has established the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Our Young Leaders Foundation (OYLF). OYLF has established a partnership with University Preparatory Academy High School in Detroit and has spoken with students about personal brand and development. Now there are plans for the UPA Middle School to be included in future presentations.

The Foundation has also secured monetary donations that have been used to provide over 500 meals to the homeless of Detroit. The group has launched the Project FATKidz (Fighting Against Threats) campaign as well. You can learn more about all of the OYLF’s initiatives by visiting their website.

In addition to this vision work, Malik is active at MSU. He began a Men’s Empowerment Brunch with some peers, discussing topics that are prevalent to young minorities in Corporate America. And is on this year’s Homecoming Court.

 
Pooja Trivedi, an Institute graduate from the University of Texas-Austin, is eager to “raise the floor before we raise the ceiling.” By this, Pooja is referring to her desire to “help those in need before chasing after higher level advancements.” And she wants to do so while having an environmental and social impact.IMG_1813

Through the Projects with Underserved Communities (PUC) program at her university, Pooja joined a small team of social work and engineering students to work on a project for an elementary school in small village in Thailand. The school was in need of sinks to provide water on a consistent basis and a roof.

In order to implement this project, Pooja and her teammates fundraised to pay for their materials and they designed the sink structure, drainage system, water supply, and roof. They gave multiple presentations to an advisory board throughout the year and maintained contact with engineering professionals and the community in Thailand they were working for. Once their work was approved, they traveled to Thailand to spend the summer making concrete, trenching, piping, and building forms. In the end, the school was fitted with 25 sinks and a roof.

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Once the sinks were installed, the students learned about the connection between hygiene and hand-washing and teeth-brushing. Additionally, the drainage water from the sinks traveled through a naturally engineered filtration system to water the school’s garden. This allowed students to see what sustainability can look like.

Since her experience with the project for the school in Thailand, Pooja has gone on to study water conservation techniques around the world. She is currently a finalist for funding to begin a new research project.

 

Join us in cheering Malik and Pooja on as they continue to work toward their visions. And stop by the blog later this week to learn about two more of our
Palmer Award finalists.

Mindfulness Matters

Although it can be energizing, the work that a committed leader puts into a cause or community can be also draining. We may find ourselves feeling stuck! Living and leading with integrity is no simple task, but it is possible.

Often, we start intentional conversations of leadership with one simple question: Why? We focus our passion, our work, and our reasoning around that ask. I would like to share my own experience of failure, delayed reflection, and burnout. You might be asking, why tell you this story? To be simple, I will say this: mindfulness matters.  

Within the first few weeks of college, I became involved with multiple clubs on campus as a committee member and soon was invested in all things campus life. From planning events and helping with Orientation, to giving tours and becoming the college mascot, it was never just one thing. Yet student involvement, which gave me the highest highs indirectly led to my lowest lows.

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My third year in college was by far the most challenging. To give context, I was committed to the following:

  • Served as the liaison between Student Government Association and Student Activities Board (in which executive board meetings ranged from 1 hour to 2.5 hours, each);
  • Volunteered off campus six hours/week through my scholarship;
  • Acted as the college mascot at campus and community events to increase overall spirit;
  • Held an on-campus job as a tour guide;
  • Took five 300 level courses; and
  • Floated between two vastly different friend groups

People would ask me how I balanced it all and my short answer would be along the lines of no idea, but in reality, I followed my passions. All of those bullet points gave me tremendous energy and happiness at different times throughout the semester; if one was draining, I would bounce to a different point.

Because of this high level of involvement and the mismanagement of my time, I was not aware that I was spreading myself so thin; my grades suffered, the quality of work diminished and going to events or being with friends felt like a chore. Instead of adding to my college experience, all of these things were just checks in a long list of things I had to do each day.  

While giving a speech to incoming freshman, I remember saying, “Throughout my time [in college], one of the best decisions I made was becoming involved in various aspects of Student Life.” I still stand by that statement 100%, but in hindsight, were there times where if I were to take a step back and reflect in the moment my stress levels would decrease? Absolutely. An advisor once told me (and I am paraphrasing here), “You cannot help others until you take care of yourself”. Those words still ring true to this day. Whenever I find myself stretched too thin or ignoring my own well-being, I think back to that moment.

Moving beyond actively thinking, I reach towards a pen and paper. For me, all I need is a space where I am alone and an instrumental movie score playing in my headphones for the writing to commence. Every entry is different, given that every experience, emotion, and thought I have prior to writing is different – there is no specific, step-by-step formula of what I write about. There are, however, themes of reflecting upon the day and looking forward to what the following day, or week, will bring. 

Only through lived experience did I realize, and understand why, mindfulness matters. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you; I hope that you learned something along the way.

If you have a story of why mindfulness matters to you, send LeaderShape an email at community@leadershape.org

Colby Brown is a Community Engagement Intern for LeaderShape. He participated in the Institute (2015), served as an On-Site Coordinator for national sessions of the Institute (2017, 2018), and recently participated in Catalyst (2018). As a retired mascot and recent graduate, he spends his young professional life giving back and pursuing a graduate degree in Higher Education, Student Affairs.