More than 100 youth leaders from across the globe hope to take back new skills to empower their communities thanks to a World Leadership Conference held last week by the entertainer Usher’s New Look Foundation.
Students like Thato Ntai, one of five South African students locally nominated to attend the conference at Emory University, participated in a variety of workshops and panels led by local youth leaders as well as business leaders, artists, musicians, journalists and local personalities.
Thato told GlobalAtlanta that the experience gained from New Look’s three-day leadership program will help her positively influence her homeland through peer-to-peer relationships that other youths respect.
“There is a large need for youth in general to be active because we have a lot of issues that we are facing, not just in my community but in my country as a whole,” she said.
The New Look Foundation was created in 1999 by the Usher Terry Raymond IV, commonly known by his stage name of Usher, to certify young people in four “pillars” of leadership: talent, education, career and service.
Since its inception, New Look has trained over 9,000 youth through over 150,000 hours of training, according to the foundation.
The organization has also sponsored numerous charity events benefiting local nonprofits and disaster relief operations, particularly in New Orleans following the havoc wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
For the conference, students were selected from throughout the United States and around the world, including the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Kenya and South Africa.
Michael Bognier, a student from the Canadian International School of Hong Kong, said he was encouraged by the conference and would be spreading the word about the organization to his friends back home.
But the organization also has had a local impact in Atlanta.
The participants shadowed top Atlanta corporate executives from the General Electric Co. and the Coca-Cola Co. along with Mayor Kasim Reed as part of their leadership training program.
And on day two of the conference organized by New Look, participants reached out to more than 1,000 local middle schoolers to encourage them to reach out in their own communities.
For local foundation leaders such as Donel “Micky D” Heflin, who has been with the nonprofit since 2005, New Look has enabled him to travel across the state speaking about its “Powered by Service” programs and about his personal experiences.
When first told at age 7 by his mother that he had been accepted to a spot at New Look’s summer camp, Mr. he said he misunderstood what she was saying not realizing that she was talking about the famous entertainer.
“At first, I thought like I didn’t know they had a camp for the old ladies that stood by the doors at church,” he said. “But as soon as I got there, I felt so at home.”
Sean Wilson, president of New Look, said that the 2011 has been a “fantastic year” for the foundation with a record number of 2,500 students trained and certified by the nonprofit.
Based in Usher’s hometown of Atlanta but with regional hubs in Milwaukee, New York, Detroit and Los Angeles in the U.S. and other offices abroad, including in London and South Africa, New Look has trained students across the globe, Mr. Wilson said.
The global expansion of the nonprofit is important because it means that youths in one area of the world can share their successes and failures with others in other areas, he said.
In previous years, the nonprofit awarded former President Clinton and Atlanta businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner with Service Legacy Awards.
Education was the focus on the nonprofit’s awards this year, which is why they focused on teachers and educational leaders, Mr. Wilson said.
“Because of the state of our education [system] is at such an all time low, we decided it was really important to highlight those who were really focused on education,” he continued.
Emory University also received an award for its long-time partnership with the foundation
For more about Usher’s New Look Foundation, go here.