On September 16th, the visiting Global Youth Innovation Network ambassadors traveled to Tuskeegee, Alabama to attend the GYIN Summit, hosted by Tuskeegee University in collaboration with Phelps Stokes. The GYIN ambassadors were also joined by GYIN ambassadors Melissa MacMaster of Canada; and Nick Zemura, of Zimbabwe.
During this three day conference, young entrepreneurs from five continents joined forces with Tuskeegee students to learn about Tuskegee University’s model of “learning by doing” and strong commitment to both community involvement and global engagement. Zemura was very impressed with Tuskegee University’s success at retaining a strong spirit of community while approaching issues from a more “worldly,” global perspective. As Gilbert L. Rochon, Tuskegee University’s sixth president put it, Tuskeegee University aims to “[bring] the world to Tuskegee and Tuskegee to the world.”
The summit hosted notables such as Mulbah Jackollie, principal of the Booker Washington Institute in Liberia, an organization which Phelps Stokes helped to found in 1929; A. Zaccheus Payne, president of the Booker Washington Institute National Alumni Association of North America; John Fanhbutu, president of the Maryland chapter of the institute’s alumni association; and Pape Samb, president and CEO of Phelps Stokes.
The summit participants also met with many prominent members of the Tuskegee community, including several professors, entrepreneurs, and mayor Omar Neal. “Tuskegee is just not a place,” Neal explained in his speech to the GYIN ambassadors, “but a spirit of excellence and creativity.”
A highlight of the summit was the GYIN ambassadors’ participation in the Tuskeegee Global Forum’s dialogue on the Global South Initiative. The goal of this conversation was to facilitate and strengthen connection between communities to develop sustainable business and development projects. The three day event also included workshops on topics relating to business development, international education, and agricultural production. The GYIN ambassadors learned about Tuskegee history and Tuskegee University’s partnerships and community outreach initiatives with visits to the George Washington Carver Museum; The Oaks at Tuskegee, historic home of Booker T. Washington; the Al Brooks Vegetable Production and Processing Center; and the Wal-Mart distribution center. These experiences helped Tiburce Chaffa, an GYIN ambassador and entrepreneur from Benin, realize the importance of strong community partnerships in global development; “The first thing is the need to stay connected to the community if we want to have a greater impact.”