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MY ALX JOURNEY by Lazarus Mamai, edited by Stacy Kamatu - ALX
I still remember scrolling through my news feed, trying to find postgraduate scholarships. I didn’t know what I wanted and honestly speaking that was the hardest period of my university life. I was about to graduate from University and would soon be absorbed into the unemployment pool that accounts for 49% of Kenyan youth. It was during this period that I came across ALX. I had never heard of the African Leadership Group, so this was all new to me. I was captured by the vision; Helping young leaders unlock their full potential and equip them with 21st Century skills to solve Africa’s Grand Challenges. I instantly knew that I wanted to be part of the story being written at ALX. The application process was rigorous, from the moment you express interest, it feels like a mental obstacle course to greatness. There is a series of online questions you have to go through in order to qualify to attend the finalist day, which is the last stage-gate in the application process towards joining the community of ALX Young Leaders. When I got the email confirmation that I had been accepted into the program, I almost didn’t believe it. I knew that I needed to put any distractions on hold for 6 months. The first month of the Launchpad was fantastic! I enjoyed meeting new people, exploring experiential learning for the first time. The mind-blowing career sessions were also a good thrill. The aura at ALX is set apart from every learning institution I have been to. There is a strong feedback and affirmation culture, where people speak their minds respectfully and everyone is a certified cheerleader of dreams and ambition. I must admit that being in a unique space with a learning model that pushed me to think critically is the best experience I ever got. I was constantly surrounded by a group of fellow young people, who were always there to help and encourage me to be the best version of myself. There is something about the typical ALX week; Mondays are always busy, several meetings between the staff and the young leaders, committees and weekly check-ins. We always start off with a pulse check after the weekend. For the Launchpad program, we have discovery sessions earlier in the week. It’s pretty much discovery in a literal sense, we are introduced to new concepts and challenges. After discovery, we go into exploratory sessions later in the week, where we put to practice what we discovered earlier that week. Exploration is often practical whereby workshops are structured to make us think differently about challenges, be it creating solutions for employer partners or build prototypes for our business ideas; it all comes down to relearning what we thought we knew. Fridays are dedicated to Career Ownership sessions. I quickly learned that Career Ownership is an art of sorts, there’s an effective way to approach the job search and launching a business or even a passion project. This weekly cycle continues for 24 weeks — each week’s unit building up to another until you tackle the Capstone project culminating in a final Launchpad Showcase. Does it sound like a lot? That is because it is. It takes grit to go through this program and launch your career of purpose. There are always twists and turns and surreal surprises amidst the tight program; the ALX Bold Leaders Chat, The Art of Being Unreasonable, the Fireside Chats, Xcelerator Mixer and so much more. ALX is community centred, so there is always an event set to bring the community together and networking is one of those things that begin to feel natural after time in the program. The people who come into the ALX space are often changemakers and unreasonable experts in their respective fields. I still remember when I first shook hands with Julie Gichuru, the Founder of Africa Dialogues, a platform that hosts African Leaders who seek to transform the continent. I didn’t only shake her hand but got her email and her phone number. Interestingly, she responded to my email when I later contacted her. Looking back at the person that I was while searching and scouring the interwebs for postgraduate scholarships and the person I have become, I recognize the massive transformation I have undergone during my time in the Launchpad Program. The workshops, the committees, the events, the exposure I have gained being part of the work-study program played a big part in rewriting my life story. Today I can truly say that I am proud of the young leader I have become. In less than 24 hours, my peers and I will graduate from the program in a colourful ceremony dubbed ‘TAMBALI’. Tambali means ‘to start’ in Wolof (a language spoken in West Africa) and I am eager to start a new chapter of my life by launching a career of purpose and striving to be the change I want to see in Africa. The ALX Launchpad Program empowers you to unlock your potential and find yourself in the process. Although graduation can be a bittersweet celebration, ALX is a centre for lifelong learning and the power of community reigns supreme around here, so I plan to stay plugged in and explore what life after the program is like.