UAE: Harvard mentors guide students in region on how to prioritise and tackle real-world issues

The initiative is part of Harvard Youth Lead the Change programme


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Fri 6 Jan 2023, 6:16 PM

Last updated: Fri 6 Jan 2023, 9:02 PM

Ivy League college students who are visiting the UAE have taken up the role of mentoring students in the country, not only guiding them to make the right career choices but also enabling them to address some of the most pressing youth-related issues.

As part of the Harvard Youth Lead the Change (YLC) programme, staged recently in Dubai, students representing 12 nationalities from 21 schools, 10 cities, and four countries across the GCC have received valuable advice on prioritizing real-world issues and how to best address them.

Curated by the Leadership Institute at Harvard College, and organised by the university admissions counselling institute, UniHawk, the programme was hosted at the GEMS New Millennium School Al Khail.

Sara AlRemeithi, 17, from Al Ittihad Private School, Dubai explained her motivation to join the programme. She said, “I have always wanted to hone my leadership skills, and this was a unique opportunity for me to gain exposure to international mentors, meet peers from different backgrounds here in the UAE, and work collaboratively to design ideas for positive social change.”

Students worked in mentor-led groups with 10 current Harvard University students to develop social change projects. Students also received theoretical and practical insights into the fundamentals of leadership, developing their capabilities in communication, negotiation, teamwork, problem-solving, organization and planning.

She adds, “The programme has far exceeded my expectations. I have been able to improve my critical thinking and problem-solving skills and gained a real insight into tackling social challenges. It has also given me insights into the characteristics of good leadership in a global context, which will help me as I prepare for life at university and beyond.”

Reflecting on the experience, 14-year-old Layan Eyas Zakri, from Jeddah Private School, Saudi Arabia said, “This journey has changed me for the better and I have grown personally within just three days, learning how good leadership can really make changes for the better.”

Tackling global challenges such as plastic pollution, youth mental health, and food security, the students set out their own vision to confront the problem and proposed practical solutions to lead change in society.

The region’s first edition of the conference also proved to be an enlightening experience for the Harvard delegation.

Mentor and current Chair of the YLC program, junior psychology student, Ethan Kee, said, “The students in Dubai have been engaging and inquisitive around the skills and mindset of leadership. Moreover, they have taught us as mentors a great deal through the different insights and perspectives they bring from life in this part of the world.”

Shedding light on bringing the event to the region for the first time, UniHawk’s Founder and CEO, Varun Jain, opined, “It was an honour to host mentors from the Leadership Institute at Harvard for this prestigious program. I have visibly seen the positive impact each activity had on the students. These successes have given us further impetus in our mission to drive value-added experiences to help students achieve their education goals.”


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