Students

Leading Through Service

Posted
January 7, 2022
young woman at grand central station

“I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do something for a community on such a large scale or to meet so many people who were interested in the same things.” So says Aissatou Gningue, one of eight Pace students accepted into the UN Millennium Fellowship Program, a semester-long leadership development initiative designed to increase students’ social impact through a project aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

For her project, Aissatou focused on education. “I looked at the number of students who drop out of school before college, and the data broke my heart. These students don’t have opportunities or expect success. I saw this when I was in public school. I started sixth grade barely speaking English, but still, I wanted to do so much in life. I had so much passion. But I looked around and saw how other students in my classes didn’t have that or simply thought they couldn’t go beyond what they’d been given.”

“I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do something for a community on such a large scale or to meet so many people who were interested in the same things.”

Aissatou’s project was designed not only to help young students recognize the value of a college education but also to see it as an obtainable goal. “For the first part of my project, I talked to students to learn about their aspirations. I created a Google Form to keep track and sent them information about internships, scholarships, competitions, and other opportunities. I wanted to help them advance in their careers and also show them that college could be in their futures.”

“I can’t say how amazing it was not only to see myself grow but also to see how I was able to help younger students and to support other Fellows in furthering their work.”

Aissatou was one of two Millennium Fellows campus program directors. In addition to working on their own projects, she and her co-director held trainings for the other Fellows on goal setting, budgeting, and tracking progress, as well as other skills to help them succeed. “I can’t say how amazing it was not only to see myself grow but also to see how I was able to help younger students and to support other Fellows in furthering their work.”

“I can’t say how amazing it was not only to see myself grow but also to see how I was able to help younger students and to support other Fellows in furthering their work.”

And even though the project has officially ended, Aissatou has stayed in touch with some of the schools, and parents continue to reach out for help with things like completing online registration forms.

Aissatou is continuing to expand her leadership skills as the fundraising and social impact director for Pace’s American Marketing Association Club. And last year, she took on being an orientation leader and had to figure out—during a pandemic—how to make a virtual event as engaging as a live-in-person experience. “That taught me a lot—primarily, that you can never stop learning. You have to stay open to it, or you’ll miss out on new opportunities.”

Her latest venture is recruiting other students to create a new Entrepreneurship Club. “A lot of Pace students have or aspire to have their own businesses and don’t know how to do it. So, I decided to create a resource.” Founding a club is a different undertaking from stepping into a project that already has a blueprint. As part of that process, Aissatou learned even more about herself and what it takes to be a leader. “I had to ask others to go into this journey with me. I have to keep track of it all and make sure that everyone feels welcome and that every voice is heard. And sometimes, I have to be that annoying person who asks if they’ve done what they were supposed to do. But mostly, I get to encourage others to speak and get their voices out there. I’m seeing all the ways I can help people around me grow. And that’s how I’m learning and growing during my college years—beyond the curriculum.”

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