By Michael Rooney
Campus Life Editor
At a college or university – or anywhere, really – an employee has a much more significant impact than that of just simply doing their job. Some employees commit more time out of their life to participate in events that have meaning to them. Some go above and beyond to change the course of history They might not even know it, but some employees serve a much bigger purpose on their institution than they think. Meet Mr. Harold Tavares, a prime example of someone like this. Barack Obama’s tenure as the President of the United States was filled with accomplishments. One that is worth mentioning is his launching of the Young African Leadership Initiative (often abbreviated as YALI) in 2010. YALI’s goal is to educate and develop African leaders of youth with opportunities
One that is worth mentioning is his launching of the Young African Leadership Initiative (often abbreviated as YALI) in 2010. YALI’s goal is to educate and develop African leaders of youth with opportunities to study abroad in the United States for several weeks. These leaders can also make connections with other leaders, use free online courses with a wide variety of subjects, and attend special events. The members of the group have the same mindset, goals, and difficulties in common that are determined to make a difference across Africa. The program has certainly come a long way in its seven years, with one of its most notable years being 2014. In that year, the program was expanded to make room for four regional YALI centers with locations in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa. In addition, the Mandel Washington Fellowship was launched as YALI’s flagship program, which has colleges and universities participating in the initiative. In the last couple of years, Bridgewater State University’s participation in YALI has given all the more reason for the school to have the reputation that it does.
Last year, the university’s application to host 25 young and professional students was accepted, making it one of the four colleges in New England for young professional leaders of Africa. Mr. Tavares, who in charge of administration and logistics for YALI 2016 and YALI 2017 at Bridgewater State University demonstrates his passion for these opportunities. Harold Tavares has been involved with Bridgewater State University ever since he was a student there (it was known as Bridgewater State College at the time he attended). He graduated as an undergraduate student. He furthered his education by becoming a graduate student and earned his GEA to become a full-time staff member of the study abroad office, the center of international engagement, and external affairs. Today, he is the assistant director of international relations.
Soon, Tavares will be departing for Cape Verde, the country that Bridgewater State University has a strong partnership with. “There is a huge Cape Verdean population in this area of Massachusetts, and Bridgewater is located in the heart of the Cape Verdean population of the United States,” Tavares explained. “There is a prediction that there is more Cape Verdeans in this part of the world than in Cape Verde. This is how to show you how strong [Bridgewater State University’s] relationship with Cape Verde is.” Thanks to this relationship, Cape Verde has been able to develop the first public university in their country – but there is so much more that has been accomplished, as well as more to come down the road. “The success we have had with Cape Verde has brought YALI to Bridgewater,” said Tavares. “The leadership we have with Cape Verde has put us in a position to promote YALI on a bigger scale.” Bridgewater State University hosted YALI for the first time just last year in 2016, and they are due to host again this year in 2017. The university applied to host was in 2014 and 2015, but it was not chosen. “We weren’t successful [then],” Tavares said. “This is mostly because before, there were only 500 fellows to bring in. In 2016, [YALI] doubled the number of hosts and institutes and that’s when Bridgewater came in for the first time to host the fellows.” Tavares handles the administrations and logistics for YALI at Bridgewater State University. He describes his job as “looking at the big picture.” For starters, he starts preparing for the students’ arrival in the United States six month prior; he must arrange housing, transportation, disabilities, accessibility, health concerns, and much more. As soon as the students get off the airplane at Logan Airport, YALI at Bridgewater State University is required to pick them up and take them to campus. “It is a big responsibility,” Tavares assured. “I think particularly, for this population, it is very demanding.
We are talking about 25 young leaders between the ages of 25-35. Some of them are elected officials in their home country and they hold positions where they can make decisions for their community. We might have future presidents – that can show you how demanding they are.” Despite the levels of demand and responsibility, Tavares is proud of the steps taken to bring YALI to Bridgewater State University. YALI is benefitting not only the university but also the African leaders, to make the world a better place. “We have built a relationship,” Tavares said. “We have built other programs to make it to YALI, which is a broad and mainstream program – it is held through the state department and it is one of the main programs for Africa under [former] President Obama.” More importantly, he is proud of what YALI at Bridgewater State University accomplished in 2016 – as well what they are set to achieve in 2017. “The state department coded us among the best colleges and universities to host YALI. T hat’s one thing that makes us and Bridgewater proud. It is worth a vision. It is an opportunity to expose us in global arena – in a mainstream, not only locally, but also nationally and internationally. When you look at a map of YALI institutes of the United States, you see a pinpoint there in Massachusetts. We are the only institution in Massachusetts to host YALI 2017. It’s putting Bridgewater on a map.” “Not only that, but we are training the leaders of a continent that is known to have a lot of problems,” Tavares added. “We are teaching them to give back to the community – to make the best decisions for the continent and their community.
The other thing is that it also makes Bridgewater give back to the world – Bridgewater has taken a step to make the world a better place, and what better continent to make better than Africa?” Bridgewater State University has already been selected to host YALI twice, the hope for the future is that the number of consecutive years goes up by one on annual basis. The intention is to continue not only the program but the impact as well. “The outcome of this program – you don’t see in a short term,” Tavares stressed. “You see in a long term, particularly in a few years as you see the young leaders actually become the leader of their country. You will be recruiting 1,000 fellows to lead a continent through a state of war, famine, epidemics, all of that. You need the right mind and right leaders to lead the continent – for a better future and better prosperity. Bridgewater can teach them the best of the best.” Tavares is putting Bridgewater on the map, but as he is doing so, he is helping to maintain its reputation.