Jinane Achi ’13 spent last summer and the first half of her senior year at an African boarding school outside of Johannesburg.
Founded in 2004, The African Leadership Academy (ALA) intends to educate, identify and connect Africa’s next generation of leaders. The student body is predominantly African, and Achi was the only American student.
“I wanted an environment that was different from Deerfield and that gave me a more authentic picture of Africa,” Achi said. “I think that I would have had a very different experience if I was surrounded by Western kids, because I wouldn’t have been fully immersed in a different culture.”
Achi shared her experience meeting a girl from a Liberian refugee camp.
“To afford her and her siblings’ education, she started making jewelry from broken bullets she found on the ground,” Achi said.
ALA chose to specifically address Africa’s need for “ethical and entrepreneurial leadership.” All ALA students participate in an entrepreneurial leadership program. Students pitch enterprise ideas each year, ranging from on-campus restaurants to the online marketing platform Achi launched. If approved, the idea is developed by student groups over the school year. ALA has launched 38 enterprises since its founding, all piloted by students on campus.
Achi credits her biggest takeaways to her entrepreneurial leadership class. She learned that in creating a business the entrepreneur needs to combine skill, passion and need.
“If you mix these three things, you can lead any project effectively, because you’ll be good at what you’re doing, you’ll love what you’re doing, and you’ll be solving an issue at the same time,” Achi explained.
However, after studying various definitions of leadership, Achi realized “understanding strengths and weaknesses” was integral in good leadership.
“To change anything you have to first change yourself,” Achi said.
Achi expressed her excitement to be back at Deerfield. “Its definitely weird being back in the middle of things,” Achi said. “To quote one of my teachers, ‘you’ll have to deal with the reality of being a changed person in an unchanged environment.’”
Achi hopes to share new insights at Deerfield.
“No two schools complement each other better,” Achi responded when asked if she would recommend ALA to other students. Achi is working with Deerfield to create an official exchange program.