Nigerian Student Wins $10,000 AFS Award In USA, Plans Leadership Conference In Enugu    

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A Nigerian student studying in the United States of America, Noel Ifeanyi Alumona, has won the 2022 AFS Award for Young Global Citizens.

Alumona becomes the first African to win the prize since its inception in 1914 as he received the award during the International Youth Day organised by the United Nations Global Communications Department, the AFS Intercultural Programmes and The Youth Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Noel, who is studying at Vanderbilt University, United States, smiled home with a cash prize of $10,000 in recognition of his vigorous campaign to end violence against women and girls through proper orientation of boys on responsible behaviour.

The AFS Award for Young Global Citizens recognises the work of young people around the world for their commitment to improving the global community and contributing to a more just, peaceful, and tolerant world.

Besides the star prize winner, Mariana Reyes and Larissa Cevallos emerged second place winners with a $2,500 prize award.

Noel, who hails from Enugu State, beat the other 500 contestants after a rigorous selection process and interviews, from where 10 finalists were selected from over 200 applications.

The winner, who is also a 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow of the African Leaders programme, explained that the inspiration for the formation of Boys Champion came in 2018 after he met with Barack Obama in Johannesburg as an Obama Foundation Fellow, saying the encounter transformed his worldview and ignited his zeal to make a positive impact in his community.

On October 1, 2018, he formed the Boys Champions as a youth-focused group committed to providing a safe space for young boys and training them to become part of the solution to ending societal violence and prejudice against women and girls in Nigerian communities.

According to him, some obnoxious cultural and religious practices infringe on women’s rights, for which Boys Champion launched the campaign for change.

Noel, who is presently pursuing a graduate degree in Special Education in the United States, said a mentorship and leadership conference will hold in Enugu State where speakers from the United Nations, Harvard University and Vanderbilt University would tutor participants on leadership.

He urged the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, government agencies and corporate organisations to key into the project for youth empowerment and training of future leaders.

Recounting his past experiences in his community, Udenu Local government Area of Enugu State, Noel explained that he spent over five years in the classroom teaching, monitoring and evaluating students’ performance and decried the poor attention given to Special Education for kids with Learning Disabilities and Emotional Behavioural Disturbances.

He warned that the neglect of children with special needs and other vulnerable groups does not guarantee an inclusive education system, which every country should aspire to achieve.

He disclosed that he and Chike Nwoke, a PhD student at Carleton University in Canada, were collaborating on a research paper to analyse the first ever 2015 policy document and the level of implementation of special education in Nigeria. He said critical questions needed to be asked to chart the way forward for special education in the country.

As a Community Development Specialist, Noel told journalists that he would remain resolute in his commitment to improving access to education for vulnerable children, children displaced by Boko Haram and insurgent attacks, as well as millions of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

Noel is an Obama Foundation Fellow, United States Institute of Peace Fellow, and United Nations Youth Assembly Delegate. He is also a recipient of the AFS Award for Young Global Citizens at the United Nations in NYC, African Youth Award, Nigerian Goodwill Ambassador Award, and Volunteer of the Year Award by Appreciate Africa Network, Beijing, China.

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