Friday, September 22, 2017

Roman Tychkivskyi: New generation of responsible leaders – mission possible

Roman TychkivskyiKyiv Post

It was a busy cheerful day at the Ukrainian Leadership Academy’s campus in Pushcha Vodytsia on Sept. 13. 200 freshmen started their educational year. These youngsters were congratulated to have passed a tough competition of 8 candidates per place and now they get ready for new challenges and growth. Hundreds hours of volunteering, dozens of books to read and projects to implement, dozens of expeditions all over Ukraine and two abroad – all these educational components are ahead of them. The spirit of the ceremony was raised by previous years’ alumni recalling brightest moments of their studies and giving newcomers some useful tips. Inspiration, enthusiasm and a whole lot of energy not only were present during the opening ceremony, but will accompany these young people throughout their studying during the next 10 months. This is a proved experience.
How it all began
The Ukrainian Leadership Academy is a gap-year program of personal and social development for secondary school graduates. The project is relatively new for Ukraine and it has no other analogues here. Understanding of importance to set up a consistent program of non-formal education appeared during the Revolution of Dignity. It was critically important to shape not only a protest, i.e. negative, but also a positive agenda too, as well as to start preparing tomorrow’s leaders already today. Growing popularity of the Open University of Maidan, an educational platform for Revolution’s activists, served as a bright proof of the increasing public demand for quality leadership education.
The idea first popped up in Ukraine over a decade ago when the founder of Israeli Mechina, a program for preparing the youth for life, and our dear friend Erez Eshel first talked about the opening of similar establishments in Ukraine. The experience was taken from Oxford and Cambridge as to how the Brits has been raising their leaders to serve the people for the last 600 or 700 years. The most talented young people are trained in various disciplines in order to serve the nation. However, despite his devotion to his idea, Erez did not manage to convince those he approached in the significance of preparing leaders for our society. It was not the best moment to bring it up, which is why the idea had to be postponed for some time. But six years later, during his trip to Israel, Boris Lozhkin heard Erez talking about the experience of the Israeli leadership academies, and got rekindled with it. Upon his return to Ukraine, he once again brought the idea up of establishing leadership academies.
“It was our Fund that decided in spring of 2015 to assume the responsibility for the future in Ukraine, and I am deeply grateful to the Board of Directors for their support to the idea and full funding of the ULA. The WNISEF Board of Directors, which has been investing in Ukraine for over 20 years and which knew the significance of education for the companies in our portfolio, wholeheartedly supported the idea of leadership academies since its members believed that Ukraine could only change drastically if the new generation of responsible citizens was provided with proper education. The WNISEF Board of Directors allocated significant funds for bringing the idea of the ULA into life, and making it a landmark project.” – commented Jaroslawa Z. Johnson, President and CEO of Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF).
Israeli experience really inspired, and the initiative group, including WNISEF’s Jaroslawa Johnson and Lenna Koszarny, as well as Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, Borys Gudziak, Natalia Popovych, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Valeriy Pekar and other opinion leaders, dared to give a try. The first Ukrainian Leadership Academy was launched in 2015 with one branch of 39 students in Kyiv and ambitious plans. Next year it expanded to 4 more regions: Lviv, Mykolayiv, Poltava and Kharkiv.
The Academy is for those, who were born free, started its full operation.
What is the Academy’s mission
The Academy has set an ambitious mission to influence Ukraine’s future by bringing up a new generation of young people, capable and willing to take responsibility for our nation. Surely, this is not an easy and short way, but it is definitely worth going.
Each Academy is directed by a manager and has 5 mentors, who are responsible for students’ personal development as well as take care of specific parts of the program: agenda, volunteering, travels, and communications.
For 2017/2018 the Academy chose three priorities to deeply dig into: education, defense and entrepreneurship. Forming a coherent personality in the Academy is being implemented through educational, physical, emotional and intellectual components. Each of them has key milestones set by the students beforehand: be it a successful half marathon done as a results of regular morning sports, comprehensive research of Israeli defense sector conducted, moving on the next level of English language, overcoming of public speaking shyness, or the project implemented in full on student’s own.
One whole day every week students are serving their local communities by doing volunteering at schools, social or environmental organizations. Great deal of the program is devoted to educational expeditions throughout the whole Ukraine and communicating with local people – are there any other more effective ways to study the Ukrainian identity? In addition, two international educational expeditions, aimed at exploring Israel and the European Union, are naturally supplementing learning of domestic state-building processes and helping students to start thinking about Ukraine outside the box.
Unlike traditional educational curriculums, Academy’s program is flexible: in March 2016 the group unexpectedly spent 3 weeks in The Netherlands doing public diplomacy and campaigning for the Association Agreement. In January 2017 Academies’ Christmas performances “vertep” (Ukrainian Christmas custom) appeared to be so successful and highly demanded, that students spent additional week travelling in the Eastern regions of Ukraine – in total the students staged their verteps more than 100 times.
The educational program is formed the way to make students permanently challenge themselves and consequently improve, inspire others by their results.
Overall Academy’s operation is funded by the WNISEF, and supported by local authorities and businesses, Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, Presidential Administration of Ukraine, various NGOs and international partners.
“We have all united our efforts around Ukrainian Leadership Academy because we share a dream called Ukraine. And we share a mission called Victory. Every mission takes efforts to achieve, and every victory must be fought for. And this is our top priority for the upcoming years—to learn together with the students how to fight for our dreams, to become fighters, true warriors. The Victory does not only take the freedom of spirit and sincere efforts, but also creativity and wisdom.” – said Father Andrii Zelinsky, Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, military chaplain, Member of the ULA Supervisory Board.
Plans for the future
The Academy’s alumni already entered world-top universities, such as University of the Arts London, set up their own businesses, got actively involved in social and volunteer projects. They do not postpone taking the responsibility for later and we are proud of them.
By 2023 the Academy plans to extend its scale and start operating in every region of Ukraine. In addition, we plan to deepen cooperation with local and national partners, both public and corporate, in order to make the Academy a genuinely all-Ukrainian educational program. We see ourselves as a partner to the Ministry of Education in the development of quality non-formal education in Ukraine.
Creating yourself – creating Ukraine, Academy’s motto says. And it is right, since every tomorrow starts today.

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