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My Life Unbound: Jahquar Williams

While most Americans are afraid of giving speeches, 17-year-old Jahquar Williams is at home in front of an audience. Fossil Foundation partner, College Summit, has awakened a dynamic orator in Jahquar. As a College Summit Peer Leader, he uses his gift for public speaking to advance the college-going mentality in his school and community and spread optimism to fellow students. A string of personal tragedies could have easily thwarted Jahquar’s future, but today, his prospects are limitless. People like Jahquar are the life-force of Fossil Foundation, and we wanted to know more about this remarkable young man.

My name is Jahquar Williams

I’m from Brooklyn, NY

When I was 8 years old I wanted to become a firefighter.

A piece of advice I would give my 8-year-old self would be: it’s okay to cry and feel the pain I had because that has made a fire within myself to make me the young man I am.

I have many ideas of what I’d like to become but becoming a motivational speaker is a great idea at this moment in my life.

I am really comfortable speaking in front of people and getting my message to them in a way that they will never forget. I also feel comfortable expressing my dreams and ambitions because there may be someone who wants to do the same.

Words that I live by are: “A hand that is willing to help is willing to share.” To me, this means that there is somebody to help everyone.

I got involved in College Summit by doing a peer-led workshop this past summer at Amherst College. Being a part of College Summit gives me a great feeling to be in more leadership roles. All kids in my school come to me and ask how can they find a school or how can they get to the S.A.T., etc. That is another way to keep me going in school.

I would tell kids who were in my place before I got involved with College Summit just keep working hard for what you want because you never know when you may get a shot to do something that may come only once.

Being a leader is not something you just do, it’s being that person people need to cry to, talk to or hang with. I use the strength and leadership skills I have acquired to keep on doing the work I do to push things to the next level. I take my lessons with me through every new experience.

The most important thing that I have learned from my peers would be if you need help don’t be afraid to ask someone for it.

One thing I still need to work on is keeping the right mindset when a lot of things are happening and not lose control of what my dream is.

The best thing for me to recharge is to get my headphones and listen to music. After I play my music I close my eyes and go into my own space.

My great grandmother is my backbone and the family backbone as well. She showed me how to cook, clean, and keep my head in my books.

A person who I look up to [Motivational speaker] Eric Thomas because he has inspired me to do all that I can do with my head up high.

Eric Thomas says “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe then you’ll be successful.”

I say, “Strength is not just a word. It’s also an act of power and willing to push to make it to the end.”

I want to change the world by helping people to understand that the only way to get to your dreams is by working for it, to show them the energy they put into buying all the things, clothes and shoes—put some of that to school work or hobbies that can help them get to the next level.

I have discovered that my voice is bigger than I thought.

Skoll World Forum 2016

On the Same Page is a special column by Janiece Evans-Page, head of the Fossil Foundation. Here, she shares the insights and strategies behind our global impact.

I can still feel the reverberations from another inspiring week at The Skoll World Forum, a gathering of the world’s top innovators in social change.

Events like the Skoll World Forum are so essential to our work. Tackling the challenges facing today’s youth is incredibly rewarding—but there’s always more to learn. The energy, ingenuity and inspiration from the Skoll Forum help us deepen our understanding of the space.

We had an opportunity to catch up with leaders from our tireless partner organizations, including Educate Girls, Camfed and College Summit. It was gratifying to hear that young people—the very beneficiaries we aim to empower—are taking the reins and driving innovation. College Summit shared the progress they’ve made with their re-energized Peer Leader model, which is empowering a growing number of high school students to help their peers get to and through college. Camfed also reported that they are continuing to scale the number of young people who are returning to their community as leaders through their powerful alumnae network, Cama.  These disruptive changes will impact generations to come.

This brings me to another topic that kept coming up during our week at the Skoll World Forum: sustainability. We spent a good deal of time with sustainability leaders, particularly within the corporate community. Our discussions went beyond transparency in the supply chain or the welfare of factory workers. We examined corporate engagement with NGOs and social innovators to identify best practices and create new opportunities.

After meeting with senior leaders from several major corporations, we’re pleased to report that we’re in good company. The private sector is more engaged in social change than ever! We left Oxford feeling even more motivated to bring high-impact change to young people around the world.


Sincerely Janiece Evans-Page

Janiece Evans-Page
Head of Fossil Foundation

Janiece Evans-Page

LRNG Opportunity Gap

LRNG Partners with Business to Close Opportunity Gap

How can the private sector help underserved youth succeed in today’s workforce? Businesses have a lot more to offer than they might realize. Connie Yowell, CEO of Collective Shift, and Fossil Foundation’s Janiece Evans-Page discuss the role companies can play in innovative education and workforce development.

There is a litany of statistics that show our country is facing a sharp and growing divide between young people who have access to 21st century learning opportunities and those who do not. Read more on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation blog.


My Life Unbound: Esther

Esther is a student from Chinsali District, Zambia. It’s not unusual for many young women like her to end her education after 7th grade. But, with the support of Fossil Foundation through our partner, Camfed, Esther is able to continue her education and is now looking ahead to fulfilling her dream of bringing healthcare and sanitation to the communities in Zambia that need it most. We reached out to Esther to learn more about her journey.

Can you tell us about your home life?

I am the second born in a family of six. I live with my mother—I call her my mother, but she is my stepmother. My (biological) mother is dead. My father is around, but he does not do anything to support me in terms of education. My mother does some small businesses, like selling kapenta (dried sardines) at the market to get at least some money for food. We all live (in a) one bedroom house. I sometimes sleep on a mattress on the ground, but there are not enough for all of us. Now that I am here at school, my sleep is much different.

What do you like about school?

I love being in school because I’m learning how to be knowledgeable enough to be successful. I want to be successful in the future. I have so many big dreams. I want to become a medical doctor when I grow up. I love dealing with sick people because I encourage them that, “it is not the end of the world,” and I can give them some medicine, if I am able.

Tell us about the day you found out you were going to receive a Camfed bursary.

I was very happy. I went for the holiday with my auntie, and when I was there the results came out and I was told, “You’re going to grade 8.” I was so happy—my mother and I celebrated. We jumped and hugged a lot.


What have you learned about yourself?

I’ve learned that I’m a very courageous person. That is not only me saying that, it is what I am told from other people.

Why do you think people say that?

I love standing in front of a lot of people and speaking. I am a public speaker.

What message do you have for other girls in your village?

I have many friends who are married. I would encourage them to go back to school.

Why is it important to invest in your future?

Getting educated is how you become someone in life. When you get educated, it’s not only about being a doctor, being an accountant. You also do other things through that education you have acquired. For example, I take home management, so I know how to cook—we learn all about food and nutrition—so I can apply that to my life.

How do you want to change the world?

I want to see a healthier community here in Zambia. For example, there is this global disease which is HIV and AIDS. I want to form cooperatives, or at least a club, to educate people about the dangers of HIV and AIDS and to encourage the people who have HIV and AIDS to lead a positive life. I want to make sure there is good sanitation in the community.

Fossil Foundation is proud to support Esther and other inspiring girls like her through our partnership with Camfed.

On the Same Page

Reflecting on Our Impact

On the Same Page is a special column by Janiece Evans-Page, head of the Fossil Foundation. Here, she shares the insights and strategies behind our global impact.

When I stop to think of the work we’ve done with our innovative partners over the last three years, I can honestly say it’s been an insightful and inspiring journey. We’ve directly helped 200,000 young people around the world. That’s something worth celebrating!

What exactly does a number like 200,000 represent? It means 14,000 previously out-of-school girls have been enrolled in school and the quality of education improved for 65,000 girls in Sirohi (India) through our partner, Educate Girls. One of those girls, Sunita, has learned about life beyond her small, rural village in Rajasthan where she was confined to a future of house work and child rearing. Now, she dreams of becoming a police officer—an audacious goal considering India’s police force is 94 percent male.

It means 889 girls in Zambia are attending school who otherwise wouldn’t, thanks to the work of our partner, Camfed. Together, we’ve helped Christine, a 17-year-old student from Zambia’s Chinsali District, complete her education and move a step closer to fulfilling her ambition of helping the sick and poor in her community.

Of course, these encouraging results and many more wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of our high-impact partners. We’ve had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most innovative social entrepreneurs and contributing to their efforts to transform more than 6 million lives. We’re even more inspired to have met some of the remarkable young people who are now empowered because of their involvement in our partners’ organizations.

There’s Jahquar, an aspiring motivational speaker who was one of 1,500 Peer Leaders trained by our partner, College Summit. He and his fellow Peer Leaders have helped over 46,000 high school students apply for college. Their efforts have boosted college enrollment by 20 percent in the schools they serve. There’s also Phonethavy from Laos who is now highly competitive in the 21st Century workforce thanks to training in computing, management and English from our partner, Digital Divide Data. He and 2,000 underserved youth like him are increasing their average lifetime earnings by more than $110,000 each.

We see a future brimming with opportunity for young people like Sunita, Christine, Jahquar and Phonethavy. We look forward to sharing similar stories about youth empowerment and impact in the years to come.


Sincerely Janiece Evans-Page

Janiece Evans-Page
Head of Fossil Foundation

Christine, a student in Zambia supported by Fossil Foundation through Camfed

Jahquar (above), is a College Summit Peer Leader

Fossil and WAVE Collaborate for Success

Africa is projected to add 70 million jobs by 2020.  However, more than 50 million young people across West Africa are currently not qualified for these jobs today and remain unemployed or underemployed because they lack the skills employers seek. WAVE (West Africa Vocational Education), a Fossil Foundation partner, offers a transformative workforce development program based on the “hire for attitude, train for skill” approach, giving many young Nigerians a brighter employment outlook. Fossil Group is also aiding in this vital mission by sharing new ways to improve team dynamics.

In Nigeria, as elsewhere, employers are seeking smart workers—not just book smarts or technical savvy, but also emotional intelligence (or EQ). Self-awareness, grit, empathy—these are the qualities that often predict a worker’s success in the long term. Part of WAVE’s innovative model is identifying young people the emotional intelligence to fill stable jobs in some of Nigeria’s high-growth industries.

A big part of EQ is maintaining interpersonal relationships, which includes communication, conflict management and collaboration. Enter Fossil Group’s leadership and development team in Europe. They wanted to share what they’ve learned about team-building and personal development with WAVE to help them work more fluidly as a unit.

“That means how to realize their own strengths, development areas and possible blind spots in their self-perception,” elaborated Timo Hennecke, a senior training manager at Fossil Group in Switzerland.

Members of the WAVE team were each given a personal profile based on their “preferred thinking style”. The WAVE crew then examined how conflicts or inefficiencies may have arisen because of different thinking styles within the team, and how to avoid them in the future. Armed with these insights, WAVE is now re-evaluating their team processes and finding new ways to communicate and collaborate.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” said Michael Ibonye, lead strategist for WAVE. “It was very interesting to see how our individual profiles come together to create a team profile. This definitely helps us understand how to work better as a team, and most especially when under stress.”

WAVE is now designing classes to account for the different thinking styles of their trainees, and how to work with these differences in their professional lives. As they gear up to train 1,200 unemployed youth this year, the reverberations from our collaboration can still be felt.

“We help our alumni deal with challenges in their respective workplaces and coach them on how to avoid friction with colleagues and supervisors,” said Misan Rewane, co-founder of WAVE.

She reports that several trainees have found effective ways to cope with workplace conflicts through a better understanding of preferred thinking styles. One trainee, Dorothy, applied this training to recognize a colleague under pressure, respond appropriately and find a way to complete a task alongside her.

“We have a new point of view on why some of these challenges occur between people and how to work within them rather than around them,” Rewane added.

WAVE’s collaboration with Fossil Foundation and Fossil Group is a simple reminder that new partnerships bring new insights, and this bodes well for the complex work of advancing Nigeria’s promising, young professionals.