We caught up with Minerva alumna, Jay Hamidova, who has been applying her leadership skills during the COVID crisis. Spearheaded by Jay, a team of students from Gleneagle Secondary worked together to create Viral Cause. an initiative to share music and art while raising money for non-profits supporting residents of the Downtown Eastside.

Born in Uzbekistan, Jay immigrated to Canada and settled in Coquitlam. After participating in SHAD Canada (a leadership + STEAM program), the opportunity to attend Minerva’s youth leadership program arose in 2019 and Jay immediately said YES!

Through her experience at Learning to Lead™, Jay observed that inclusive energy spreads like wildfire. According to Jay, Minerva helped to foster an environment where people were willing to share their life stories and build community. But most importantly, Jay noted that “vulnerability is contagious.”

A cornerstone of Minerva programming is to unlock the internal potential of all leaders through values-based leadership. Jay identified this as one of the most important features of effective leadership because once a person starts sharing authentically about themselves, “someone else will too”.

Jay and her peers decided to start Viral Cause a week into the COVID quarantine. They saw an opportunity to significantly improve two communities: their school and the Downtown Eastside.

Viral Cause brings together people who are passionate about advocacy and who have creative talents. Every week, Viral Cause features livestream spoken word poets, singers, musicians, and visual artists. This created double impact: it helped keep classmates connected during COVID-19 and inspired donations to charities and non-profits in the Downtown Eastside community. In June, Jay and her team raised over $3000.

This idea was so original that Viral Cause was featured on CTV and the TriCity News as an example of creative service. Ultimately, Jay concludes that “no one prepared us for the coronavirus” but it is during this time that leaders can try to help their communities.

For Jay, leadership is about empowerment. Jay describes growth as the process in which you “start to empower yourself and use that to empower others.” Jay’s biggest takeaway from Learning to Lead™ was that leadership is not about “being the loudest person in the room,” but about making space for other people to grow and capitalize on their own skill set. Now Jay views leadership as a “bottom up” phenomenon. This form of empowerment is essential to Jay’s vision for Viral Cause and it has ensured that other voices are heard, reflected, and represented within the organization.

At the end of the day, Jay implores future leaders to “never stop learning” and challenge conventional ideas about leadership.

Jay recently graduated Gleneagle Secondary School and is planning to attend UBC in the fall as a part of the Beedie Luminaries Program. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

Join The Final Concert on Saturday, June 27 at 8pm PST and follow Viral Cause on Instagram: @_viralcause_

Photo: The Viral Cause Team

This blog post was written by Emily Hardy, a summer intern at Minerva. Emily is currently studying at Georgetown University and Majoring in International Politics with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. She decided to intern with Minerva because she had observed the powerful impacts of Learning to Lead™ in her peers and wanted to help an organization that fosters so much positive change.

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