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Minerva’s Youth Leadership Award 2022 has been announced! Every year, with help from our Youth Advisory Council members who screen and shortlist the winner, we select a youth leader who has participated in the Learning to Lead™  program, and has displayed exceptional enterprising spirit to take the learnings from the program into real life, and become an agent of change. The winner receives a $1000 bursary towards their education.

As we celebrate #DayOfTheGirl, meet the 2022 winner – Vanessa Asaad. Vanessa is an amazing young Egyptian woman who is inspiring many since completing Minerva’s Learning to Lead™ Program. Since the program, she has put her leadership into action by organizing and initiating the first ever female empowerment and social club, Girl Talk, at her school with the vision to create a safe and non-judgmental space where high school girls can socialize and talk about their issues.

We would also like to express wholehearted gratitude to Shaw for being the Lead Sponsor for Learning to Lead™ since 2017. We greatly appreciate this support for youth leadership!

Get to know this young leader 👇🏽

What leadership qualities do you value the most as a leader?

The leadership qualities I value the most as a leader are accountability, authenticity, collaboration, confidence, compassion, equality, passion, humility, respect, justice, integrity, trust, commitment, courage, personal development, selflessness, perseverance, a willingness to listen, empowerment, optimism, empathy, vision, optimism, initiative, focus, resilience, positivity, and enthusiasm. I believe these core leadership qualities are what make great leadership. As a leader, I value these ones the most.

What have you enjoyed the most during the Learning to Lead™?

What I enjoyed the most during Learning to Lead™  is learning about a lot of invaluable lessons which include many on having confidence and how to be a leader. I learned to not be afraid to speak up with confidence. I learned how to identify my own values and  leverage my strengths. While learning from mentors and guest speakers, they taught me how to learn from failure and have humility when leading. By participating in activities during sessions, I have learned how to lead with meaning as well as broaden my repertoire of communication and motivational tools to inspire others. I also loved how I build so many relationships with peers and mentors. There were so many girls around my age in the program who are like-minded. These girls are a reminder that we all have many goals, aspirations, fears, and dreams. I loved learning about lollipop moments as well. As a leader, I now enjoy the moments where I say something or do something that makes someone’s day or life better.

What do you think is your greatest accomplishment in your life so far, which meant the most to
you, and why?

I think my greatest accomplishment in my life so far is how I was inspired to create the first female empowerment and social club at my school, Girl Talk, after being a participant of Learning to Lead™. This program has supported my leadership development in so many ways. As the founder and president, my vision was to create a safe and inclusive space for girls to talk and socialize. Being so ambitious, I wanted to give back what I learned (from Learning to Lead™) to these girls by helping them find their own voice and confidence, be strong, and become leaders in their community. My plan is to give these girls weekly programs, workshops, and guest speakers who will focus on the same concepts that Learning to Lead™ has taught me. We will also have daily discussions and confidence-boosting activities where every girl will feel empowered and have the confidence to take on the world.

I think seeing this club come to fruition is definitely my greatest accomplishment in my life so far! 

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I faced was when I was in elementary school because I was bullied by stronger and often intimidating personalities. I was insecure and weak. The kids did not let me have a voice in the classroom and on the playground. I was at a school where everyone was highly athletic; I did not really fit in because I was more on the academic side than the athletic side. My self-confidence quickly diminished, I did not feel like a leader, and I did not know how to use my voice to speak up. I was known as the shy kid because of these experiences. I overcame this challenge by finding ways to increase my confidence. I wanted to practice sharing my ideas and taking more risks, so I took self-esteem, confidence building, and leadership programs to help me rebuild my confidence.

What is the best way to identify yourself and who you want to be?

By considering what my core values are. I also think that by allowing a sense of vulnerability, I can open up and show my authentic self. I can also do this by observing my feelings, reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses, and determining my personal characteristics to identify who I am and who I want to be.

How do you build confidence as a leader?

By understanding myself and my values, learning about leadership, taking leadership courses at school, being involved in leadership programs outside of school (such as Learning to Lead™), using every opportunity given to be a confident leader who creates change, by making positive impacts, networking with other leaders and mentors, and by accomplishing my goals. When I build my confidence as a leader, I feel powerful and influential.

How do you make a positive impact on others?

I make a positive impact by getting involved with my community. I think it is very important I volunteer, and enjoy doing so, whenever I can so that I can make an impactful difference. Ever since creating Girl Talk at my school, my intention was (and continues to be) for girls to see and realize what their values and strengths are. I want the girls in my club to go on a journey of self-discovery by understanding their abilities, character, and feelings. I want them to find their self-worth and love. I want to help build the next generation of confident girls. I want to be able to share my experiences by simulating Minerva’s Learning to Lead™ program within a small community so that I can make a positive impact on the lives of these young girls. I want to give them the opportunity to reach their full leadership potential, just like I have.

What made you choose Learning to Lead™?

What made me choose Learning to Lead™ was the fact that I had social anxiety, and COVID did not help at all.  I was looking for a program to help me build my confidence as a leader during that time. I wanted to find a program that would help me discover my leadership potential. I chose this program because I loved what the program focused on. This program supported me during my leadership journey by including topics that resonated with me. I learned more about self-knowledge, being a leader, increasing confidence, being authentic, and creating connections. I overcame my social anxiety by finding this program that has helped me discover my confidence and voice. Participating in the program has made me find inspiration to take on new challenges and opportunities that allow me to lead with a confident mindset. I was encouraged to make an impact as a leader and embrace and accept my authentic self.

Learning to Lead™ is a leadership program open to self-identified girls in high school (Grades 10-12). Participants gain confidence through a series of interactive workshops and activities. They leave the program with greater self-awareness, and the inspiration to take on new challenges and opportunities. This interactive program invites young women to develop a leadership mindset in a supportive and fun environment.

Currently accepting applications for Learning to Lead™ STEM (October 2022) and Learning to Lead™ Trades (November 2022).

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