Fellows return home to share Lubbock ways with Africa after graduating from Texas Tech

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 9:20 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - 24 fellows graduated from the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program at Texas Tech today.

This is a grant funded program that pays for 700 fellows from across Africa to come to the United States in 27 different institutions. This year was the first time in two years Lubbock could become a second home to these scholars.

“The arrival, we got so excited,” Associate Director for International Grants Administration and Partnerships for Texas Tech University, Michael Johnson, said. “We had people in our office volunteering, I kid you not, to help pick up Fellows from the airport on our big charter bus at one in the morning.”

Fellows attend academic and leadership sessions. Every institution has a focus, Texas Tech’s is public management.

Johnson says the biggest thing they learned was how tight the community is.

“It’s the sense of volunteerism that takes place in the United States, and especially in Lubbock, Texas,” Johnson said. “When they go to Lubbock Meals on Wheels and they are getting to see everything that’s done and see that it’s all funded by private donations, it just blows them away.”

The Fellows say this is something they cherished deeply.

“Like the volunteerism spirit, I think that’s something that is particularly different between here and where we are back home,” fellow from Malawi, Lerato Phiri, said. “I think that’s something I want to inject where I come from.”

They are set to head home Sunday. One Fellow from Nigeria, Oluwatosin Oke, says he is ready.

“The king is coming! I’m going home a king because I have knowledge, I have relationship with my African friends and colleagues. It’s a, a whole lot I’m going home with,” Oke said. “By the time I get back home, I’m energized, I’m encouraged, I’m inspired to do more.”

Oke says this program helped him learn his strengths and weaknesses, and he is ready to better Africa’s future.

The Fellows were also able to bring a little bit of Africa to Lubbock.

“Getting to tell people about who you are, your traditions, your people, our dressing,” Oke said.

The Fellows are a piece of Lubbock forever because they became honorary citizens. Oke says this means the world to him.

“As I speak to you, I’m an honorary citizen of Lubbock, Texas. So it’s, it’s something amazing, something huge I’ve gained.” Oke said.

Johnson says that sharing of culture connects people.

“It ties us together, but at the same time, it helps us understand that they have unique experiences and perspectives that we can benefit from,” Johnson said.

The people of Lubbock treated them as more than honorary citizens.

“People who are pouring into us and just trying to get the best out of us in terms of leadership. I think my biggest takeaway is relationship with people here in Lubbock and also my fellow, Fellows,” Phiri said.

Phiri isn’t going home yet. She is headed to D.C. for an internship, where she will learn even more to better her community back home.

“I’m a human rights attorney. My work is focus primarily on the protection of women and children and it’s just a fantastic place for me to work and learn and be around other like-minded people,” Phiri said.

These Fellows say they are sad to go but ready to bring a little bit of Lubbock into Africa.

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