Ajani Lebourne’s dedication to youth development and student governance is what he is most recognized for. Presently, 20-year-old Lebourne serves as the second Vice President of the National Youth Council (NYC). In 2017 he was recognized as a Queen’s Young Leader and travelled to the UK to meet and network with other Queen’s Young Leaders from across the globe.
What inspired you to become so heavily involved in National Youth Council and National Students Council movements?
Ajani: After developing a brief understanding of the challenges faced by our youth, I felt it necessary to become part of the solution to these issues. I feel empowered when fellow youth are empowered. Helping young people to dig deep to explore their inner potential is most rewarding.
How do you measure the success of your involvement in these organisations? What were the outcomes?
Ajani: Engagement and impact are key indicators. While I believe there is so much more we can do to reach out to youth of different interests, the engagement through the student network increased tremendously. This was recognizable through generating a great following on social media platforms along with the opportunities to collaborate with major NGOs and government departments. Through advocacy and training, the impact of the movement was optimized. Through the years of my involvement we have advocated strongly on various student issues which spurred widespread public discussion and resulted in a change in approach toward student affairs. The movement has also built several student leaders who continue to explore areas where they can execute the skills attained. The development of student leaders has been the biggest accomplishment of the movement to date.
This year you were recognized and awarded as a Queen’s Young Leader. How did you become involved in this initiative?
Ajani: The programme is a four-year initiative established by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust. In previous years I had been encouraged to consider the opportunity due to my engagement with the youth and students movements. In 2016, after submitting an application to the programme, I was announced as one of 60 winners throughout the Commonwealth.
Describe the experience of travelling to England, meeting other Queen’s Young Leaders and the Queen.
Ajani: The residential week in the UK was extraordinary. Spending half of the programme in the secluded Madingley Hall campus of Cambridge University encouraged myself, along with fellow award winners, to be more critical of ourselves as leaders and changemakers in our respective societies. While hectic daily sessions left no room for extended snack breaks, participants found the time to end the day with introspection. The bonds between fellow winners grew as time elapsed. The diversity present in any room we occupied was the most satisfying experience.
Moving to London for the second half of the programme contributed to further enlightenment on my part. I began to see a world of youth activism and opportunity much bigger than the 238-square-mile country I was raised in. Each participant shared a passion developed from personal experience or interest. Needless to say, meeting Queen Elizabeth II began on a quite nervous note. In fact, contrary to the opinion of many, all anxiety disappeared once our 30-second conversation sparked. The due attention paid to my story and work in supporting students in Saint Lucia pleased me most. I had no idea that persons back home were so glued to the Facebook livestream waiting to hear my name called, till I was able to use my phone again.
What is the way forward from here?
Ajani: I’m thinking big… beyond Saint Lucia. Currently the priority is to build leaders who can sustain the movement – leaders who share the very same values and skills which were passed on to me. As an optimist I believe there are many opportunities available to provide even greater support for Saint Lucian youth. In 2018 I will be looking to work closely with the Commonwealth and OECS to build a great appreciation for the student government in the region. I am also looking to form my very own NGO in the new year to focus on building leadership potential in young males.
Apart from your involvement in youth policy initiatives, what other activities are you actively part of?
Ajani: Currently I serve as the second Vice President of the National Youth Council, Advocacy Officer with the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network, President of the Micoud Youth and Sports Council Interim Committee, and I provide support to the National Students Council through the advisory role.
What would you say to a young person to encourage them be more active in student or youth movements?
Ajani: Explore your interest and how to align it with youth development. While the NYC and NSC are working to make the organisations inclusive to all youth, we are hopeful that young person begin to see themselves as key stakeholders. We welcome all youth willing to volunteer to make a difference. It starts with the desire and grows as capacity builds.
Who inspires you, and why?
Ajani: I draw inspiration from everyone I encounter or observe is making positive moves. I also draw inspiration from individuals who may not be in right-standing with common societal perception as I believe there is always something valuable to draw from the “Trumps” in our society. I use approaches and perspectives from different persons to assist in my growth, especially learning to manage a public image and brand.n