Sonnie Kpangbai

"Now that this day has finally come, I can only hope for those moments that will change the world through my willingness and enthusiasm to do what I believe is right and what makes a great leader. Leadership is not about the skills and knowledge we acquired. It is about how we utilize those skills and knowledge to change people's mindset"

Having survived extraordinary danger, chaos and heartbreaking setbacks in the Liberian civil war, I have a strong sense of purpose and passion for teaching and educational leadership. Despite these challenges, I graduated with a B.A in English/ Elementary Education (Cum Laude), and a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from Rhode Island College.

Two years ago, if anyone had asked me why I wanted to pursue a Master's degree in Educational Leadership, I would probably have said "to get a better job and earn a decent salary." But now as I reflect upon my learning experiences in the LEAD Program, I realize that my goals are to continue to be a change agent: in short, I want to help people overcome their own challenges. The LEAD program has broadened my understanding about leadership and exposed me to many new and exciting possibilities, as well as new ways of teaching and learning. It allowed me to work on challenging projects. The class discussions, both with the whole group and in smaller groups, were one of the best aspects of the LEAD Program, because it was always interesting to see how each student's view aligned with what we were taught.

The LEAD faculty members are devoted to bringing out the best in each student. They knew the students not only by names, but by what the students believed about leadership. They provided opportunities for the students to make critical decisions, analyze strategic plans, and develop solutions that served in the best interest of everyone in the cohort. Because of the faculty's support of the students, a lifetime bond and mutual respect were formed between them and the students. LEAD faculty members worked hardest to develop talented, creative and outstanding leaders. For example, after a reading, they challenged and guided the students to write reflections, analyze problems for a better result that aligned with the program's standards and then relate that result to their personal lives, a teaching strategy used to develop the students' leadership capabilities to the fullest. As a graduate from the LEAD Program, I hope to continue my work in higher education and to construct a boarding school for disadvantaged youths in Liberia. I want to utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from the LEAD Program to help young people discover their potential and to be positive contributors to their communities.