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Purdue community invited to Feb. 8 talk by UNESCO chair on fostering youth leadership

Purdue staff, students and instructors are invited to attend a talk on Feb. 8 that explores how empowering youth voices and fostering youth leadership are keys to sustainable community action.

A leading expert in youth and community development, Mark Brennan is the Community, Leadership and Youth Development chair in UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as well as Professor at Penn State University. Based on his recent scholarship, Brennan’s talk will explore the historical importance of youth leadership to social justice movements and how their active citizenship plays a crucial role in fostering stable and just societies.

Recently, Brennan has focused his research and engagement efforts on empathy education and youth voice, connected with a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award and sponsored by the National University of Ireland Galway.

The event, “Bringing Together Youth, Community and Empathy: Opportunities for Achieving Stable, Civil Societies,” takes place at 6 p.m. in Honors Hall with a catered reception to follow. In the latter portion of his talk, Brennan will be joined by two Purdue faculty, Jason Ware and Casey Mull, for a conversational Q&A session on the future of youth development. Those interested in attending the event can RSVP here.

This event is sponsored by Lead Forward, a social impact leadership program in the John Martinson Honors College (JMHC), as well as Extension – 4-H Youth Development and the Agricultural Sciences, Education and Communication department.

“Dr. Brennan’s visit is a great opportunity for the Purdue and Greater Lafayette community to learn more about youth development as well as to come together to affirm our efforts to empower the leaders of tomorrow,” said Adam Watkins, JMHC’s assistant dean for Leadership Development and director of Lead Forward.

The Purdue community is also invited to an open meet-and-greet with Brennan from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 7, in the Honors College and Residences South building, Room 1060.

Leadership Development and Community Engagement in the JMHC

The topic of Brennan’s talk aligns with several experiential education initiatives tied to leadership development and community and global engagement, two of the four pillars of the JMHC curriculum.

One such experience is led by Temitope Adeoye Olenloa, assistant director of JMHC’s Blue Sky Teaching & Learning Lab and clinical assistant professor. Adeoye Olenloa serves as the director for the Heads Up Tutoring and Life Skills program, in which Honors College students provide after-school homework help and social development for youth living in public housing complexes in Greater Lafayette. Heads Up serves approximately 35 youth and their families annually.

Students In Action Initiative

Purdue Professor Jason Ware, who will join Brennan for the latter half of his talk, oversees another JMHC initiative called “Students In Action” (SIA) via Multiplying Good, a youth service, leadership and recognition program that supports, trains and empowers today’s youth to be leaders, problem solvers, entrepreneurs and impactful global citizens. Researchers involved in the SIA program serve middle and high schools in the Greater Lafayette area, mentoring youth as they identify and address important local challenges and issues.

Through this initiative, Purdue undergraduates have facilitated measurably impactful service-learning projects, including those centered on the human-animal bond, affordable clothing and hygiene products for middle and high school students, mental health awareness, fundraising for homelessness initiatives and more.

SOAR Through Leadership

Watkins, who will host Brennan's talk, is also the faculty advisor for SOAR through Leadership. Founded by JMHC student leaders, SOAR is a new youth leadership development initiative in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Great Lafayette and the Lafayette Mentors after school facility. The program uses an innovative approach that converts research-based practices for youth leadership development into engaging activities.

Pictured: Student leaders in SOAR: Back row- Justin O’ Connor Front Row- Maria Margineantu, Molly Gard, Anushka Sharma, Alli DeYoung

According to co-founder and Honors student Molly Gard, a senior studying psychological sciences in Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences, SOAR’s potential has much to do with its vision. She said the program goes beyond traditional education by providing practical experiences that instill confidence, resilience and a sense of responsibility.

SOAR co-founder Anushka Sharma, a senior studying aeronautical and astronautical engineering, added that the program empowers students to engage in real-world scenarios, enabling them to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations.

“SOAR aims to give these youth a profound experience through our leadership-based programming that equips students with the tools they need to excel, lead and thrive in a rapidly evolving world," Sharma shared.

More about these initiatives can be found on the JMHC website

headshot of communications director Andrea Mattingly. Andrea is wearing a green shirt and has dark brown hair, looking at the camera

Andrea Mattingly

Director of Communication for Teaching and Learning,