Thobeka Mnisi, a second-year student at Oberlin College, believes in access to education and economic opportunity for all youth worldwide. Her involvement tutoring local high school students as part of a college access program, as well as her service on Oberlin's Interfaith Student Council and on Student Senate, have quickly distinguished her as a recognized leader in discussions of educational access both locally and internationally. She is also exploring possibilities for grassroots economic development through microcredit loan programs to propose in her hometown of Daantjie, South Africa, where she has regularly returned to tutor, mentor and serve as an assistant librarian.
Thobeka articulates clearly that community engagement, which allows one the needed proximity to real people's concerns, interests, passions and ideas that no amount of theory alone can supply, provides the kind of personal interaction necessary for great leadership. She is an exceptionally charismatic leader who is capable of generating excitement and energy for a wide range of projects, and her potential for bringing about improvements in the quality of life for marginalized populations in rural South Africa, and for inspiring others to get involved in such an effort, is unlimited.
I've been involved in numerous community engagement opportunities all throughout my life, although the most meaningful service I have done has been tutoring and mentorship. When I started tutoring and empowering 5th and 6th graders in an extremely underserved school in South Africa, I decided that their education was my concern, and that has been my approach to everything else. I have also been involved in anti-poverty work in hometown because of high food insecurity, few opportunities for women and the need for sustainable economic development. Here at Oberlin College, I serve on Student Senate and tutor for the Ninde Scholars (college access) program because my life has been changed by the educational opportunities I have received, and education is a key pathway out of poverty. Finally, I volunteer for Mamkhulu.org, an organization that assists the growing number of orphans, vulnerable children and youth, and the women who look after them, in southern Africa because giving hope to children who've been robbed of their of childhood is a community responsibility. I want to connect with other young passionate leaders who demonstrate their integrity though community service, collaborative work, social transformation and basic sense of humanity.