All of the lawyers and staff members at Bey & Associates, LLC are dedicated to helping our local and nationwide communities build strong foundations that can enable us to take part in a brighter future. We decided to start a scholarship in 2017 that would give us the ability to help college students forge that strong foundation. The scholarship’s last submission period, Fall 2020, recently came to a close. We were truly humbled by the amount of applications we received as well as the exceptional high quality of every essay. All of the essays were outstanding. Choosing just one winner was difficult!
We’re pleased to announce we’ve chosen a winner.
Congratulations to Abram Saroufim of Missouri!
Abram will be attending Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis to receive his Masters in Social Work.
This submission period’s essay topic was as follows:
What does leadership mean to you and what are your personal goals regarding being a leader within your community?
Here’s his winning essay:
Welcome to Yarpah Town Public School. An underfunded, undersupplied, public school standing in a small village in the war-ravaged country of Liberia. A country set back decades by civil war, Liberia finds its educational system barely hobbling as it tries to recover and move forward. Like the overwhelming majority of schools in Liberia, Yarpah Town Public School finds itself plagued by absent teachers, lack of classroom resources, students running around waiting for teachers to come, and corrupt teachers that pocket school funds. There are a fair amount of well-intentioned teachers who, despite their best efforts, are too exhausted and overwhelmed by the problems they faced daily to teach to the best of their ability.
This was what I walked into as the first ever Peace Corps Volunteer at Yarpah Town Public School. This is not a story of how I changed Yarpah Town Public School for the better, but the story of what I learned when I met him. You see, I was not the only new addition to the staff at the school: Amos Krouakpee Whoryonwon came as the school’s new principal. A man of absolute integrity, Amos was never swayed by corruption and fought tooth and nail to restore order to the school. He assigned tasks to the staff and student leaders, created a budget for the school, appointed administration members to manage and report the budget to him, and held all teachers and students accountable for their actions. With that tremendous integrity came an indomitable will to defend what he believed to be right. He was an immovable fortress, unwilling to be swayed by tides of corrupting influences.
In two years, Amos, due to sheer force of will and determination, singlehandedly brought Yarpah Town Public School to one of the most functional schools in the country. Now this might be the time to say that Amos was the best leader Yarpah Town Public School could have asked for in the two years I served there. Yet, I have no intent to say that. The truth is, he did not have the opportunity to be a “leader” in the conventional sense. The things he did—planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling activities, and solving problems—were all things managers, not leaders, do. He did not align people, nor did he motivate or inspire them. It was not because he did not want to, but rather because he could not. Effecting change takes a long time, especially when it comes to producing the change of hearts and mindsets that leaders are known for. Amos did not know how much time he had to mobilize that change in a sustainable manner. What he needed to do was restore order to a school that descended into chaos and disarray—a school that was a product of a country still trying to restore itself from that very chaos that destroyed it for decades prior.
Amos realized he had to play the role of a manager instead of a leader because the people he led had lost control of their situation. What I found through working with him was that he had a vision and a desire to empower those he led to produce that change the school so desperately needed. But in order to do so, he had to restore hope to those who had lost it. He had to make difficult decisions and take on much of the burden in order to prove to everybody that change could be made. It took him two years, but he was able to show them a bright future for the school. As I was preparing to complete my service and return to the US, he told me that there was so much more to be done. Now that order had begun to return to the school, the next step was to make sure others cared enough about maintaining it—students and teachers alike. Otherwise, everything he’d worked for would be for naught. His focus had shifted from being the manager the school needed to becoming the leader that it now leaded. He had a vision, he had inspired followers to have hope in his vision, and he was ready to do the leading he had wanted to do from the start. I left Liberia confident that Yarpah Town Public School was in good hands.
My time with Amos challenged my understanding of what made a true leader. I knew all the things commonly associated with being a leader: inspiring those around you, always considering them in your vision, and setting a new direction for people to follow. Yet, Amos managed to do this with an execution far different than what I could have anticipated: by playing the role of manager. He showed me firsthand that leaders are products of the contexts in which they find themselves. When hope is gone, leaders may sometimes have to act on their own until they can restore the hope in their followers. It is at this point that I can say that although he acted as a manager, Amos was a great leader.
As a Coptic Egyptian Christian who wants to work in mental health, I hope to follow Amos’s example while challenging the stigma that exists against mental health in my community. He taught me that to effect change in the face of enduring problems, sometimes I would have to do things on my own. While I would be nothing without those I hope to lead, I cannot spend time waiting for them to gain hope or understanding. The stigma against mental health has existed in my community for generations. So I hope to know when to distinguish between needing to be a managerial leader and a more hands-off one. I hope to be able to assess those steps that might be necessary for me to take. My goal is to be more decisive, to know when I will need to organize and delegate instead of simply inspiring those around me.
As my experience in Liberia taught me, it can be a luxury to think about change. People can be battling so much that revising broken systems might be the last thing on their minds. People in the Coptic community think about their families suffering religious persecution or where there next meal is coming from. They don’t think about things like building emotional intelligence or taking care of their minds. That’s why I hope to be more active in bringing such issues up in my community. And whether I am leading by management or leading by mobilization, I want to remember that true leadership always involves something much grander than the leader. As Amos used to always tell me, “I don’t do these things for my own benefit. I do them for the benefit of the entire community.” Thus, to properly lead, I want to get out of my own head and do everything I can for the good of those I lead.
For more information on the next scholarship period which will be for Fall 2021, please see our law firm’s scholarship page for updates within the next week. Congratulations again, Abram! May all your dreams come true.
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