In a landscape marked by persistent disparities and unattainable opportunities for underserved and marginalized youth, Upward African Woman (UAW) has emerged as a beacon of hope and empowerment. Established in 2013 by Monalisa Okojie, UAW is a California-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to reshaping lives through education and forging pathways to economic prosperity. The groundbreaking EXPOSE program is at the heart of UAW’s mission, a dynamic initiative designed to ignite young minds with possibilities and reshape their trajectories toward a brighter future.
Over the span of a decade, UAW has etched a profound impact across communities in Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya, providing education, scholarships, healthcare, mentorship, and essential tools to women and children. From the bustling city of Lagos to the serene landscapes of Edo State, UAW’s initiatives have extended lifelines of opportunity, empowering communities to transcend poverty, illiteracy, and despondency. By establishing sustainable endeavors such as clean water boreholes and free farmland for women farmers, UAW has equipped families with the means to break the chains of hardship and self-sustain.
UAW’s influence now stretches across the vibrant streets of Los Angeles, catalyzed by its EXPOSE program. An acronym for “Experience, Exposure, Professionalism, Opportunities, Success, and Empowerment,” this transformative youth initiative was led by Aineakho Ojior, UAW’s program development director. The EXPOSE program aspires to carve a fresh narrative for underserved youth, often rooted in communities grappling with economic adversity and constrained prospects. By introducing these young individuals to a universe of potential via engagement with accomplished professionals in the STEAM fields, UAW breathes life into aspirations.
Functioning as a dynamic career day, the EXPOSE program offers an intimate and informal platform for youth to connect with accomplished STEAM professionals. This interaction dismantles stereotypes and spotlights a spectrum of pathways to triumph. Through these dialogues and exchanges, participants glean insights not just into diverse careers, but also into the educational odysseys, obstacles, and conquests of these professionals.
Recently, the program culminated in a remarkable 9-week journey at the Expo Center in Los Angeles. The program’s zenith on August 11th marked a pivotal juncture as pilots, engineers, cinematic digital maestros, emergency management directors, scientists, cybersecurity experts, doctors, and more converged to share their skills and career journeys with eager attendees.
Nevertheless, UAW’s remarkable contributions necessitate sustained support. To persist in catalyzing change in the lives of underserved youth, UAW urgently requires funding. With an aim to expand its footprint and augment its initiatives, UAW actively seeks funding and strategic alliances with corporations and organizations that resonate with its vision. Through such collaborations, UAW envisions magnifying its influence and seeding enduring transformation within communities.
Beyond career exploration, the EXPOSE program imparts vital life skills, encompassing leadership, civic responsibility, mental health awareness, and financial acumen. The program recognizes that authentic empowerment extends beyond knowledge, necessitating a holistic toolkit for these young individuals to navigate adulthood with poise and proficiency.
Fuelled by the dedication of its passionate team, UAW’s EXPOSE program thrives. Among the trailblazers contributing are Children Affairs Director Ms. Seye, UAW program development director Ms. Aineakho Ojior, Founder/Executive Director Ms. Monalisa Okojie, along with devoted individuals like Ms. Norma Dalke and Ms. Mesi Usiade, who have labored assiduously to shepherd this initiative into a resounding success.
As UAW commemorates its 10-year anniversary, the organization perseveres in its unwavering mission to uplift communities and cultivate lasting change. The imminent fundraising gala, set for October 28, 2023, in California, stands as a testament to UAW’s dedication. This gala not only serves as a showcase of UAW’s work but extends an invitation to sponsors to join hands in advancing the cause of empowering women and children.
In a world beset by inequalities and constrained opportunities, Upward African Woman’s EXPOSE program emerges as a beacon of optimism. By immersing underserved and underrepresented youth in the vast expanse of possibilities within STEAM fields, UAW transcends individual lives, forging a trajectory for communities. As UAW marks a decade of empowerment, its journey persists with an unflinching resolve, underpinned by the conviction that education and exposure can illuminate a brighter future for all.
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