On May 8, the Colin Powell Center will send another generation of young leaders into the world. The Colin Powell Fellowship closing celebration marks the end of a journey for City College students who have spent two years (one year for graduate students) working with community partners and learning how to apply their academic interests through public policy and public service to solve the challenges facing society.
The keynote event of the evening will be a panel discussion featuring Jill Iscol, author of Hearts on Fire; Diahann Billings-Burford, chief service officer of NYC Service; and Jimmie Briggs, executive director of the nonprofit Man Up. The invited speakers are exemplary leaders of the sort the Center aims to form: worldly, engaged and dedicated to helping others.
Moderated by Center Director Vince Boudreau, the discussion will highlight the themes that motivate the speakers and that are at the core of the Center’s mission: civic engagement, commitment to public service, and the challenge of converting idealism into meaningful action.
Iscol is a Democratic party activist, educator, and philanthropist. She is the director of the IF Hummingbird Foundation, established in 1989 to support democracy around the world by combating social, economic and educational inequalities. She chafes at the idea that young people today are unengaged in the world’s problems, as a New York magazine article argued. She fired back:
This generation is starting NGOs, inventing solutions to longstanding human problems, forming partnerships with others around the world, standing with the poor to combat disease, providing educational opportunities, and inventing simple yet effective ways for the poor to connect to the global economy.
Hearts on Fire
Hearts on Fire, Iscol’s 2011 book, recounts the personal journeys of 14 leaders around the world, from California to Uganda to Afghanistan. Those leaders include Billings-Burford and Briggs.
Diahann Billings-Burford is the Chief Service Officer of NYC Service, an effort that encourages volunteerism to tackle New York City’s most pressing problems in the fields of strengthening communities, education, environment, health and emergency preparedness.
Jimmie Briggs is a freelance journalist who has written extensively on the victimization of children by wars in Afghanistan, Congo, Uganda and elsewhere, culminating in his 2005 book Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War. In 2009, Briggs founded Man Up, a global campaign to stop violence against women by activating youth.
If the graduating Powell fellows follow the example of these three leaders, it won’t be the last we hear of them—perhaps they’ll make an appearance in Hearts on Fire 2.