Fueled by passion and energy, United Distant Stars is charting a new
course across the galaxy.  Its mission is to engage young
Liberians–“rising stars”–in receiving education for jobs or careers. 
We see that as their first step into the great unknown–fulfilling their
dreams of a meaningful and satisfying future!

This surge of inspired energy came after I gave a presentation on women’s leadership to the 2012 Miss Liberia Minnesota contestants on June 26, sponsored by the Liberian Youth Network (LYN). Decontee “Dee” Sawyer, LYN’s Executive Director (and also 2006 Miss Liberia/Minnesota), had heard about my presentation to the Ebenezer Community Church (ECC) Youth Group and asked if I would be interested in talking with her contestants. 

I was excited to have this opportunity to talk with these beautiful young women, and just three days away from the pageant. I knew that I had to deliver a talk that would pique their interest and stimulate involvement because they were focused on their final preparations for the contest. They each had their sight on the crown and title for 2012.

I wanted to convey three primary principles to these emerging leaders:

  • Be informed…knowledge is power,
  • Be inspired…cultivate your passion, and then
  • Ignite an eternal flame…put your passion into action
As I had with the Ebenezer Youth Group, I began by quizzing them on
their knowledge of Liberian history.  Next I sketched out brief profiles
of eight women currently recognized as powerful and inspirational
leaders in their nations, despite very dangerous circumstances, as in the case of Liberia’s Leymah Gbowee and Agnes Fallah Kamara-Umunna. There is more to be said about these women, so I will be dedicating an upcoming blog post about their incredible stories of leading in complex situations.
Finally, we closed the presentation on how they can put their passion into action. It seems that the hardest thing to do is taking those first steps. Too often we feel that we need to go BIG to make an impact and then we end up doing nothing. So, we talked about sharing their ideas with others, being an advocate for someone or something or starting a pilot project. This message was good reminder for all of us that when we take those first “small steps” we are on way to making our dreams a reality.

Left to right Jessica Chea (contestant), Catherine Carr (2012 Miss Liberia-Minnesota), Decontee Sawyer (LYN Executive Director), me, Satta Kendor (contestant), Decontee Yarpah (contestant)

After I left that night, I had no idea how my presentation went because I’m usually in a “zone” where I’m unable to gauge my audience’s
response.  The following day I received a call from Dee thanking me for a
great presentation, explaining that afterward each of the contestants
revised their “platforms” (action plans to be carried out after the
pageant–whether or not they receive the crown).

This feedback inspired me to put my passion into action!  United Distant Stars has launched two small projects focusing on educating young people in Liberia. One project has provided scholarships to five primary and secondary school students, and supplemental financial aid to eight students in three to six-month vocational programs. The second project involves adopting a small primary school in the Monrovia area.

United Distant Stars will be slowly rolling out our vision and plans as we move forward. We have added an “About” tab so you can learn more about us.

I close this post with a insightful quote from Michelango that encourages us to reach for the stars…

The greater danger for most of you lies not in setting your aim too high and falling short; but in setting your aim too low, and achieving your mark.