Ambassadors from the 2017 SMART START Youth Summit share their stories
Written by: ILANA REIMER
When Sisi Akhigbe was three years old, her mom bought her her first karaoke machine. Now 21, Sisi mostly sings at her church. She’s into soul and R&B music. She’s also a certified dance teacher—trained in acro, Hip-Hop and jazz.
A Nigerian-Canadian, Sisi is originally from Brampton, Ontario. She moved to Ottawa for school, and is now in her last year of law at Carleton University. She a fan of series like Pretty Little Liars, Stranger Things and Jane the Virgin. “I’m a bit of a reality TV junkie,” she admits.
Aside from wanting to be a lawyer, Sisi is also interested in politics and youth. She works as an intermediate youth worker at the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, helping kids with their homework, running different programs and leading the dance team.
“I don’t want to see more youth become statistics because of the environments they’re in,” she said. “I want to see them overcome their life circumstances and become something.”
Sisi has faced many challenges in her own life. She continues to deal with numerous health issues, including heart problems, several life-threatening allergies and asthma. However, she sees these problems as difficulties to push through, not reasons to give up. “I don’t let them defeat me,” she said.
Because she’s had to fight hard to be successful, Sisi can relate to others who face serious setbacks. She wants to use her story to motivate them to keep going. “I’ve seen a lot of people who are very, very successful, and they’ve had to overcome difficult challenges,” she said. “So what’s different for me?”
Last year’sSMART START Youth Summit offered a perfect opportunity for Sisi to encourage and empower young people. She enjoyed influencing and pushing the kids to dream and take action, and connecting them with the speakers.
For her, networking was one of the most valuable parts about SMART START. Sisi knows that building a successful career is no longer a matter of working your way up to the top. “If you look at today’s society, it’s about who you know,” she said. “It’s not just about the education. Education is great, but it’s also about who you can connect with. People who know people, who also know people, can help you get to where you want to go.”
Sisi’s most valuable connection from the 2017 summit was meetingNatalie Domey, YLAC’s Director of Planning and Events. Sisi went through a tough time in her own life immediately before the summit, but she was able to turn to Natalie for inspiration.
“When I look at Natalie, I see strength, I see confidence, I see poise. I see someone that I want to be like,” she said. “I saw what a beautiful person she is, and I thought ‘Wow, you could be just like that. Get over this funk.’”
After she graduates, Sisi wants to become a motivational speaker and a role model—especially for young women who’ve been through difficulties in life. She doesn’t want her past experiences to define her, but she also doesn’t want them to go to waste.
“I know that I’ll do what I’m here on earth to do, and I can’t let life get me down and not allow me to get to where I need to go.”
Interested in becoming an ambassador for the 2018 summit? Apply to become an ambassador now.