When fifth-year medical student, Mbalenhle Mngomezulu took a chance and sent in an online application to attend a global leadership summit, little did she know that she would be selected – and that she'd return with knowledge and contacts which she will treasure forever.
Mngomezulu, a natural leader who was deputy head prefect at the Pietermaritzburg High School in KZN, recently returned from attending the Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement Summit in Pittsburgh, USA.
She found the online application while looking for leadership programmes and applied, but did not assume she'd be selected. She was thrilled when she was chosen to attend the fully covered summit - and to hear that Stellenbosch University would cover her travel costs.
Mngomezulu was one of three South Africans selected to attend the summit which took place at the University of Pittsburgh from July 20 to 24. A total of 50 people from all over the world took part.
In its ten-year history, the Hesselbein Global Academy network has grown to represent 450 alumni from 72 countries. The five-day intensive programme sees participants attending workshops, receiving mentorship from business and government leaders and engaging in service projects with local community agencies.
“The mentorship talks were so enlightening and it was amazing to spend time with people from all over the world," Mngomezulu said. “I've learnt so much and realized how important it is to seek out mentors. They needn't even be that much older than you. They can be peers with experience to share."
The service project which the delegates were involved with was called Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit initiative which aims to end hunger by 2020. “We packed 10 000 meals for needy people.
“I was reminded during our activities of the importance of team work, of how each individual in a group has a role - and of how great results come about when people work together, “ Mngomezulu said.
Among the many highlights of the trip was getting to know her Columbian roommate and learning to salsa dance in a Latin bar.
“Even though we were from different places, I was amazed at the many similarities between us."
Mngomezulu said she was immensely grateful for the opportunity to attend the summit. “I've come back inspired to be a more courageous leader and to make a difference wherever I am."