The Staley School of Leadership Studies bid farewell Friday to visitors from the 2022 Mandela Washington Fellowship class.

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The flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative, Kansas State University’s Staley School has hosted cohorts for the 6-week leadership institute since 2016. This year saw 24 fellows from across the African continent come to Manhattan to study civic engagement through volunteering, meeting with state and local elected leaders, as well as visiting with officials from non-profits and businesses throughout the region.

The Fellows were seen off with a graduation ceremony as the cohort prepared to depart for home on Sunday — with a couple heading to Texas and California to spend a month gaining professional development experience in their areas of work or study.

Listen to the ceremony below:

Staley School Director Mary Tolar thanked the cohort for investing themselves in the program, and charged them all with taking good care.

“Be easy with yourself as you find your way to make the changes you seek,” Tolar says. “When we try, when we reach, we may well stumble; and we learn, and we try again.

“We must, because our communities and loved ones, our ideals and our dreams desperately need us to.”

Manhattan Mayor Linda Morse was also in attendance for the ceremony, saying she’s a big fan of the program. This year as well as during her prior stint as mayor, she invited the cohort to City Hall to get meet with her and other officials and give the Fellows a first-hand look at local government in the U.S.

“I want to encourage their exploration of democracy here,” Morse says. “Ours isn’t perfect, but we try and we talk about it.

“I want them to have the best experience and the best impression of the United States and democracy that we can […] provide.”

KMAN got the opportunity to meet many of the Fellows after the event to reflect on their experience in the U.S. and the biggest takeaways they are bringing back home.

Listen to their reflections below: