Soumaou’s Story: A Council Year in Review

During my second year at Riley’s Way, I once again learned my full potential on what it’s like to be a leader.

Being the only returning Council member at my school early this year, I really wanted to get the word out about the Riley’s Way Bronx Council. Ms. Ritz (one of our faculty advisors at Riley’s Way) asked me to present with her to the whole junior class about Riley’s Way’s mission and how we make young women leaders. I thought it was kinda hard to share Riley’s Way with my current junior school friends mainly because I get really nervous when it comes to public speaking. But when I presented, many students were shocked at how the Bronx Council can spread kindness and empathy as leaders. 

Over the course of this year, I’ve become more of an active listener and an empathetic person which has shaped and built me as a leader. I definitely grew not just as a Council member but also as a family member. Both of my parents are currently unemployed and have been since the start of the COVID pandemic. It’s definitely taken a toll on me and has caused me great amounts of stress and anxiety. But then as a leader, I took initiative and decided that our family’s situation isn’t going to get any better without me doing anything so I decided to work during the school year to provide for the family. 

Our mental health final project was my favorite activity this year. Listening to other Council members’ thoughts and ideas on mental health and how to inform others about it was such an eye opener for me. The best part about the final project was presenting on mental health resources to the middle school students at TYWLS Bronx. The students were everything I expected them to be. They were hyped to learn about mental health but most importantly they had a lot of questions about the topic. Questions like: Do you think that social media can negatively affect mental health? And how do you calm yourself down after being angry? These types of questions warmed my heart knowing that the students were actively listening to the presentation and came up with questions on their own to create a better understanding of mental health for themselves. 

Before I started my junior year, I was paired up with the most hardworking, determined, and passionate person I’ve ever met who was none other than my mentor, Ermina Chowdhury, an alumni from TYWLS Bronx and Riley’s Way. She has taught me how to be productive in and out of the classroom. However, the most important thing she taught me was to always make time for myself, even if I’m extremely busy in order to stay focused and not stress myself out. A moment that really stuck out to me was when we did an activity where we just sat and wrote in silence and wrote about what we think would be important to us in the future. Ermina and I had some things in common but I also think we had some differences like our education level (me being a rising junior and Ermina being a rising college freshman) that really bonded us together as we talked about our high school experiences and college expectations/experiences. Even after the mentorship, we were still in contact with each other, which really showed how emotionally bonded we were. Ermina will always have a place in my heart. Her kindness and empathy are the type of traits all Riley’s Way leaders have. 🙂

As my final year of high school is beginning to start, I’m really looking forward to being more active in the Riley’s Way community. This can be by hosting virtual in-person info sessions to prospective Council members so that they can learn more about Riley’s Way from a Council member’s perspective. I’m also really looking forward to the opportunities Riley’s Way might give me as a future college student. One opportunity that I really hope to get is the chance to mentor a younger Bronx Council member the same way Ermina mentored me and maintained contact even after the mentorship, guiding me through high school and applying Riley’s Way’s values in school and in my personal life.