I became CEO for Streetlight Schools on the eve of my 30th birthday, and this is my first time publicly sharing the story of me, the story of our Streetlight family, and the story of empowering the next generation through education.
The founder and former CEO for Streetlight, Melanie, also penned a moving letter about her experience handing over the organization to another leader.
Before I start telling you about my journey, I have learned that in South Africa greetings are an important ritual. It’s a measure of respect and shows ‘Ubuntu’, so without further ado:
Sawubona, Molweni, Hello and 你好. I’m Fu.
Mymaternal grandparents were life-long educators, and my father has been a professor for as long as I can remember. I was raised by parents from rural China who became 1st-generation college students. This not only changed their lives, but it transformed their children’s lives too. I believe that anyone — empowered with the right values, mindsets, skillsets, opportunities — is capable of overcoming challenges like trauma, poverty, racism, displacement to become self-actualizing individuals.
No one has taught me this more than our students and teachers at Streetlight Schools.
While all our students and staff inspire me daily, I’d like to share a striking example. One of our fourth graders stays with his grandmother but effectively looks after himself. When he joined us in first grade, he would often act out and struggled academically. Now, he is a leader in his class and one of our most talented coders in Python. He wrote a letter last year inviting South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to attend our career day, advising him to improve roads & education, and signing it ‘Your Future President.’
Your. Future. President.
What’s striking is not just that he has grand ambitions, or that he is developing 21st century skills like coding.
It’s that we’ve empowered him with character and values like love, kindness, and honesty to lead ethically & authentically.
It’s that we’ve empowered him to think critically and reflect on what would help improve our community and country.
It’s that we’ve empowered him to have the unwavering confidence that he can become anything.
This is the crux of what I believe makes for an excellent leader, and how I’ve worked tirelessly to become such a leader since starting to advise Streetlight in the 1st year of its afterschool, moving across the world to co-lead it in the school’s 2nd year, and becoming CEO in the school’s 3rd year.
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