Welcome to May!
Our Young Person of the Month is Nicole Banister from South Africa/ USA! Nicole Banister is a writer, speaker, and international partnerships manager. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Nicole is passionate about mobilizing organizations across the globe to capitalize on the existing assets of marginalized communities to facilitate sustainable empowerment initiatives. She presently serves as Partnerships Coordinator for Grassroot Soccer.
Nicole holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Culture and Politics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She is a recipient of numerous prestigious fellowships and awards including the United Nation’s Alliance of Civilizations Fellowship, StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellowship, and the For Creative Girls Mentorship Program.
Read her story below and be inspired!
Nicole Banister is a multi-cultural, multi-national, ‘third-culture’ kid. Born in the United States to a Persian mother and a Black American father, Nicole is a high energy, collaborative professional who thrives on celebrating the unity in diversity and navigating the nuances of different people, communities and cultures. Nicole speaks English, Spanish, Sepedi and dabbles in both Mandarin and Farsi.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Culture and Politics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and she is a recipient of numerous prestigious fellowships and awards including the United Nation’s Alliance of Civilizations Fellowship, StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellowship, and the For Creative Girls Mentorship Program.
Nicole presently lives in Cape Town, South Africa, where she is the Partnerships Coordinator for Grassroot Soccer. In this role, she scales Grassroot Soccer youth-friendly, sports-based health programming around the world through innovative partnerships. Committed to building relationships for social good and unite diverse sectors and stakeholders, she is responsible for facilitating trainings and providing technical assistance to partners across Botswana, Cameroon, The Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, USA and Zambia.
Nicole is also the Executive Editor of the DOCC Blog, a female-owned urban fashion label born in Cape Town, based in Rotterdam. Besides writing for DOCC, Nicole’s travel and lifestyle pieces have been published in platforms such as Medium, South African Airways, Opportunity Desk, Peace Corps, Grassroot Soccer, and more. Prior to DOCC and Grassroot Soccer, Nicole served as a Peace Corps Volunteer where she enhanced literacy in a rural village in South Africa by teaching primary school English and implementing sustainable extracurricular programs for students. She also worked at Atlas Corps in Washington, DC where she managed a partnership portfolio of over 200 U.S.-based nonprofits, corporations, and government agencies hosting professional international Fellows.
On Her Motivation
According to Nicole, adolescence is a unique opportunity for shaping the future trajectories of young people, and before their sexual debut, before gender norms become norms to them, and before harmful beliefs skew perceptions of who can do and say what in relationships, she sees an opportunity to connect these young people with mentors, information, and health services they need to thrive. She, therefore, helps to create safe spaces for people to engage in judgment-free dialogues, challenge misconceptions, and antiquated beliefs, and have honest conversations about sexual and reproductive health that leads to healthier lifestyles.
On Her Successes
Thus far, Nicole Banister has trained over 500 young leaders across Africa, North America, and the Western Pacific to facilitate sports-based sexual and reproductive health programming for adolescents. She empowers these young leaders as change agents through a culture of play, praise, and localized health information that they then use to empower youth in their own communities.
She believes in sports as a powerful, global impetus for peace and social change. She says it takes nothing more than a ball to break down some of the world’s most stark barriers to entry across all levels of society. By empowering young people around the world with caring adult role models, youth-friendly curricula, and high-energy culture around play, Nicole believes we can reshape the harmful sexual behaviors and gender-based violence that permeate communities from Uganda to the United States.
While she has been supporting Grassroot Soccer and their mantra advocating sports as a tool for social inclusion for the past four years, Nicole has spent a lifetime committing herself to build safer communities for society’s youngest and most vulnerable. By bringing youth together to challenge the dominant discourse on the roles of men and women in relationships, Nicole believes we can foster more peaceful societies and strengthen our collective future. By sharing and highlighting commonality, focusing on the individual traits of any given place or person and how their experiences are actually quite similar to ours that, she says, builds trust. It creates a safe space. It encourages and instigates empathy. And that is her idea of how we will change the world!
Her Word of Advice to the Youth
Highlight and celebrate commonality, not differences. Variety is the spice of life, but it is our similarities that remind us we are all human. Regardless of our race, sexual orientation, nationality, language, religion, age, or anything else that may seem to divide us, let us not forget that whilst our differences make us unique, it is our similarities that make us all one.
Learn more about her DOCC blog.
Who will be the Next Young Person of the Month?
You can be the next Opportunity Desk Young Person of the Month! All you have to do is get a friend to recommend your work or fill out the nomination form here. We want to use the platform to recognize and celebrate the efforts of amazing young people around the world. O! And you must be an active Opportunity Desk member, either as a fan, reader or subscriber!
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