Alyssa Baylor is one of the founding faculty members of ALU’s Leadership Core course, Communicating for Impact. She has a degree in International Relations from Trinity College in Connecticut, USA. Alyssa is from Brooklyn, New York.
In the Beginning
“I grew up in a very diverse community, from my perspective.”
Surrounded by people of African, African-American, Caribbean and Latin-American descent, Alyssa embraced the diversity of her hometown in Brooklyn, New York, USA her hometown was dubbed “Little West Indies” and hosted an annual West Indian Day Parade.
Originally from the southern part of the United States of America, Alyssa is the second generation of her family to live in New York. She grew up with a strong female influence in her life, having grown up in a household with her sister, mother, aunties and grandmother. In Brooklyn, she attended one of the better public schools and instantly stood out for her academic excellence.
In high school Alyssa received the prestigious Posse Scholarship awarded to students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential. She left Brooklyn to attend Trinity College in Connecticut, USA.
Journey to South Africa and beyond
“I found that a lot of my assumptions about the rest of the world and how people lived were really awakened in South Africa and Argentina.”
In her junior year, Alyssa studied abroad, spending six months in South Africa and six months in Argentina. In South Africa, a lot of things changed for the young college student. Even though New York is full of diverse people and cultures, it didn’t prepare Alyssa for the international experience. She became aware of her own experiences as an African American and the role that played in her perception of her surroundings. It was the first time she realized how American she really was.
She attended University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa and ended up taking an internship as the producer of a late night political talk show at a local radio station, Bush Radio. While her college campus was beautiful and exciting, the bulk of her transformative experiences took place during that internship and many of her connections to South Africa are as a result of her time there.
Six months later Alyssa found herself in an equally unique experience in Latin America, where she became very self conscious of herself as a person of colour in Argentina. “I don’t feel like I learned a lot or grew as a person there,” she said. “I think what I learned from Argentina is that race is not this thing that’s defined, it’s very fluid and in many parts of the world, race still matters… just in a different context.”
“I didn’t know why I was drawn to teaching at the time but something about social inequality and justice through education made sense to me.”
Alyssa graduated from Trinity College with a degree in International Relations to join Teach for America, a non-profit organisation that enlists promising leaders to strengthen and grow the educational equity and excellence in the USA. Her experience unveiled her love of teaching, the environment and the responsibility placed on her as a role model.
During this time she saw many flaws in a system that placed an unhealthy emphasis on standardised testing and failed to give equal access to quality education between public and private schools.
Where passion meets reality
“I have the best job because I’m surrounded by people who are super smart and driven who I can engage with on an intellectual level about education. To see it grow is one of the most fortunate aspects of being part of the founding faculty.”
After Teach for America, Alyssa dreamt of teaching in an affirming environment where she didn’t have to worry about race, culture or identity but instead become part of an institution that supported teacher. She came across ALU through previous interactions with its sister organisation African Leadership Academy, a pan-African secondary school in Johannesburg, South Africa. Alyssa was in South Africa at the time and applied to be one of the founding faculty members of the Communicating for Impact (C4I) course at ALU’s inaugural campus, African Leadership College (ALC).
Communicating for Impact is a course to prepare students with the necessary communication skills to succeed in the real world. It means giving students the skills to communicate their ideas meaningfully and engage in conversations with people from varying sectors, experiences and backgrounds.
After more than a year of curriculum design, Alyssa began teaching her new students in October. She reflects on Opening Ceremony for the first cohort of students, realising the beauty of ALC’s pan-African community and the ambition and determination of our students.
“I hope that we stay true to our promise to students- to prepare them to fulfil their wildest ambitions, to be leaders. I hope we fulfil our promise to provide a transformational learning experience.”