Idia Irele: a LALA super-hero

In June 2019, Idia Irele joined LALA as an Inaugural Educator. Now, after working on the curriculum for the Academy and encouraging DEIA goals (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access) in the organization, Idia was selected by the United States government for a diplomacy fellowship and is leaving the organization in May.

Idia was born in Columbus, Ohio (USA) but grew up in Nigeria. She moved back to the US at 10 with her family. She studied International Relationships at Smith College and then did a Masters in Education at Harvard. Since a young age, Idia has felt a call to social justice education and human rights.

When Idia was a teenager, she was nominated by a high school teacher to apply to the African Leadership Academy program. Though her parents didn’t allow her to apply, she ended up holding a position at LALA 10 years later. Idia was introduced to David Baptista (one of LALA’s co-founders) in 2019. At the time, Idia was living in Mexico, working on various educational projects related to Social Emotional Learning for the United Nations, when she realized how much she missed having direct contact with students. “It’s where I feel most alive and challenged,” she stated.

Before having a call with him, I thought I was going to volunteer for the Mexico Bootcamp, but in the end, David offered me a job at LALA!”The enriching conversation she had with our co-founder, where they discussed topics like human rights and education, made Idia feel that LALA was a suitable option for her future, as she could see how her values aligned with the ones of the organization. Three weeks after, Idia traveled to Colombia and started her journey with us.

One of Idia’s main projects at LALA was the Academy program. For the flagship edition at the beginning of last year, her focus was on advising and guiding the educators on curriculum development to ensure they followed LALA’s philosophy. Idia wanted to make sure that the classes motivated students to be in charge of their own education. Another main focus of Idia’s was bringing DEIA into the selection process for Academy 2021. This sparked a request from our LALA alumni for a more inclusive organization that was more representative of Latin America when it came to race, gender, socioeconomic status, and geography. “I’m proud that I could hear them, but it was them who brought this topic,” Idia remarked.

Idia expressed that during these years at LALA, she learned to navigate a diverse group of people and still uphold Social-Emotional Learning. “At LALA, there are students from all over the region who have such diverse experiences and mindsets”, she mentioned. LALA demonstrated to her how quickly humans could create relationships. Idia believes this is one of the learnings that will help her most in the next chapter of her life as she pursues diplomacy- “we need to understand we are all human beings and we are all one community.”

LALA is more than grateful for Idia’s contribution to the growth of our organization and the mark she is leaving on LALA. We wish Idia the best of luck in this extraordinary opportunity and hope she keeps building a more equal and fair world. Thank you, Idia! We will miss you.

This story was written by Sol Petroni, a LALA Storytelling Team member.

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