ST. CLOUD -- Twelve young people, dressed in caps and gowns, ended the week by celebrating a milestone in their collective quest to become the next generation of local leaders of color.

The Jugaad Leadership Program graduated its fourth cohort Friday evening at the River's Edge Convention Center.

Founded in 2015, the program covers a wide range of topics —business development, financial literacy, public speaking, interacting with law enforcement, serving on boards and committees — tailored specifically to young people of color.

The latest group of Jugaad graduates represent six countries: Peru, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Malaysia, Ghana and the United States. The typical graduate is between 18-35 years old.

Eunice Adjei, Jugaad's advisory board chair, is passionate about helping young people from underrepresented communities succeed in St. Cloud.

"The inspiration for Jugaad was to get more leaders of color on boards and commissions," Adjei says. "We want to bridge the economic gap in central Minnesota."

Adjei says one of the most popular courses focuses on resume writing and interview skills.

"They really love that," she says. "You just need those skills in this day and age. You need to be ready for the job market."

Adjei says graduates leave the program with a deep well of contacts — and it pays off. One graduate is currently serving on the board of Anna Marie's Alliance. Another is a member of the St. Cloud Citizen's Police Review Board.

And, one was recently offered full-time employment with Microbiologics, a Jugaad sponsor.

Samuel Johnson, who moved to St. Cloud from the Bahamas, has seen the impact of the program first-hand. He watched his daughter Samantha and son Timothy go through the training.

Since then, he says he's seen them thrive. Samantha is on the St. Cloud Library Board, and Timothy is starting a group at St. Cloud State University, where he's currently a student.

"They're both doing very well, he says. "The program gave them so much confidence to move forward. I'm very proud of them"

Eunice says the program is always looking for new business partners. To learn more, visit the Jugaad Leadership Program website.



More From AM 1240 WJON