Hannah Leyns believes dedicated teaching and mentoring prepares young people for fulfilling professional lives. She helps run a school serving underprivileged youth in Brussels, and also works to keep its alumni actively involved in the community. Through a training program made possible through a partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Belgium, Hannah’s students learned valuable skills that empowered them to serve as inspiring role models in their communities.
Hannah knows that investment in young people has an enormous impact on a community, even for generations to come. She has found an ideal place in which to do this important work. At Toekomst Atelier de l’ Avenir (TADA), Hannah dedicates herself to teaching underprivileged children to develop their talents and reach their professional goals. “I get my energy from working with people and getting inspired by them reaching their potential,” she says. TADA offers children from some of Brussels’s most underprivileged neighborhoods a weekend school where they learn about the job market, develop their own talents, and ultimately, prepare for their futures.
Hannah believes that TADA offers its students more than educational opportunities. “Through our alumni network, we want to help these kids to grow up as confident and proud adults.” As TADA’s alumni coordinator, she works to expand the program’s impact by encouraging its participants to become leaders and serve as positive role models to others.
Hannah credits an “ambassador training program” – the result of a partnership between TADA and the U.S. Embassy in Belgium – with helping alumni become great role models for TADA students. The two-day workshop focused on developing skills and confidence. “They learned how to act in front of a camera, how to write a speech, and how to answer difficult questions by journalists,” she explains. “We saw the kids being very proud of themselves while talking to all the officials of the embassy. ” The results were immediately obvious to Hannah and her team. “After the ambassadors training, we noticed many of our alumni were taking more and more responsibility. We saw them empowered as role models for their younger peers. That was amazing to see!”
“I think the level of respect is the thing I would like to change most.”
Hannah wants TADA’s students to have the opportunity to build a life around their passions, as she has. “I hope that in a few years I can see the kids in my class grow up to be confident adults. To see them happy would make me happy,” she says. “Not that they have to become Prime Minister or a famous cook, as long as they do something they love – because it’s really important to find something that you can put all your soul into.”
Hannah’s professional life is motivated by a primary goal: “Making sure there is a future for our kids.” She believes this mission requires a collective effort. Meeting others who share her vision inspires her and renews her commitment to her work. “I feel connected when I go places and I meet people with the same vision or passion I do,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if they are Belgian, or American, or Congolese. As long as you have things in common it makes you feel connected.”
Hannah has witnessed the impact dedicated teaching and mentoring can have on young people. She wishes more could benefit from a positive and compassionate approach to learning and preparing for the future. “On a global level, I wish there was more solidarity in the world, and that people would listen to each other,” she says. “We’re all different, but if we respect each other and have more solidarity, it would certainly make the world a better place.”“I try to follow my gut feeling and my heart – that’s also what I want for the kids at TADA.”