November 20, 2015
Aaron Brazelton has always been a big picture kind of guy, so after participating in two of the YWCA Central Alabama’s youth leadership programs, he decided to take what he had learned and pay it forward – all the way to Serbia.
The 22-year-old Brazelton was recently named Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy at the 2015 Philanthropy Day Awards luncheon. He was nominated by the YWCA for his efforts to foster relationships between young people in the United States and Serbia and provide students with a more global perspective.
“People have a tendency to believe that the youth of today don’t have the same strength and values and work ethics as the mature adults, but you look at Aaron and you know that our future will be bright when you have leadership such as what he has shown,” Yolanda Sullivan, YWCA CEO, said in the video honoring Brazelton and his accomplishments.
While in high school, Brazelton participated in the YWCA’s Heritage Panel and was a delegate to Anytown Alabama, a partnership with the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Both programs are aimed at promoting tolerance and inclusion and equipping student leaders to bring about positive change in their schools and communities. Following his freshman year of college, Brazelton returned to serve as a volunteer staff member at Anytown.
Brazelton later traveled to Serbia as an exchange student with World Learning, a nonprofit organization that advances leadership in 60 countries. The experience was a life-changing one and inspired him to establish the Serbia Fellowship Experience, an honors program at the University of Alabama, where he is now a senior.
While designing the model, he incorporated many aspects of Heritage Panel and Anytown, which allow diverse groups of students to learn from and inspire each other. Much like the YW’s social justice programs, the Serbia Fellowship Experience is designed to build cultural bridges between youth from both countries through exchange and dialogue. So far, nearly 50 UA students have traveled to Serbia, lived with host families and become better equipped to be agents of change.
“Aaron dreams big, and his dreams are focused on empowering all people to find their voice in making their community more just and inclusive,” Joan Witherspoon-Norris, director of social justice programming at the YWCA, said. “We are so proud of all he has accomplished and the difference he is making, not just here in Alabama, but in the world.”
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