Breakfast of Champions: Wokie Weah
Innovative leading from the president at Youthprise
Feb 10, 2015

Words by Lauren Van Schepen // Photos by Marie Ketring

Brain sparkles. That’s the concept a friend introduced me to a few years ago that has since altered the way I see work. They are the moments, ideas, and people who make you fire on all cylinders. They make you say, “YES! THAT!” After an encounter, you head back to your office with a jittery yet focused energy.

These are brain sparkles.

I see them everywhere now. They look a little like the memories in the Harry Potter movies — thin silvery wisps of magic. They’re in the brainstorming meetings that leave space for silliness, they’re in the seasoned leader who seeks the advice of a younger coworker, and they’re in the fresh perspective an organization takes on gender in the workplace. Most often though, they’re in the sharing of stories. This couldn’t be more true than for the Breakfast of Champions event series put on by YNPN-TC and sponsored by Pollen. Each time I go I see these strands of light emanating from the guest speaker and seeping into the attendees’ brains, ready to be carried back to their workplaces and homes.


Wokie Weah

January’s breakfast with Wokie Weah, the president of Youthprise, was no exception. I watched attendees soak up her uniquely inspiring story (listen to her perspective on leadership, here), and saw the sparkles burst forth as she posited: “If you want change, you invest in young people with reckless ideas.” Here are a few of those sparkly moments — the things three breakfast-goers plan to carry with them as they move forward in work and life:


Elise Wehrman, Minnesota Museum of American Art

I always feel inspired when I leave these breakfasts, and this was no exception. There’s so much value in hearing someone’s story firsthand, and learning how it informs their leadership style. I respect Wokie’s approach to internal and external collaboration at Youthprise, and plan to consider how I could adopt it in my own work.


Anders Ringdahl-Mayland, Neighborhood House

I really enjoyed Wokie’s way of looking at leadership from an innovative perspective. Leaders engage a shifting landscape, identify problems, and seek dynamic solutions with stakeholders who are closest to those issues.


Brittany Hustad, Banana Republic

I work in community relations at Banana Republic. We work with underserved women and youth, and tend to invest our employee volunteer hours and grant money in organizations. This conversation helped me consider that our strategy may not always be the correct approach. Wokie said people most impacted by a problem are the ones who have the best ideas for the solution. That was spot on. I’m sure there are times we should be directing our efforts to those individuals instead.









This piece is a summary of a conversation with Wokie Weah, which took place at Youthprise on January 16, 2015, as part of Pollen and YNPN-TC’s joint Breakfast of Champions series. For more information, or to register for an upcoming event, check

Posted by on Feb 10, 2015

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