Liberia Renews Focus on Jobs and Youth through New Presidential Advisor Appointment
By: Wynfred Russell
The man who was quoted as saying that the "Liberian youth are consistently clustered toward the bottom in employment, education, health, and other well-being indicators" is now the new youth czar in charge of empowering youth, improving education, as well as creating jobs and new opportunities, arguably the most powerful youth advocacy position in Liberia. As she completes critical appointments for her second term administration, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf named Dr. Emmanuel Dolo as her new National Youth Advisor on May 3. This appointment is not subject to confirmation by the Liberian legislature.
Dr. Dolo has long, distinguished careers in applied policy work in the public and private sectors in the United States and Liberia. He has always blended his skills in mental health practice, community-based youth development, and teaching in various aspects of the social sciences. Working at the nexus of community development practice, research, and writing about the challenges that vulnerable populations face, and how to resolve them, is what he enjoys and where he can contribute best to the developmental supports and opportunities for disadvantage young people.
The newly created position for the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs will serve Liberia's growing young population throughout urban, rural and coastal areas. Dr. Dolo’s appointment as a presidential advisor to President Sirleaf is being hailed by many, including the more than 25 young adults he has hired and mentored since returning to the country, as a well-deserved one. His professional experience has had local, national, and international dimensions.
Dr. Dolo: Revolutionary or Youth Development Expert
Critics cast Dolo as a wild-eyed agent of change and supporters see a brilliant expert on refugee and youth policy formulation. In fact, he is probably both.
Dolo was originally trained as a refugee and youth development specialist and he continues a limited practice in the U.S. and the West African region. He is perhaps better known as the Managing Partner of Lifeworks International, which he established in 2003, and has given him a platform to communicate his message of efficiency in the international adoption of Liberian children and an effective youth development regime. He facilitated the development of Strategic Plan for the 4-H/Extension Program at the University of Minnesota and training for the executives of Michigan Works, the workforce arm of the State of Michigan. He also consulted extensively with variety of youth-serving agencies, school districts, county governments, city governments, and non-profit organizations in the U. S., principally the Mid-West region.
In his books and public comments, the resplendent writer and esurient reader has championed efforts "to base policies and practices on consideration of the best interests of the child." He also suggested a need to bring Liberian child welfare law and policy in conformity with norms of international human rights and related conventions.
In previous years, he taught at the University of Minnesota, Catawba College, and Montreat College, coordinated independent living program at the Rowan County Social Services Department in North Carolina, and later served as Director of a state-level Child Welfare program in Milwaukee, WI. Additionally, he was the Coordinator of Children’s Mental Health at Human Services Incorporated, now Canvas Health Care. Also at HSI, he was the Principal Investigator for Immigrant Mental Health Research administering studies on the mental health problems facing immigrants and refugees in Minnesota and surrounding states.
Dr. Dolo later served as the Director of Educational Equity at South Washington County Schools in Minnesota. And then became Social Policy Consultant for UNICEF-Liberia in 2007, during which he led an international team to write the Social Welfare Policy of his West African homeland. Thereafter, he assumed the role of Research Director for the Minnesota-based think-tank, Minnesota Minority Education Partnership (MMEP), where he oversaw the investigation of educational disparities between minority youth and their Caucasian counterparts. Before taking up his current role at ArcelorMittal, where he is currently the Head of General Administration, Government Affairs, and Corporate Responsibility, Dr. Dolo served as the Administrative Director at the Center for Health Equity at the University of Minnesota Medical School, a senior level administrative position that he resigned to return to Liberia.
"For the significant progress made under President Sirleaf to endure, it will depend greatly on the youth’s ability to become effective future leaders of the society," said Dr. Dolo in an interview about his appointment from his office in Monrovia, the Liberian capital. "However," he added, "the leadership and guidance required to prepare Liberian youth for successful and productive livelihoods have over the years been lacking or insufficient. As such, my goal is to work with the wide array of stakeholders to build robust policy and intervention frameworks on fostering positive youth development."
The new presidential advisor holds a doctorate degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he specialized in Refugee Mental Health and Youth Development Policy. He also has a Master of Science degree in Economic Development from Eastern College in St. Davids, PA, a Master .Div. from Erskine Theological Seminary and graduate certificates in various disciplines: Child Welfare Policy (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Social Policy (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) and Leadership (Leadership North Carolina in conjunction with Clemson University) and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Liberia. He is an author of three books and 70 academic and popular press articles, many covering the issues of serving vulnerable populations (youth included), mental health, economic policy, and social welfare policy.
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