400 Trained in Baltimore: What’s It Like to be a UNL Trainer? By Detroit’s Elizabeth Williams

Peer-to-Peer is our secret sauce. Here’s an “inside look” at what it’s like to be one of Usher’s UNL Trainers.

Elizabeth Williams joined the UNL Detroit chapter in 9th grade and is now a senior in college at Grande Valley State University. She is the co-founder of her own nonprofit, Books IV Bonding, which was an idea helped sparked by UNL, Usher and Scholastic. In 2015, Elizabeth received UNL’s distinguished Global Youth Leadership Award for her service to UNL and her community.

Usher's New Look United To Ignite Awards President's Circle Luncheon


It’s Spring, which means it’s Powered by Service training season at Usher’s New Look! Every year, a few of UNL’s most dedicated disruptivators from Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit and N.Y are invited to become members of our national traveling peer-to-peer training staff; Our secret sauce for meeting youth where they are. A coveted position within the organization, UNL students who earn the opportunity to train get to travel across the country, delivering the Powered by Service curriculum to middle and high school students. It’s a fun and engaging 4-6 leadership training, where students are taught how to unlock their purpose through the four pillars of TALENT, EDUCATION, CAREER & SERVICE. UNL’s rationale is that students must first identify their SPARK, or passion, in order to recognize their full potential to be change agents and leaders throughout the world.

2016-Baltimore PBS with Travelers-Jasmine Pollard training student

The experience is just as fulfilling for the trainers as it is for the students being trained. For some trainers, Powered by Service is their first time traveling or leaving their hometowns. For others, it’s often their first real leadership position to leverage on job and college applications. For all of us, UNL empowers us to do something bigger than ourselves.

2016-Baltimore PBS with Travlers- Banner Group Students3

Our first stop on this year’s tour was two days of trainings in Baltimore, MD, sponsored by our partner Travelers. A total of 400 students were certified between the Excel Academy Francis M. Wood High School and The NAF Academy of Baltimore.

Usher’s New Look is a hub for producing young entrepreneurs, leaders in the community and moguls. Powered by Service is a vital training process that equips students with the skills they need by using​ ​their talent to power educational processes, opening up doors for career opportunities​, and empowering students to be leaders through service​. As a trainer​, we have a lot of responsibilities that include clearing our busy schedules to travel during PBS trainings. Every trainer has to go through a peer​-to-peer “train-the-trainer” session, ​going through each module ​and preparing to train students during a full school day.

2016-Baltimore PBS with Travelers-Students Listening Select1

We kicked off Baltimore with a training at Excel Academy, and it was amazing to inspire students for the first time at an alternative school. I was able to engage with students ages 13-21. The mission every time the trainers and I go to a new school is to empower youth. At our trainings with Excel and NAF Academies, the trainers got empowered through meeting some of the extraordinary youth and learning about their passions and sparks.

Coming off the Baltimore training, we received so much positive feedback from students, educators, partners, and even each other, trainer-to-trainer.

My fellow UNL Trainer & Program Alum, James Harris, emailed us all,

A tremendous impact was definitely made in Baltimore. Collaborative efforts like these are the ones that remind me of why we do this work! So looking forward to working with you all in the future!” 

2016-Baltimore PBS with Travelers-James Dewey Harris speaking

Tara Spain, Vice President of Travelers Foundation, sent us this note,

“On behalf of Travelers, I want to thank everyone who made yesterday’s event a HUGE success. The launch of our partnership with the NAF School of Baltimore was made especially meaningful with the help of our friends/partners at Usher’s New Look. I want to also thank Morgan State University for being such wonderful hosts, and for inviting Travelers EDGE students and faculty to volunteer. And thanks to all of our partners for showing up to support the event!!! Yesterday was just the beginning of a meaningful partnership! We look forward to continued work in the Baltimore community!”

2016-PBS Baltimore-city

Our UNL National Program Director, Careshia Moore, sent this:

“Thank you Travelers for your vision, sponsorship and continued commitment to education. Our trainers were so impressed by the young people and happy to give back to a city with such promise.”

2016-PBS Baltimore-Womens Day

To be a trainer for Usher’s New Look is one of the most amazing opportunities I look forward to in my free time as a senior in college. Being able to reach and encourage other youth around and across the globe is what ignites my passion.