Class of 2023 – that’s a Wrap! iHub graduates its largest and brightest cohort ever
What a privilege to participate in another graduation of iHub students – my fourth since the launch of the program in 2019. I flew up to Johannesburg last week to take in the ceremony on Friday December 1st, spend time with the leadership team and helped celebrate the success of the student I was paired up with as her coach-mentor this year – Nadia Mabika.
Its been an incredible year of growth and achievements at iHub, with many firsts in the approach the team has taken to delivering the Digital Marketing and Soft Skills content. We started the year with the strongest and finest cohort of hand-picked students full of potential and combined that with four years of applied learnings and innovation through competent leadership and program delivery by our team and partners. The results have been incredible, with the lowest attrition, highest overall blended academic average attained and at 35 students, our largest graduating class yet, even though we only operated out of one hub for 2023 – Johannesburg (we closed the Cape Town hub temporarily in 2022). 2023 certainly has been a success and the students have risen to the challenges put before them of a comprehensive and fast-paced 10-month program, to be transformed as capable, responsible and brilliant adults ready to make their mark in the world.
The ceremony took place at the Alexandre Theatre in Brommfontein, where Hillsong holds their weekly services. It’s a lovely venue in downtown Johannesburg – below are a couple of street level and interior pics to give a sense of the facility.
Parents and friends started arriving early and be seated ahead of the ceremony that kicked off at noon. It was certainly our largest turnout yet and was so encouraging to see the support and excitement of the students friends and family on this key milestone in their kids’ lives.
Following opening remarks by the Hub Manager, Thendo, there were the official speeches by Liz Skosana, Program Design Lead (left below) and Sbu Ncala, Managing Director (right below)
I have the utmost admiration and deep appreciation for both these individuals leadership and capabilities. Liz has been with us since 2021 and her contribution has made the program what it is today. I love her like a daughter and it was great to spend time together again.
Sbu joined us in March 2023 and his seasoned leadership has taken the team to another level. He is a strategic thinker and planner with excellent people skills, an entrepreneur, a heart for innovative education and will surely figure significantly into the successful and growing roadmap of the iHub in the years ahead.
Given that I was the only iHub Board member able to be present, they honored me with inviting me to share my greetings, remarks and congratulations from the stage. As co-founder of the program, I never tire of being able to reminisce and give thanks for where we’ve come- from humble beginnings, thanking all those involved and highlight the students’ achievements. My satisfaction grows deeper each year seeing the students transformed by the program and knowing the impact this investment will have on their personal and their family’s trajectory in the years ahead.
Not only did I get to share my remarks, but the team also invited me to be part of the receiving line to hand students their certificates and congratulate them along with Sbu, Liz, and Brandon. What a special treat! In the first photo below, I’m honored to congratulate Bagoratile Sithebe, this year’s Valedictorian, whom I will highlight later in the post.
The joy in the students faces was magical as their family members in the audience snapped many photos as they looked on with great pride.
Once we got everyone through the receiving line, all the students lined up for the full group shot – seen below:
It’s a great time in this story to highlight my student, Nadia Mabika, whom I coached since April this year. I was overjoyed to be a part of her graduation day in person. Here are several photos of Nadia to showcase her with a few colleagues before the ceremony…
Then her in the graduates receiving line and posing with her certificate…
And posing with her mom who I also had the privilege of meeting and encouraging…
And finally a couple more casual shots after gowns were handed in and enjoying the reception that followed with friends and myself.
There were several student coaches that attended the event. It was great to be able to meet some like Arnold Chikwenya (far left) and Faith Mokgalaka (right center) as captured in the photo below.
Brandon Vergotine who gave oversight to all the local and international coaches (left centre) has been with our program from the beginning like me. Its been great to coach a student three years running now and also to facilitate sourcing other internationally-based coaches for the program through Hands and Feet International – this year we had 7 coach-mentors in total paired up with iHub students as part of our “Stay and Serve” remote program.
This year’s valedictorian address was carried by Bagoratile Sithebe, who attained the highest overall academic award for the cohort and surely had all her colleagues respect and admiration. I’ve captured some highlights of her excellent and inspiring speech in the video below:
Of course, no grad ceremony is complete without the customary cap toss. The video below captures a quick pan of the students in their gowns, certificates in hand and then the cap toss!
What an amazing day it was – one for the memory books! So thankful I was able to attend in person – thanks Sonya for releasing me to travel even though you were still recovering at home from your total left hip replacement. Hopefully next year we can take in the iHub grad in person together again, as we have in past years.
I wanted to mention briefly the iHub’s “Employment, Education, and Training” (or EET) stats which we’ve been tracking since program inception.
You can see in the graphic above our improving track record over the years in the percentages of our graduates who have either gotten a great job, or chosen to continue their training or education within 9 months of graduation. Adding the 35 from 2023, we’ve graduated a total of 98 students to-date! We’ll continue to strive for 100% EET in the coming years, as well as to expand our growing list of employment partners who have come along side us to offer internships of which nearly 100% have translated into full-time employment.
The list of logos below is just some of the companies who have each hired two or more iHub graduates (some as many as eight):
The Intake process for 2024 has seen almost 2,900 applicants vying for 60 placement seats. The team will be inviting the best 300 of these to show up for our Boot Camp weeks which begin in late January, and where we will put these high-potential students through the rigors to test their capabilities and character to down-select to the final offers to seat 60 students to become the cohort of 2024.
Thanks for reading this longer-than-usual post but hopefully you’ve enjoyed the pictures and video and gained an appreciation for the ever-progressing journey of investing in young lives to help their potential become opportunities to realize their dreams in order to bring positive change to a nation and even a continent.
I leave you with this final photo – can you spot me?
Look for my next update in February, 2024 as we check in on the Boot Camp student selection process!