Auburn graduate and Kelly Miller, dean of students at the Amazima School in Jinja, Uganda, returned to Auburn to speak as part of an ongoing speaker series sponsored and organized by Emerge, the University's new comprehensive student leadership initiative.
Miller launched into with his personal story of his path from a businessman to a dean of a school in another country.
"I have nothing new to share with you," Miller said in his introduction. "But my goal is that you’ll be inspired."
Miller said this is something he never imagined happening.
Miller has held a variety of business and financial positions across the globe. Along with his business experience, Miller has been a leader in a number of ministries over the past 12 years.
Miller said his interest with service resonated when he was introduced to the book, "Kisses from Katie," by Katie Davis. The book told Davis's story of how she has a passion for helping people, which led her to
Miller said he was so inspired that he started financially supporting Davis and developed a professional relationship with her as he learned more about her mission.
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Over time, Davis' purpose shifted, which Miller said can be difficult, but he emphasized it should not hinder someone from working toward what they’re passionate about.
“Sometimes you have to be willing to allow your vision to
As they spent more time in Uganda, Miller said Davis noticed how poorly the schools were run and how terrible the idea of education was perceived. Children were not encouraged to think freely, ask questions or do less than perfect on exams. Severe punishment was enforced if children did any of those things.
This was the spark for the foundation of The Amazima School.
Miller and Davis both wished to see a country where children could receive a quality education, which in turn they said could change the course of the entire country. Miller described the school as something like no one in Uganda had ever experienced before — there were 70 acres of land and dorms with six children sharing a space instead of 200.
Miller shared the three ideas The Amazima School live
In The Amazima School, Miller said children got to experience learning in a whole new light. He said it was an environment where children aren’t overwhelmed with facts but instead encouraged to debate, think critically and ask questions.
“We want kids to enjoy the process of going to
After the start of The Amazima School, Miller was asked to run student life at the school. This became an internal struggle for
Miller used this experience in his life to stress the importance of being a leader even when someone doesn't necessarily consider themselves a leader.
Now, the school is still doing amazing, according to Miller. Miller talked about several stories about current students, who not only succeed in the classroom but compassionately serve the community.
Though Miller and his co-workers spend a lot of time attempting to better the future generation of Uganda, he said there are still people who don’t agree with the idea and will try to stop it.
Miller repeated several times throughout his speech that there are haters who love to criticize everything, which is why he said it’s important to get people who are excited about the destination.
Through telling his story, Miller expressed to the audience several principles he discovered
“You have to be courageous," Miller said of perseverance. "Be involved. Your passion will get people to follow you."
He told a story of a girl in The Amazima school named Rizan, one of the smartest at the school, who almost lost the opportunity to attend any secondary school but because of her persistence and dreams of becoming a surgeon, she ended up where she is today.
Miller told students to “find their riot.” Miller said while he believes the country is currently in a divided state, he believes if the people of Auburn come together and cultivate their passions, the United States can be led out of its mess.
“Be clear on where you’re going," Miller said. "If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll eventually stop.”
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