SEED Speaks: Learn the Art of Public Speaking Part I

Gilles Acogny inspires SEED students

SEED in partnership with sponsor H.O.P.E for Senegal launched its first-ever public speaking workshop series on February 25th.  The goal of the project is to help SEED Elite improve their public speaking skills through communications and etiquette classes as well as a 4-session debate club. Our first guest was Gilles Acogny.  

Gilles is a global executive who has held various positions with FTSE 100 and Fortune 100 corporations throughout the world.  The co-founder of Acosphere (a specialty management consultancy company), came to share his expertise in communications with over 70 SEED students, coaches and staff.

During the session, Gilles spoke about what it takes to be a good public speaker; giving students tips on how to deal with nervousness, change their mindsets in order to be more positive and consistent in their efforts, and build confidence.

The exciting 2-hour long session included informative andmotivational videos, hands-on exercises to go over posture or just to unwind and a Q&A at the end. We are confident that this session is just the beginning of a more confident and vocal SEED youth. We hope that SEED students will be encouraged to do their own research, watch talks online, practice and continue to develop their public speaking skills for the future.



On February 8th, SEED had the pleasure of welcoming author, TV personality and youth financial educator, Sabrina Lamb, to our campus in Thies, Senegal.

Sabrina, the founder of World of Money, a NYC-based non-profit that improves youth financial literacy, hosted an interactive workshop for 40 SEED Academy students and 10 SEED Rise students.  The students explored a range of topics, including:

  • What are your future goals?
  • What change would you like to see in the world?
  • What is your current understanding of wealth and money?
  • How to properly manage your finances, savings, investments.
  • Importance of "giving back."

Lastly, the students broke up into small groups to create a business "pitch" (product or service) and think strategically about how to make it a viable business: selecting the right management team, advertising and promotion, pricing and pitching the idea, etc.

It’s never too early to learn about managing one’s finances and we thank Sabrina for bringing her energy and expertise to our students. It brings us one step closer to developing our youth into well-rounded, knowledgeable citizens of tomorrow. 


Ramatoulaye Sy, first SEED Girl in America

Ramatoulaye Sy never thought she would be a basketball player.  After all, she didn't learn to play the game until 13, and most young girls in Senegal are not encouraged to play basketball.  Growing up in Thies, Senegal, around the corner from SEED Academy, she urged her mom to let her join SEED Girls upon it's opening in 2013.  Rama's mother was reluctant to let her join for fear that Rama's performance in school would suffer -- she was at the top of her class.  

By 2014, Rama convinced her mother to let her join SEED and she has flourished ever since (in fact, her grades went up after joining SEED Girls!).  After spending one year at SEED Girls, Rama finished at the top of her class and earned a scholarship to continue her studies and play basketball at the Masters Academy boarding school in Dobbs Ferry, New York -- the first SEED Girl to matriculate to school in the United States.

Rama arrived to Masters in Fall 2015 as a sophomore and quickly adjusted to the rigors of her new environment.  She routinely finished on the honor role in her classes and starred for the Girls Varsity basketball team.  Unfortunately, Rama's basketball season was cut short after she tore her ACL in January 2016.  But this did not stop Rama.

This year, Rama is back on the court for the Masters team after a successful rehab, and continues to excel in the classroom.  

We recently caught up with Rama in Manhattan when the Masters team played Lehman Prep.  Rama reflected (see below) on her first year in America and the talented, Steven Counts, captured Rama on the court as she dominated her competition.

My First Year in America, By Ramatoulaye Sy

I’m writing to tell you how different the world looks to me now, how mature I’ve become, and how strong and confident I am now after my first year in the United States.

When I reflect back on my life and my childhood, I was a shy girl who knew what she wanted but wasn’t courageous and confident enough to do it. I always backed up when it was time to step up. I always got scared when it was my turn to act. The only thing that was clear to me was school.

I started playing basketball in 2012 and became part of the SEED Family in 2014. Before attending SEED Academy, basketball was just a hobby. I played it because it was fun. I never thought that basketball would become a passion that would completely change my life in all aspects.

My first year in the United States, at the Masters School, was amazing and challenging at the same time. It wasn’t easy to live in a country where you’ve never been before. On top of that, my English was not fluent when I arrived, but I learned how to be patient and how to self-motivate. And I was lucky to be part of a welcoming and free community at Masters where everybody is equal no matter what your identity is.

The biggest thing that I learned this year was to not be scared to fail, but to be courageous enough to keep moving. There is no straight road to success.

No one wishes to get injured but it sometimes teaches you more than you expected. Tearing my ACL this year was not what I wanted to happen but it motivated me so much and made me stronger than ever. I know that life isn’t always full of joy. People don’t realize how lucky and fortunate they are until something bad happens to them. This injury really makes me realize that time is precious.

I’ve became more open minded. Now, when I return home, it feels great even if I see Senegal in a very different way. We (in Senegal) must devote more time to find out what’s going on around the world. We can always learn more. The sky is the limit even if the sky has no limit.

I want to thank you for supporting me and encouraging me from the first day I stepped foot in the U.S. I wouldn’t be able to have had such a great and unforgettable year without your help, your care, and your support. I truly appreciate it.

Masters vs Leman Prep by Steven Counts

Gorgui Dieng, SEED Alum, signs long-term extension with Timberwolves

Gorgui Dieng grew up playing soccer in his hometown, Kebemer, Senegal.  He, of course, had friends that played basketball but the sport never interested him -- he dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player.  In fact, Gorgui really stumbled upon the game because of his height (he now stands at 6'11 and intimidates NBA players on a nightly basis as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves).  When scouts from SEED Academy noticed his elegant footwork and competitive demeanor, they offered him an opportunity to attend the academy in 2008 to hone his skills.

Fast forward to October 31st, 2016, and Gorgui signed the largest deal (4-year $64M) ever for a Senegalese player.  This was the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance (even after departing Louisville early for the NBA Draft, Gorgui completed his degree online the following year while playing in the NBA).  

Today, Gorgui gives back to Senegal by returning home every summer to pay it forward.  Gorgui routinely participates in SEED's annual Hoop Forum event (pictures below) and runs the annual Gorgui Dieng Summer Basketball Camp in Kebemer, Senegal (pictures below.

For a more in-depth look at Gorgui's origin story, check out this article.

Gorgui over the years in Senegal

Baye Samba Fall, SEED Alum, joins JP Morgan

Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Baye Samba Fall (pictured left) always had a passion for school.  It wasn’t until he picked up the game of basketball at 13 that he realized he could combine these two passions.  He attended SEED Academy from 2008-10 and earned a scholarship to attend Wilson High School (Texas) where he went on to secure a scholarship to attend York College.  After injuries cut short his collegiate career, Baye re-dedicated himself to his studies with a focus on finance and accounting.

It was in the summer of 2015 while interning for SEED in NYC that Baye met SEED Professional Board Member and former Syracuse basketball player, Todd Burach, through SEED’s professional mentoring program. They quickly formed a bond, and Todd helped Baye over the course of the next year navigate his network and eventually land a Summer Analyst position at JP Morgan.  

After a successful summer, Baye was rewarded with a full-time offer at JP Morgan upon his graduation from SUNY Brockport University in June ’17.  

Please read below for a personal reflection from Baye.

From Senegal to JP Morgan by Baye Samba Fall

I recall heading to the NY Offices of JP Morgan, for my first day at my summer internship the same way I remember coming to the United States six years ago; I was anxious, excited, and felt unseemly out of place, as if I didn’t deserve to be there. Growing up in Senegal, people don’t frequently have the chance to intern on Wall Street, let alone a major firm like JP Morgan.
From the very first day with JP Morgan, I was embraced as a member of the team and legitimately expected to make a contribution. I immediately hit the ground running, working on high-level material for senior management.
This internship may not have been possible without the incredible help and mentoring from Todd Burach. Todd went above and beyond to help me secure an internship — from resume and cover letter writing to tips on interview etiquette, his advice played a crucial role in me securing this internship.

I am really excited about my future.