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Emerson Student Heading to Ireland on Prestigious Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship

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Leeah Derenoncourt ’23, second row from top, second left, is awarded a Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship from the CIEE at a virtual event featuring Vice President Kamala Harris, top left. Courtesy photo

Leeah Derenoncourt ’23 was one of only 14 diverse student leaders from colleges and universities across the country to be named a 2021 Frederick Douglass Global Fellow, which comes with a full scholarship to attend a summer program in Ireland focused on leadership, intercultural communication, and social justice.

Derenoncourt, a Public Relations major, was awarded the fellowship from the Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) on Wednesday, March 17, and was congratulated in a virtual St. Patrick’s Day roundtable by Vice President Kamala Harris; Nettie Washington Douglass, great-great-granddaughter of abolitionist Frederick Douglass; and Irish Teoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs is co-sponsoring the 2021 Global Fellows to honor the 1845 meeting between Douglass and Irish reformer Daniel O’Connell in Dublin. Fellows will travel to Ireland this summer to study leadership, effective communication, and strategies to drive positive social change, as well as explore the legacies of Douglass and O’Connell.

“I am so grateful and excited for the opportunity to explore the beautiful country of Ireland in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass,” Derenoncourt said. “Frederick Douglass has always been an inspiration of mine, and this summer we will take action to continue his work, honor his legacy, and take our next steps as global leaders.”

Derenoncourt has already taken several steps as a community leader through her extensive service work. She’s created a series of graphic design materials and message for The Impact Project to help support survivors of sexual assault and educate the public. She’s worked with the youth-led advocacy group Generation Ratify in their efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. And, she uses social media to educate people about the crossroads of climate justice and intersectionality.

A writer and performer of spoken word poetry, Derenoncourt said in her application video, “Frederick Douglass teaches us that the path to justice is making our voices heard. And making movements great means making them known.”

Washington Douglass, chairwoman and co-founder of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and a great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, praised Ireland as a host of the 2021 Frederick Douglass Global Fellows.

“It’s fitting that this diverse group of young people will have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills in a place so special to Frederick Douglass,” she said. “The welcome and respect with which Frederick was greeted across his tour of Ireland affected him profoundly. I can think of no better place for future American leaders to gain a global perspective and prepare to be agents of change.”

The Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship was launched in 2017 by CIEE to expand access to international education to underrepresented students. Previous cohorts have studied in London and Cape Town, South Africa.

To learn more about the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship, visit

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