Interview: Peter Yobo & Pichon Duplan, Co-Founders of iStandAbove (iSA)
[Here’s an interview that has been long overdue, but which, I guarantee, will have been worth the wait. This interview, I found to be particularly inspiring, especially for African youth, and I knew that no amount of literary craft could communicate the passion and enthusiasm relayed during the interview. So, we’re going to let Peter F. La-Anyane Yobo and Pichon Duplan of iStandAbove tell you all about their amazing initiative themselves! The motivations behind it, why self-esteem is important for youth, their thoughts on development in Ghana and Africa through our first Circumspecte podcast! Enjoy!]
In addition to having similar backgrounds and first names starting with ‘P’, Peter F. La-Anyane Yobo and Pichon Duplan have another thing in common: South Africa.
“Class four, that’s when I pretty much met Peter coming back from South Africa. Well, in fact class two I went to South Africa for a year and a half. I didn’t meet Peter then. But class four, came back and that’s when – so we both came back around the same time – and then that’s when I met him,” Pichon remembered.
While all the ingredients for a potentially great friendship were there, these commonalities also fueled intense competition between the two.
“Every situation we found ourselves in, we were looking for ways to lead the pack,” Peter disclosed. “Pichon and I used to butt heads a lot. Like, Pichon and I were enemies in the beginning. I used to hate Pichon, he hated me too. Why? Because he wanted to lead the pack, that’s what I wanted to do as well.”
However, being the true pioneers that they are, the two transformed competition into collaboration and re-channeled their passions and ideas into an innovative youth movement that emphasizes leadership, teamwork and creativity: iStandAbove.
Peter F. La-Anyane Yobo Peter Yobo was born in New Jersey, USA and returned to Ghana with his family at the age of four. He attended Soul Clinic and then moved to South Africa to continue school for two years. When he finally returned to Ghana, he enrolled at Alsyd Academy, and for high school, went to Achimota Secondary School. A day after SSSCE, Peter wrote the SATs and a month later he moved to the U.S., worked for a year and then enrolled at San Jose State.
“I was really into sports in Mo-town. So, that was my main focus….I was always looking up to schools that were pretty good at sports and what-not,” Peter said.
One of those schools was his current school USC, which Peter transferred to from San Jose State.
“I didn’t really feel I was growing as a person [at San Jose],” he explained.
Peter is co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of iStandAbove, a non-profit geared at youth leadership. His aspirations: “I kind of want to save Africa, that’s through the youth of Africa.” With his background in sports, Peter’s passion for leadership started way back in high school. “…Ever since then I’ve done my best to be involved. I love sports. I always use sports as a way to stay focused on the leadership thing, just staying devoted to my passion,” he said.
He draws inspiration from his family – two sisters, step-dad, and mum – and friends, and regards his mum as his role model.
He said: “…I mean my mum has always taught us to give back…Because she kind of knew where she came from, so she felt, she made us understand that for you to progress you have to have people basically thanking the stars for you, like people have to wish you good. If you give people stuff or if you help people out, they wish more for you so you can continue to help uplift them or help them more. So she kind of had that engrained in us when we were growing up, so I’ll say my mum.”
Pichon Duplan started life in Los Angeles, USA and moved back to Ghana with his family – brother Jean-Pierre (of LSG) and parents – at the age of three. He first went to Faith Montessori, then Alsyd Academy, and after junior high school, moved to SOS Hermann Gmeiner International School for a year. He then returned to the U.S. to complete high school at Kimball Union Academy. There, he pursued his passion for basketball and discovered a prowess for American football.
“I was playing basketball all my life, and then moved to Kimball Union Academy, so I started playing American football and basketball at the same time. I became captain of both teams in high school,” he said.
On the academic front, Pichon’s interests turned from engineering to business and he started exploring college business school options including Babson. “I got a scholarship to Babson, so came to Babson and had to forfeit my sports career, even though a lot of people tell me I could have gone that route too. I’m at Babson now, I have a double major in finance and accounting, and I graduate in May,” he explained.
With a great future ahead, the iStandAbove co-founder and Chief Financial Officer’s key aspirations lie in problem-solving. “I know that sounds generic, but I’ve always tried to be a problem-solver wherever I go or wherever I’ve been,” he admitted.
When it comes to role models, Pichon has quite a number to draw inspiration from.
He said: “For me it’s divided three-ways and I’ll tell you why …My dad, because of his self-confidence. I’ve always admired the way he speaks in public, the way he presents himself in public. I’ve always admired that and aspired to be at that level….And then my mum, for just not being – like for normal people, they would be stressed about something – but she doesn’t get stressed about a whole lot of things and that’s something I’ve always admired about her. My brother, just how passionate he is about whatever he believes in.”
[To find out all the insider secrets about the origins of iStandAbove, listen to the audio files below. Not working? Visit Circumspect’s audiocast site.]
iStandAbove Interview Part 1
Peter and Pichon discuss the motivations behind iStandAbove, their current projects and what the future holds.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.