Alumna Founds Program to Bring Minority Teens to Africa, Exposing Them to Principles of Leadership, Cultural Exchange and Social Entrepreneurship


 Melvin Rivers, Elena Huezo, Valentino King, Leigh-Ann Buchanan, Izaih Pierre, Malyka Joseph and Ahlia Dunn.

2014 International Human Factor Youth Leadership Class and Leigh-Ann Buchanan returning from Ghana. From L to R: Melvin Rivers, Elena Huezo, Valentino King, Leigh-Ann Buchanan, Izaih Pierre, Malyka Joseph and Ahlia Dunn. 

When Leigh-Ann A. Buchanan, J.D.’09, stepped off the plane last summer at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, the first thing that struck her was the warm welcome they received from their hosts and the locals. “Our first steps on the African continent were surreal―from the red dirt under our shoes to the crispness of air―I was in awe that a simple idea had materialized into the experience of a lifetime in only a few short months,” said Buchanan.

Buchanan traveled to Ghana as the Founder of the inaugural International Human Factor Youth Leadership Program Experimental Learning Program, a collaborative venture of the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association and the International Institute for Human Factor Development (IIHFD). Buchanan currently serves as the President of the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association.

“This program offers a life-changing experience for the diverse teens that are selected to participate,” said Buchanan. Although research indicates marked racial disparities among students who participate in international educational programs, “the program fills an unmet need for minority youth in Miami-Dade County,” she said. “It provides a first exposure to international travel and cultural exchange—opportunities which I believe should be made available to all of our youth, regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.”

The program provides access to a unique opportunity for minority local teens to participate in a two-day leadership workshop designed to explore the guiding principles of human factor leadership and social entrepreneurship. In addition, the teens travelled to Ghana for a one-week international experiential learning program at the Human Factor Leadership Academy in Akatsi, Ghana.

“This year we were able to send six diverse and talented teens from Miami’s most underserved communities,” Buchanan said. “The students blogged about their experience teaching the elementary school children the Human Factor Leadership Academy about history and culture in the United States as well as the many travel adventures to Ghana’s national parks and touristic attractions, including the Cape Coast Slave Castle, Independence Square, Atome Monkey Sanctuary and Wli Agumatsa Falls.”

“We hope to expand the Program next year and offer this innovative leadership experience each summer,” she said.

Buchanan is a business litigation attorney at the law firm of Berger Singerman LLP specializing in complex commercial and transnational litigation, white-collar criminal defense, and international commercial arbitration. Her passion lies in promoting fairness and equality within the legal system through advocacy, increasing awareness of social justice issues, and improving opportunities for economic advancement for traditionally marginalized constituencies.

Buchanan also serves as Vice-chair of the American Bar Association’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice and leads ABA’s National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws as co-chair. Her local leadership affiliations also include serving as a member of the Executive Committee of the Friends of New World Symphony and the New Leaders Council.

Buchanan has been recognized as one of South Florida’s 40 Under 40 Professionals of Today and Tomorrow by Legacy Magazine, the National Bar Association’s Women Lawyers Division and selected as a finalist for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce HYPE Award.

At Miami Law, Buchanan was a Stephen W. Arky Scholar, Dean’s Scholar, and Phillip Bloom Award recipient in addition to participating in the Society of Bar and GavelBlack Law Students Association, UM Trial Team, Charles C. Papy, Jr. Moot Court BoardRace and Social Justice Law Review and Litigation Skills Program.

“Not only did UM Law provide a solid legal education, but I also benefited from invaluable experiences that instilled in me a sense of responsibility to give back to the community in which I live and work,” Buchanan said. “UM Law fostered an entrepreneurial environment that encouraged students like me to take on leadership roles within the legal community.”