Big dreams and joining the Dell Young Leaders family: Thapelo’s story

As a child, I moved a lot. I was born in a rural town called Seabe in Mpumalanga, and my family soon moved to Johannesburg. By June of my first grade year, we moved back to Seabe and I attended school there until matric. An extended family of eleven lived in our household, and since neither of my parents were employed full-time, we faced many financial hardships.  We survived on my grandmother’s small income, and when she and my mother passed away in 2004, we struggled even more. After they died, I was left under the guardianship of my unemployed aunt. Since my sister and I never knew our respective fathers, we were then considered orphans and qualified for child care social grants ($25 per month) from the South African government. That stream of income was extremely helpful and had a big impact on our lives, allowing us to buy food and items for school, until I came to the University of Pretoria.

Unfortunately, the government financial aid did not cover any of my University expenses, so I did not hesitate to apply for the Dell Young Leaders Program when presented with the opportunity. The process was very competitive and included an online application and interview.  I was nervous throughout the interview but desperate to receive the bursary, and I answered the questions to the best of my ability.  I was so happy to be selected as a Dell Young Leader, and I carry the title with great pride.

The program provided me with leadership and educational opportunities such as interactive workshops that offered tools to help me be successful at university. The Dell Young Leaders team have actively supported me while at University. They held individual meetings with me every semester to check my academic progress and together we reviewed what I might need to be successful in my studies. Thanks to the financial assistance the program provides, I’ve been able to buy toiletries, emergency food and most importantly, expensive text books.  I feel as if I belong to a family of Dell Young Leaders.

I feel as if I belong to a family of Dell Young Leaders.

All Dell Young Leaders attend mentorship sessions to prepare us for the transition to work. We learn everything from how to introduce ourselves and prepare a CV to professional speaking and work readiness skills. The Dell Young Leaders team also helped me throughout the process of applying for a job. They coached me to improve my interview skills and provided transportation to my interviews.  The preparation offered to me by the Dell Young Leaders program, allowed me to be impressive in my interviews, and I am very proud to say that, I have secured a job as an actuarial analyst in the credit systems analytics division at First National Bank.

I now have high hopes and dreams for the future. With this job, I will become the primary breadwinner in my family. I can’t wait to get started! I have given my family hope that the poverty and hunger that have always been part of our lives might be gone forever. My advice for other students is to please dream big – very big – so that even if half your dream comes true, it is still a significant achievement!


Thapelo Sekanka is a Dell Young Leader raised in Mpumalanga and Johannesburg. He was accepted into the Dell Young Leaders program while pursuing a Bachelor of Science (Actuarial and Financial Mathematics) degree at the University of Pretoria. Thapelo has been placed at First National Bank and will be working as an Actuarial Analyst.

This post is part of a series profiling Dell Young Leaders. You can read the series introduction here: and hear from other Dell Young Leaders here: