‘Wait, is Akon at USC?’ Yes, and he’s at my event!

By Audrey Weber, ONE at University of Southern California Campus Co-Leader 

When four of us founded the ONE Campus chapter at USC in our International Relations 210 class last spring, we had no idea that we would be sitting in the same room just one year later surrounded by eager students, important people from ONE, and an international celebrity.

Sitting in a reserved seat, not far from my usual seat in that classroom two short semesters ago, wearing my ONE T-shirt and preparing myself to interview Akon, the famous R&B artist, in front of everyone, it felt like we had come full circle.

Akon explains why he’s joining ONE and USC to fight energy poverty

For the first time since our ONE chapter sailed its maiden voyage at the USC Involvement Fair this past September, the entire campus was buzzing over our event. Akon was coming to the IR 210 class to participate in ONE’s #PowerProject Campaign Lab in search for ONE’s next great social media campaign.

“I’m particularly excited to work with young, creative, innovative college students,” Akon said. “I am excited to usher in a new kind of Internet superstar — millennials who want to make a global impact.”

USC students teamed up and developed their ideas over a week-long period. Then, on April 23, they got to pitch them directly to Akon and ONE during class. Talk about real-world experience!

Those with the most promising pitches will have the opportunity to work further with Akon and ONE and see their campaign come to life.

The winning idea should ignite young activists to fight energy poverty that affects nearly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. Not having reliable electricity is a huge road block to economic development – and that’s why ONE is taking action.

As the news of Akon’s presence spread around USC’s social media spheres like wildfire, I made a mental note to bring celebrities to our future ONE Campus events (if you are famous and you are reading this, call me).

I knew we had truly reached optimal levels of hype when Phase 2 of the Facebook statuses began: the dryly sarcastic and not-even-trying-to-be-funny, “Wait… is Akon at USC? I had no idea.”

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ONE at USC organizers with Akon. Audrey is the second from the left.

Meanwhile, our tiny chapter was in the middle of it all, standing at the front of the room with camera phones pointed our way trying to get a sweet pic of Akon for their Instagrams. When students came up to me after the event asking about how they could get involved with our ONE Campus chapter, I’m sure they were thinking, “Will I get to interview a celebrity too?”

If you had told me a year ago that I would be doing just that, I would not have believed you for a second. But when you work with such a dynamic, action-taking organization like ONE, incredible opportunities fall into your lap, like this one fell into mine.

I feel truly empowered and honored to be a part of ONE, and given the chance to have my voice heard by my peers, government officials, and international celebrities alike.

Thinking about starting a ONE chapter on your campus in the fall? Let us know. We’ll help you do it.

Tell Congress: Support a bill that will bring electricity to 50 million people for the first time!