Exchange Matters, News / August 17, 2021

Educating and Empowering the Next Generation of Leaders through International Exchange

Compiled by Madeline Black, Communications Intern, Global Ties U.S.

Exchange programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) provide an opportunity to engage, involve, and connect emerging leaders around the world across a wide range of topics. We asked our Community-Based Members to share highlights from recent IVLP virtual exchange projects that focused on equipping participants to teach youth to be engaged in their local communities, succeed in school, and cultivate leadership and professional skills. Here’s what they had to say:

IVLP participants meet virtually with the Carter Center in Atlanta. Image provided by Emily Shaw.

Georgia Council for International Visitors                                                     
— Emily Shaw, Executive Director
IVLP: Community, Library, and Youth Engagement Centers and Programs 
NPA: Graduate School USA 

In October 2020, Georgia Council for International Visitors (GCIV) was fortunate and excited to host our first virtual program with Graduate School USA. We had the pleasure of hosting nine International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants from the Middle East to learn about “Community, Library, and Youth Engagement Centers and Programs.”  

We hosted a meeting with Communities in Schools of Atlanta, an organization that focuses on addressing barriers students may have to succeeding in school. The organization’s main goal is to fill the gap between school and home by providing the structure and resources students need to succeed through on-site coordinators in 62 schools in Atlanta and neighboring DeKalb County. The IVLP participants were impressed with the organization’s work and discussed aspects of the work that they might be able to implement in their home countries. 

The second meeting was with the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. During this meeting, the IVLP group met with archival staff and other members of the library’s museum staff. The Presidential Library consists of artifacts and materials from President Jimmy Carter’s time in office. Today, the museum is also tied to the Carter Center, an organization that President Carter founded to improve lives worldwide through conflict resolution, the advancement of democratic values, and disease prevention. The participants were able to learn about the preservation of the archives, as well as engage in a cultural experience that introduced them to the history and culture surrounding the U.S. presidency.  

It was wonderful to be able to share two amazing resources with our visitors even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our first virtual program is truly one we won’t forget. Together we learned how to facilitate a virtual meeting, and we are grateful to see how far we have come.

IVLP participants from Central Asia meet with Average Mohamed and Global Ties Minnesota. Image provided by Sasha Shahidi.

Global Ties Minnesota                                                      
— Sasha Shahidi, Interim Professional Exchanges Manager
IVLP: 21st Century ChangeMakers: StoryTelling and Documentary Filmmaking 
NPA: Institute for International Education

Global Minnesota recently hosted an inspiring meeting with 10 visitors from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), 21st Century ChangeMakersStoryTelling and Documentary Filmmaking.” The visitors included filmmakers, journalists, editors, and educators.  

The group met with Mohamed Ahmed, Founder and Executive Director of Average Mohamed, and the 2020 U.S. Department of State Citizen Diplomat award recipient for his grassroots work to counter violent extremism. Mohamed has met with thousands of international visitors over the years, including several IVLP groups, to discuss his work as a citizen activist and how his organization produces videos with popular cartoon characters and holds workshops for children, families, and community leaders to counter extremism, racism, and intolerance by engaging audiences, particularly youth, in meaningful discussions about true Islamic values and democratic ideals. 

Multiple international visitors on this IVLP have experience working directly within Muslim communities to counter extremism through documentary films on the subject, education, and community organizing. Their experiences were directly related to Mohamed’s work, which led to a rich discussion and sharing several personal and professional stories.

In this meeting with our IVLP visitors, Mohamed spoke about the dangers of extremist propaganda and recruitment efforts, and stressed the importance of anti-extremist outreach and education for youth in order to potentially prevent and decrease the efficacy of any extremist efforts. The visitors agreed with Mohamed that countering extremist ideology is important, especially for young people. Even though his videos reach audiences in Central Asian countries, Mohamed has yet to work in Central Asia himself, so he was eager to learn more from visitors. 

As a result of this conversation, the group talked about ways to collaborate on this issue going forward. Mohamed offered resources, training, and guidance for the visitors’ continued work countering extremism, and the IVLP participants shared some of their video projects with us. It was a powerful conversation that will hopefully resonate for years to come, building a foundation for future exchanges of best practices and ideas.  

An IVLP group meets with resources in the Sacramento area. Image provided by Kim Todd.

Global Ties Sacramento                                                     
— Kim Todd, International Programs & Events Manager
IVLP: Volunteerism and Civic Engagement 
NPA: Meridian International Center 

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Kailash Satyarthi, said it best with these words: “The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm, and courage of the young people.” 

Global Ties Sacramento agrees and is grateful to facilitate international exchanges that focus on youth empowerment. A recent exchange connected Sacramento with participants from 18 countries on the topic of “Volunteerism and Civic Engagement,” and featured an insightful and meaningful discussion with the California Center for Civic Participation.

Executive Director Belen Flores, and Program Manager Drucella Miranda shared how the Center’s youth programs inspire young people to become more civically engaged, learn about important global issues, and become leaders in their communities. Whether it is through the Women in Politics program that empowers young women to learn about the political process, the Green Focus program that engages local youth in California’s environmental policies, or the Center’s various mentorship programs, the Center creates pathways for young people to expand networks, become empowered through civic education, and find the confidence to become changemakers.  

Collectively, the group stressed the importance of providing young people with opportunities and leadership skills that can turn their idealism and enthusiasm into action. The participants were struck by the passion and dedication of the team at California Center and very appreciative of their efforts to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all who participate in their youth programs. 

A few of the international participants also experienced a virtual home hospitality event, engaging with a variety of Sacramento locals, including teachers, a doctor, a journalist, and a legislative advocate who volunteers her time with another youth program, CalYMCA Youth & Government. The participants cherished meeting the residents, learning more about life in Sacramento, and sharing details about themselves and their important advocacy work on behalf of young people around the world. 

Global Ties Sacramento continues to be inspired by the efforts of our local resources and international participants who support and empower youth as they strive to make the world a better place.