Editor’s note: As the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs celebrates youth empowerment in October, we highlight some of the youth programs that our Community-Based Members implement to raise the next generation of citizen diplomats.
I first got involved with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council after I mentioned an interest in studying international affairs to a professor who referred me to the organization. I showed up for one of their community coffee events and instantly engaged with the open environment they created with locals and foreign visitors. I quickly found out about their Youth Diplomats program, applied, and got in during the fall of my senior year of high school.
I couldn’t be happier to have had this opportunity enter into my life when it did. It was through this program that I got more involved with the International Visitor Leadership Program, which I’ve continued to work on as an intern for the Council through the fall of 2019. Working with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council and seeing what exchange programs are like encouraged me to pursue a gap year after graduating high school to become an au pair in France, a journey I’m about to set out on, to continue pursuing my life as a global citizen.
The Youth Diplomats program empowered me to be a better citizen diplomat by providing me with the necessary resources to grow and improve as a young leader. From our discussions with foreign visitors on pressing world issues, to emulating crisis scenarios with fellow students, I’ve learned the characteristics necessary to work in diplomacy. We constantly practiced critical thinking, empathetic and open-minded listening, collaboration, compromise, and respecting diverse views. At every meeting I was challenged to think about international issues and my own perspective in a different light. I broadened my outlook of the role I can play in strengthening my cross-cultural understanding to make this world a place that supports peace and diversity.
The best way to help engage the next generation of global leaders is to make these organizations and programs accessible to students from all walks of life, because diversity is important to broadening perspectives. Additionally, connecting them with professional resources can help young leaders launch careers in international exchanges and diplomacy. By lending their insight and expertise, experienced exchange professionals can inspire countless individuals. This is especially impactful when there are diverse professionals sharing their prospectives because it shows many different aspects of diplomacy and exchanges, and ways to make them feasible.
When exchange professionals offer their time and explain their work and how they got to where they are, they can have an incredible impact on young leaders. The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council’s Youth Diplomats program is an opportunity to help young leaders spark their aspirations, which can become realities.
Learn more at the Gulf Coast Diplomacy Council.
Read more stories about youth diplomats: Ruby Gordon (Hawaii)