Network Innovation Spotlight / February 24, 2022

Youth Leadership Program Connects Young Iowans to the World

By Ebonique Boyd, Executive Director (former), Global Ties Iowa

Global Ties Iowa intern Hannah Huisman

After our programming intern Hannah Huisman was rejected for a grant that would provide her with a stipend, I encouraged her to think about why she should be paid, and why donors and foundations should have grants for young people in the United States to learn more about and gain experience in foreign policy, rather having to rely on volunteering or unpaid internships.

To find a “why” that would be compelling to funders, we mapped out some basic ways foreign policy and international relations can impact our daily lives. We began by pulling together examples from our own experiences. As a second-generation American, I often felt offended by how some people in the United States perceive or discuss my father’s birthplace of Costa Rica. Oftentimes, it’s not intentional, but rather from a lack of understanding. Most of the time, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to correct them, but it led me to distance myself from people who might be wonderful otherwise, such as by avoiding a dinner invitation. While I spent a good deal of time learning about the United States, I felt offended that others didn’t do the same for my own country.

For Hannah, she discussed the challenges migrants face in her hometown. She said she wanted to help them feel more comfortable and welcomed in her small rural community by educating local residents about the countries they come from and conditions that led them to migrate. At the time, Governor Kim Reynolds (R-IA) had recently announced several community grants to help further empower organizations in order to create better programs focused on rural communities.

We applied and won the Rural Revitalization grant to help us further develop and implement our Youth Leadership Program to connect young people in the United States to the world around them. The grant included a boot camp that helped us further develop the idea. We worked with Claire Frances, University of Iowa’s Center for Language and Culture Learning Director, to create an educational framework that would allow the students to succeed. To date, we’ve planned or implemented several activities, such as:

  • Creating marketing content and images with international and domestic students (Planned)
  • Sponsoring informal dinners between international and domestic students (Implemented)
  • Writing country reports with an international and domestic student to be shared monthly with our members (Implemented)
  • Online coursework to learn more about IVLP and communicating with relevant stakeholders (Implemented)
  • Developing a stakeholder list and asking relevant people to review your country report for accuracy (Implemented)
  • Using a Google Ads grant to continuously market the opportunity (Implemented)
  • Arranging to speak about local immigrant communities’ needs to students, businesses, and local community organizations (Planned)
  • Visiting the state capital to discuss the needs of the international community with our local legislators (Planned)

Through the programming activities facilitated by this grant, we’ve shown that it’s important to actively invest in and provide financial support to young people interested in concepts and fields like international relations and foreign policy, not just rely on inequitable unpaid volunteer experiences. I hope that the program will continue to expand to help any young people in the United States learn more about the impact of foreign policy on their local communities and to support our international friends who have chosen to relocate to the United States.


Editors Note: Hannah Huisman is a member of the 2022 Emerging Leaders cohort.