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Welcome Message from Carol Jenkins
For more than 90 years, World Learning has equipped individuals and institutions to address the world’s most pressing problems. We believe that, working together with our partners, we can change this world for the better.
On my travels, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of those who have joined us in this mission. In Baghdad, we’ve trained more than 2,300 Iraqi youth who are already giving back at home. In London, our partners in the TAAP Initiative strongly believe that we are all responsible to practice inclusion. And in Vermont, our Experiment in International Living and School for International Training participants prove every day that they have the tools and the determination to change the world.
Please join us in our pursuit of a more peaceful and just world.
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March 2, 2023
World Learning’s CEO Carol Jenkins and Christine Shiau, executive director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute, co-authored an op-ed on the value of virtual exchange programs. For many young people, these digital exchanges can offer a door to a new global awareness and a range of skill-building.
This article was originally published by the Alliance for International Exchange on Feb. 23.
“There are some youth who have energy and want to make their community a better place, but they don’t know how.”
Areej of Iraq spoke these words after leading a two-month virtual exchange program called Leaders of Tomorrow that connects high school students online from Iraq, Mexico, and the United States to focus on conflict resolution and community action projects.
How much better off would our world be if we could harness the passion and potential of the world’s youth?
Through virtual exchange, children in New York City’s public schools have learned game design in lockstep with peers in Bahrain. Latino high school students in San Antonio have partnered with fellow students in Libya to create actionable pollution solutions for India’s Ganges River, and rural community college students have had worldview-expanding experiences getting to know peers in Iraq.
Virtual exchange is booming, thanks in part to the Stevens Initiative, founded in 2015 to honor U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, who was killed in a raid in Benghazi a decade ago on September 11. Inspired by his lifelong passion for building bridges between the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa, his family launched the Stevens Initiative in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, the Aspen Institute, the Bezos Family Foundation, and the governments of Morocco and the UAE.
Through convenings, advocacy, research, and grant making to organizations such as World Learning, a nonprofit and educational institution, the Stevens Initiative has powered virtual education programs that will have reached some 75,000 young people in 17 MENA countries and 49 U.S. states by summer 2023.
Today, both technology and a strong cohort of international education partners have made virtual exchange not only possible, but a growing part of the global educational landscape. At a time when our country is seeking to eliminate disparities and create economic equity for all genders, physical abilities, and socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, institutionalizing virtual exchange across the educational system is a powerful way to level the playing field. Virtual exchanges should be a part of every student’s experience, whether in grade school, high school, university, or community college.
For young people living in remote or rural settings, or who don’t have the financial resources to travel, virtual exchange offers a door to global awareness and skill-building that can enhance college readiness, expand employment opportunities, and contribute to personal growth.
And as diverse populations have access to the skills taught in exchanges, they share that information in their communities and create a cascade effect in which people from underserved communities are given opportunities to create change.
Within World Learning’s program The Experiment Digital, for example, Malak A. of Egypt is leading the Climate Change Warriors Project, educating Egyptian youth about the impact of climate change. Participants are spreading awareness online, convening experts to discuss environmental sustainability, leading street clean-up campaigns, and organizing field trips to natural protectorates.
In Pittsburgh, PA, Sophia G. founded a platform for multiracial youth to connect with each other, discuss interracial matters and current social issues, and publish informational materials. Through virtual discussions and an in-person summit, Sophia and another alumna from The Experiment Digital hope to empower youth to affirm and explore multiracial identities.
Now is the perfect time to introduce your students to the possibilities of virtual exchange programs available to them after school and this summer. Encourage them to develop their skills, find their voice, and connect with their peers from around the world to discover the power they have to make a difference. In so doing, we’ll prepare all students for success not only as global citizens but as thought leaders and change makers too.