Expanding Global Connections for Young Leaders

On July 13, we launched Global Connections, an international leadership and diplomacy program for high school and college students. The goal of the 4-week virtual program is to provide students with leadership and communication skills by connecting them with international experts for engaging and informative discussions on important global topics. The program also offers insight into various international career options and expands the students’ personal and professional networks around the world.

The past two weeks were a time for relationship building, learning, and exploration. During meetings with international emerging leaders, the students engaged in conversation around important global issues and expanded their knowledge of current affairs. Many of the guest speakers included former participants in the International Visitor Leadership Program, the U.S. State Department’s premier citizen diplomacy and exchange program. Conversations were open and informal, allowing students the opportunity to learn about and discuss different approaches to addressing worldwide challenges such as climate change, global health, women’s issues, and COVID-19.

Participating students came from across the United States (and one from Kenya!) and are an inspiring and accomplished cohort. Involved in numerous extracurricular clubs and volunteer activities, the students were also busy this summer with new hobbies such as coding, cake decorating, and painting. Many speak more than one language, including Thai, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, and French.

The cohort included:
  • Annika Bjork, Rio Americano High School, 12th grade, Sacramento, CA
  • Savannah Bornheim, Pittsford Sutherland High School, 11th grade, Pittsford, NY
  • Samantha Butler, Oak Ridge High School, 11th grade, El Dorado Hills, CA
  • Jayesh Damaraju, Pittsford Sutherland High School, 11th grade, Barrington, IL
  • Lily Ergodan, Pennsbury High School, 10th grade, Fairless Hills, PA
  • Angelina Escobar, Modesto High School, 10th grade, Modesto, CA
  • Cooper Guggenhime, Crystal Springs Uplands School, 11th grade, Hillsborough, CA
  • Virginia Hernandez, The Westminster Schools, 10th grade, Atlanta, GA
  • Benjamin Liu, Memorial Senior High School, recent graduate, Houston, TX
  • Beth Solomon, Rio Americano High School, 12th grade, Sacramento, CA
  • Tomas Maravilla, Johansen High School, 12th grade, Modesto, CA
  • Haley Mattoch, Oak Ridge High School, 11th grade, El Dorado Hills, CA
  • Patrick Mooney, Georgetown University, Sophomore, Washington, DC
  • Kaleemah Muttaqi, UC Davis, recent graduate, Sacramento, CA
  • Charles Onyango, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, 4th year, Kakamega, Kenya
  • Evan Pearson, UC Davis, junior, Davis, CA
  • Abigail Portnoy, East Brunswick High School, 12th grade, East Brunswick, NJ
  • Kory Rosen, Grinnell College, first year, New Jersey
  • Ashely Salas, UC Irvine, recent graduate, Los Angeles, CA
  • Sergio Maravilla, UC Davis, 4th year, Davis, CA

So far my experience in the Global Communications program has been filled with engaging discussions, in-depth learning, and camaraderie. Through this program, I have learned so much about many paramount global issues and how countries work together to find solutions. We’ve had webinars on journalism, environmentalism, and healthcare (so far). Within the program, I’ve also been able to connect with other students–high school and college level– and share our perspectives on current issues today such as human rights and climate change. It’s engaging and inspiring to be able to discuss such relevant and mature topics among other youth. Our supervisor, Kim Todd, has also made the program very enjoyable and encourages everyone to engage in discussions, thus leading to not only stronger connections between the participants but deeper understandings as well. I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks will teach me!”

Samantha Butler, Oak Ridge High School, El Dorado Hills, CA