WorldOregon is proud to have the counsel and support of over 30+ community leaders who volunteer as members of our Board of Advisors. Their guidance and perspective helps us to create programs which encourage cultural diversity and international perspectives here in Oregon.
But our WorldOregon Board of Advisors does a lot more than just advise--they also host international visitors, act as youth mentors, and participate in reverse exchange opportunities--taking the idea of "getting involved" to a whole new level!
We caught up with four of our Advisors to hear more about their experiences getting involved with our International Visitor Program in 2019!
Immigrant and Refugee Integration, Equity in Practice Advisor, City of Portland
For the last three years Linda has hosted many international visitors where she works at City Hall to present information on civic engagement, immigrant and refugee programs, city business and witness City Council in action. Through WorldOregon, Linda also met U.S. Department of State International Woman of Courage award recipient, Cindy Arlette Contreras Bautista, who launched the #NiUnaMenos protests in Peru against femicide and violence against women. Linda was then able to organize a public presentation about her experience and the protests she launched in Peru.
Recently Linda traveled with our partners to Qatar where she joined 11 other staff and Board members from World Affairs Councils of America members like WorldOregon from across the U.S. They had a detailed cultural exchange and discussion about foreign affairs, blockade impacts for Qatar, growth and prosperity, and met many of the leaders in the various Qatar government ministries.
"International exchanges provide us an opportunity to learn from each other and seek collaborative opportunities."
County Economist, Multnomah County
Jeff started out as a member of the WorldOregon Young Professionals Steering Committee--helping to plan events for early-to-mid career professionals in the Portland metro area. When Jeff and his wife Stephanie bought their house over six years ago, they immediately started hosting dinners for WorldOregon’s international visitor program. Since then they have hosted more than 25 groups--from quiet dinners with just one guest to large parties with 20 guests and local friends. There are many reasons Jeff continues to get involved with the international visitor program--but Jeff says "the main reason is that it is a lot of fun."
Jeff remains Facebook friends with many guests and they sometimes even text over WhatsApp. They have also visited some of their guests while traveling abroad--including Jan-Erik in Berlin and Anik in Mexico City.
"These exchanges are important because this type of person-to-person interaction is what inoculates us (and the broader community) against xenophobia and prejudice."
Principal, Lincoln High School, Portland Public Schools
As Principal, Peyton is always looking for ways to expand globalism at Lincoln High School--a school whose mission statement includes the goal of helping grow actively engaged citizens who are prepared to work for a more just and peaceful world. She is deeply committed to meaningful youth leadership opportunities and has facilitated several meetings where international youth visitors can "shadow" Lincoln students, tour the school, observe classes, and share a meal together.
Peyton and her family also participate in overnight hosting each August and have met students from Togo, Benin, and Iraq. They mainly keep in touch via social media, where they exchange messages and can see photos of what they are doing back home.
"Exchanges help reduce othering by providing connection and shared experiences. Breaking down stereotypes and building goodwill and friendship are crucial in today’s fractured and too often divisive world."
Founder, Ruby Jewel
Lisa first got involved with WorldOregon in 2018 when her company, Ruby Jewel, hosted Phillip Kellman, an entrepreneur from Barbados as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative. It was a positive experience immersing him into Ruby Jewel during his exchange, where Lisa said his curiosity, willingness to learn, and creativity proved to be a great "breath of fresh air." Lisa then applied to do a reverse exchange, and ended up visiting Barbados to lead a two week workshop called the "$50 Seed" and lead a group of 10 students through starting and running a business.
In April 2019, Lisa's family hosted Abdi from Kenya through the U.S. Department of State’s Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program. Abdi got along great with Lisa's eight year old son and even refereed for one of his soccer games. They learned a lot from him about his culture, religion, and family.
"International exchanges are important to open our minds to how people are people and connecting and learning from others helps us to become better versions of ourselves."
"The one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere."
-Greta Thunberg, 16, Climate Activist
This past year has seen a radical shift in the way that young people engage with global issues. From organizing climate strikes to pushing for policy reform on gun control, it's clear that youth are passionate about making a difference in their communities.
But these actions don't take place in a vacuum, nor are they spontaneous. They require organization, collaboration, and commitment. That's what our Young Leaders in Action (YLA) program hopes to instill in the next generation of global changemakers here in Oregon.
On September 22, our young leaders gathered together at the WorldOregon office to start focusing in on their future action project topics. YLA Coordinator Deb Delman felt that it was important to allow the students to choose their topics early on so they could be focused and productive in their monthly meetings.
"I wanted these young leaders to feel ownership and choose the issue they are most passionate about. That personal buy-in is incredibly important in laying the foundation for future success" she said.
The YLAs were first split into four groups where they started out by reading local, national, and global newspapers. They were instructed to clip out stories that spoke to them and decide on six categories to really focus on. Some of the groups found natural overlap on topics including environmental issues, education, and economics while others chose more general themes like the future, human interaction, and technology.
Afterwards, the groups met for an in-depth discussion about how these topics connected to one another. How does the environment influence immigration? What is the correlation between poverty and equality? Understanding the relationship between issues helped the students to understand the relation between local and global issues in terms of creating sustainable solutions. It also helped to inform their decision about which topics to focus on for their future action projects.
After narrowing the topic field to 24, all four groups came together to start debating which issues they were most passionate about. Deb told the group that she wouldn't interfere with their discussion so long as they followed three ground rules: facilitators had to change every five minutes, everyone had to participate, and there had to be group consensus before any major topic selection took place. Stepping back--the YLAs then began to unpack the various themes.
"Something happened in the discussion where they started to own these issues not just as individuals--but as a group. It was really incredible to watch" Deb commented.
At the end of the discussion the YLAs came away with three main themes for their action projects: human rights, political reform, and environmental issues.
The goal of the first exercise was to get the students thinking about issues that they care most about. The next step was to focus on the face of leadership, with a special emphasis on what youth leaders are doing to address issues both globally and locally.
"I first passed out charts and asked students to make a list of 10 leaders" Deb explained. "Then, I asked students to fill out each subsequent column so we could gather information on what the students think of when they think of a leader.
Were the leaders predominantly men, or women? Dead or alive? How many people of color? Were they local, national, or global leaders? Which ones were under 25 years old? I thought it was important to see what trends emerged from the YLAs' list of leaders. At the end of the exercise, we definitely noticed some patterns."
Once the students could visibly compare the demographics, they were encouraged to write about their perceptions of what constitutes a leader. Many of the YLAs also started to open up about their personal experiences and the burden that youth shoulder today in the face of so many international issues. One YLA participant commented:
"It's interesting that, when I think of leaders, my head goes straight to older international leaders. But there are lots of youth demanding change. We need to learn about action NOW and acknowledge the power of young people's actions."
The Young Leaders in Action program is generously sponsored by:
“I connect with WorldOregon because I believe in humanity and not nationality.”
-Charlie Hatcher, 16
2019-2020 WorldOregon Young Leader in Action participant
Charlie Hatcher was first drawn to international issues when he learned about the growing climate crisis. After reading about the issue, Charlie came to realize that climate change was more than just a national issue. It was a global epidemic that required international collaboration. So Charlie began looking at organizations in Portland that were trying to make an international impact. That's when he came to find WorldOregon and get involved with the Young Leaders in Action Program (YLA).
Charlie Hatcher (fifth from left) + the 2019-2020 Young Leaders in Action
A short while later, Charlie learned that WorldOregon was looking for overnight hosts for an incoming group of Iraqi youth leaders. His family immediately jumped at the opportunity to welcome an international visitor into their home. After reading through the fine print Charlie noted that the U.S. Department of State program also welcomed American students to participate in workshops with the international youth visitors. So Charlie sent in his application and in a matter of months was approved to participate in the Iraqi Youth Leadership Exchange Program (IYLEP).
"I was excited to participate in this program because one of the goals was to give youth experience of real world activism and concrete ways of how to help one another globally" Charlie said.
Together with 40 youth from around the U.S and Iraq, Charlie headed off to Vermont to participate in the initial orientation. Afterwards the students traveled to three different cities in the U.S (Tulsa, Chicago, and Portland) for additional meetings and workshops. Charlie was one of 15 students selected to travel to Chicago and visit with our sister organization, World Chicago. During their time in Chicago the group met with various organizations focused on education, restorative justice, and youth leadership. They were also able to share their own unique stories and experience as international youth.
"One of the major things we were doing throughout the program was these things called Dialogue Workshops where we would get into small groups and talk about a big issue. The idea was to try to have these honest conversations about big subjects.
One of our Dialogue Workshops that had the most impact was when we talked about the conflict between the U.S. and Iraq. It was really engaging for everybody. I didn’t know a lot of the history, but I heard a lot of stories from the students about hiding under a table to seek shelter from bombing raids or stories of meeting American soldiers. Our discussion was really intense and visceral, but good.”
After two weeks of leadership training in their various cities, all of the IYLEP participants traveled back to DC to share the lessons they had learned from their respective cities. Charlie was curious to hear from the IYLEP group that stayed in Portland--especially from the two youth who stayed in his home.
Both students had absolutely fallen in love with Portland and were among some of the most eager to explore the city, always suggesting various sites they wanted to visit. He was also excited to hear that one of the Iraqi host students had made traditional dolma for his family. However Charlie was less excited once he got home and realized there were no more leftovers.
Thinking about the future, Charlie would like to study politics and go to law school. He is still interested in the issue of climate change which first attracted him to global issues, but thinks he can also make a difference in other areas. Ultimately, Charlie still thinks it is important that we take youth leadership seriously and provide training through programs like YLA and IYLEP.
"I think it’s interesting the way our society views leadership in a “wait your turn and gain experience" before you can step up and tackle problems. I think that’s kind of messed up. We are mature people who see the events of the world today and understand the consequences. The youth of today are the people who will have to deal with the problems of tomorrow.
I originally didn’t see myself doing a program like IYLEP, but now that I’ve done it I can’t imagine having done anything else. It was an amazing experience to meet international youth and come together as future leaders."
International exchanges can be a once in a lifetime opportunity for visitors to travel to the U.S. and learn about their fields of interest. But sometimes, those "once in a lifetime" opportunities are just the beginning of a whole new adventure. At least, that's how Gustavo saw his time in Portland last year.
In 2018, Gustavo Rodriguez traveled with 12 fellow visitors on the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative which empowers entrepreneurs to strengthen their capacity to launch and advance their entrepreneurial ideas and effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities. Gustavo Rodriguez is the founder and CEO of the vintage leather goods company OTRA, short for On the Road Again. His business specializes in handcrafted bags, backpacks, and leather jackets with a commitment to sustainable, high quality materials in Uruguay.
When Gustavo discovered he was selected for the YLAI exchange, he was elated--he had never been to the United States and knew little about Oregon.
"As soon as I got accepted, I googled "Portland" and started watching movies about the city. But I didn't really realize what this city was until I came here. When I came to Portland, that's when I realized--This is what I was looking for, and what I was expecting of a city."
During the YLAI professional exchange Gustavo was paired with Jeremy at BlaqPaks, a local Portland-based outdoor goods brand. For just under a month, Gustavo worked with Jeremy to learn best practices and brainstorm ways in which Gustavo could learn how to scale his business up. The Fellowship turned into a mutually beneficial two-way exchange with Gustavo contributing his expertise to BlaqPaks throughout his Fellowship.
"This is a city of makers. That's why I like it. Everyone is doing their own stuff in Portland. So for me to be here, it feels like I belong here."
Gustavo and Jeremy promised to keep in touch when Gustavo returned to his home country of Uruguay.
So eager was he to return to his "home away from home," Gustavo eventually decided to take a leap of faith and use his savings to come back to Portland. Gustavo had faith that the connections he had made nearly a year ago would help him to continue to learn and improve his business.
"After my experience last year, I fell in love with this city. And I realized that I had to come back. In my country [Uruguay], craftsmanship is disappearing and the market is tight. So in order to grow my business and scale up, I decided I have to go back to Portland and learn more.
So I called my fellowship host Jeremy and he said "Yes! Of course, I'm down to help you."
Just one year after his initial exchange, Gustavo hopped on a plane and came back to the city he fell in love with.
WorldOregon continues to support international visitor alumni through educational efforts to connect them with our Oregon community. Last week WorldOregon staff connected him with several of the community partners, Prosper Portland, Business Oregon, and Greater Portland Inc. These companies had been invited to meet with his fellowship cohort for a Trade, Industry, and Public-Private Partnerships roundtable during YLAI and who could continue his education on topics such as trade, getting into the U.S. market, and scaling up his business as part of his return visit.
"I love Portland. I love the people: all of them are so friendly and so kind. They want to teach you and they don't have any problem with showing you what they are doing or how they do it. I've met a lot of really cool people who are still my friends, including a couple of friends I am now staying with who I met last year."
Gustavo looks forward to seeing his products one day make their way onto Portland shelves but until then, he is grateful for the opportunity to visit the city he loves and take a chance on his entrepreneurial dreams.
"Because of YLAI I am here. Because of WorldOregon, I am here. It was my opportunity to come to the States and it was great to meet people and now to be here a year later trying to grow my business. So here I am again. Trying to make it in America."
That's all that stands between the Marshall Islands and it's future underwater.
There is perhaps no issue more pressing for Pacific Island nations than climate change. Rising sea levels, warming oceans, and depleted fishing resources put the future of these island nations in jeopardy. It is projected that island nations like the Marshall Islands could be underwater by the end of the century if drastic measures are not taken to limit rising global temperatures. It has never been more critical to protect this fragile ocean ecosystem and the people who call it home.
None of this is news to people who have experienced first hand the effects of climate change on their island homes. Luckily the next generation of Islander youth are ready to take on the challenge. Last month, WorldOregon hosted the Tuna Youth Diplomacy Leadership Program (TDYLP), a group of 22 youth from the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Micronesia who traveled to Oregon to learn best practices for how to take leadership and fight for change.
After a week with homestay families in the Portland metro area, for two weeks the student group met with professional resources throughout Oregon--using OMSI Camp Grey in Newport as their main home-base. From meeting with environmental groups to learning about sustainable seafood practices, participating in beach clean-ups to exploring future careers at places like the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center--these youth were busy. But they never lost sight of their focus for this exchange. They were dedicated to taking what they learned back to their home countries to facilitate real change.
Meeting with local fishermen and the Newport Fishermen's Wives was a huge source of inspiration to many of the youth, whose family members depend on subsistence fishing.
“I learned the difference in the way fishermen treated their industry and the way they experience it. There is a difference trying to maintain fisheries for the sake of a job versus a way of life.
It was inspiring to see the way the fishermen value their [work] and pass it down from generation to generation."
Though their interests and priorities varied, they all agreed on one thing: change was needed. Sustainable fishing practices continued to be a main theme that tied the students together, both for subsistence and commercial reasons. Oreall from Palau commented that:
“Our biggest priority is our tuna industry, which offers us jobs. Our main focus is to stop over fishing and [avoid] by-catch by educating our community so that better jobs [and] better futures can be possible. We will work with our community and talk with our government to create solutions.”
Many of them left with new ideas they could help implement back home. Mirang from Palau said:
“I was happy to learn about not fishing juvenile at the surface to avoid wiping out a species because at home we just fish. I can tell this to my family in Palau.”
The TDYLP group was joined by four local students in Oregon who also wanted to learn how they could make a difference not only environmentally, but civically. In many ways, community organizers help to create unity and focus for environmental policy changes. Ragheeb from Portland commented:
"Instead of just knowing about sustainability, I wanted to learn about being able to effect change. I learned it takes a lot of perspectives to actually change something."
In Tillamook, the group met with Erica Fernandez, an environmental activist who started community organizing at 15 to fight against pollution in her hometown of Oxnard, CA. Erica was visiting Oregon as part of the 2019 International Speaker Series, "Future Leaders, Global Voices." While sharing her story, Erica inspired the students to take action and own their responsibility as change makers in their communities.
"We cannot expect others to speak out and do the work. I think that one of the things I've learned in the process [of community organizing] is that telling your story has power. I encourage you all to keep telling your story, because that's how you lead change."
As the program progressed, many of the students started to open up about their own journey and the struggles they face as young leaders. In many ways--it embodied the importance of people-to-people exchanges. Building a global network of collaborators, allies, and friends. Mirang from Palau summarized it best when she said:
"Before we came to the United States, I didn't think that people in other parts of the world cared about climate change. Meeting with the Portland Climate Youth Council and hearing about all the efforts they put into climate change really struck a nerve in my heart. To have met people, especially youth from places like the United States that are keen on making a positive change really gave me back my hope for a bigger, better future."
Immigration has been a hot topic in the local and global political theatre for quite a while.
On a local level, Oregon is one of seven sanctuary states in the nation, making it a somewhat safer place for immigrants and refugees. On a federal level, there is heated discourse about what to do about immigrants/refugees, especially those who arrive in the U.S. illegally or as asylum-seekers. On a global level, we must examine the causes that inform an individual or group of peoples’ decision to migrate. This includes political instability, violence, religious persecution, environmental factors, and more.
Nations of origin for refugees who resettled in Oregon, Jan. 2002 -- Jan. 2017
Through the Young Leaders in Action program (YLA), we had several amazing opportunities which helped us expand our range of knowledge in international affairs, starting at a local level. We also met and were inspired by youth leaders from all over the world— Iraq, West Africa, Columbia, and Peru--who we met through WorldOregon's International Visitor Program.
Meeting with local and international organizations gave us ideas of how we could make a positive and lasting difference. YLA was designed for us to rise out of our comfort zones and take initiative to make change. Additionally, we participated in workshops that taught us to build important skills such as leadership and cross-cultural communication. The program was very conscientious about letting us develop personal leadership styles through a specially designed workshop and giving us exposure to situations which called for leadership.
As young leaders, we felt the need to create positive and long-lasting change. Our action project was to found an organization, Youth Advocates for Immigrants and Refugees (YAIR). We met with many youth who were immigrants or refugees and facilitated workshops that involved story exchange, often bringing together people with very different backgrounds. In this way, we helped others hear perspectives from cultures they may not have known about.
On June 9, we successfully held our first event, called Cultural Connections: Celebrating Immigrant and Refugee Art and Stories, at New Expressive Works, which involved storytelling, a community mural, podcasting, cultural performances, and lovely Syrian food. The event was designed to share the stories of immigrants and refugees, often unheard by many, to create a unique cross-cultural exchange.
All of us have a connection to immigrants and refugees. Though we may have different specific reasons for joining the group, all of us wish to create positive and lasting change. Storytelling is a method of dialogue that requires listening. Change cannot happen without listening and empathetic exchange, and storytelling is a medium of expression which accomplishes this.
The way that we managed to come together as a group was a very surprising and heartwarming experience. We work really well together as a group, and it was extremely satisfying to work with people who are passionate about the same cause to accomplish something. The same passion drives us to sustain our project post-YLA. Currently, YAIR is producing a podcast series with Portland Meet Portland, designed to capture and share immigrant/refugee stories.
Without YLA, we wouldn’t have had the platform to create such an organization or courage to step out of our comfort zones. We wouldn’t have found so many people that were passionate about the same issues and were able to work well with each other. We wouldn’t have learned how to network, a skill needed as we get older and get ready to go to college.
In the near future, YAIR hopes to connect with Portland Public Schools and Reynolds High School students for more story exchanges, bi-monthly meetings, and podcasts. We would also like to partner with the City of Portland to hold more events and increase multicultural visibility within Portland.
You can stay updated by following us on social media (Instagram: @youthadvocatespdx) and checking out our website: youthadvocatespdx.org.
How do we teach our children about different cultures while also learning how to sustain a healthy garden?
Djamila Moore is the Education Director at Grow Portland, a non-profit organization dedicated to school garden education, with a special emphasis on improving the physical and mental health of refugees, immigrants, and people of color. Throughout the month, Djamila rotates between 16 schools in the greater Portland-area, including Harrison Park School in Southeast Portland. During her lessons students learn about plants, gardening, conservation, and how to support thriving ecosystems.
Harrison Park School in Southeast Portland has one of the most diverse student populations in the city, with 5 official school languages including Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and English. It is also home to the largest population of Somali immigrants in Portland.
Djamila incorporates a lot of these cultural influences by working with the students to plant a variety of foods including tomatillo, ground cherries, and Chinese gourds. These foods are then sent to the school cafeteria where students can literally enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Back in February, Djamila participated in the Global Classroom "Understanding Islam" workshop for educators at the Muslim Educational Trust. The workshop gave a broad overview of Islam in addition to addressing cultural stereotypes and how to combat the rising tide of Islamophobia.
Since Grow Portland works with gardening it was important to Djamila that she take the "Understanding Islam" workshop to better meet the needs of her Muslim students when fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
"Because Grow Portland works with thousands of students from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, languages, and faith communities- it is important for us to be as educated as possible so that we can be responsive to our school communities and offer inclusive, meaningful approaches to school garden education" Djamila explains.
"The most interesting aspect of the [Understanding Islam] workshop was hearing from the panel of youth, sharing their perspectives and experiences about how they navigate layered identities as Muslim American teenagers who are committed to social justice, education, and being strong ambassadors for their communities. I was very inspired by them."
The workshop was also extremely educational for me in terms of learning more about the Muslim faith and ways that I can publicly recognize and celebrate the Muslim students I work with."
After attending the Understanding Islam workshop, Djamila was inspired to hold a small training for her educators to raise awareness about students who might be fasting during Ramadan. Since these students would be exposed to edible plants and foods during their lessons, Djamila wanted to be sensitive to her students temptations.
She also wanted to use this opportunity to help raise awareness about Ramadan with her students directly. In this way, she could create a safe space for students to still participate in various garden activites. Before starting her lesson, Djamila started off with a quick announcement to her classes.
"I want to acknowledge that we are now in the month of Ramadan, which is an important Muslim holiday for some of our friends. If you are fasting, we can give you a bag so you can take some food home to eat with your parents tonight."
Djamila looks forward to continuing her work at Grow Portland to help raise strong and healthy communities throughout Portland. Like WorldOregon, she believes in planting seeds for the next generation to create a more peaceful and sustainable world.
"At Grow Portland, we use the lens of growing food as a tool to connect children to their local natural spaces and understand their roles and responsibilities within these ecosystems. Cultural education is imperative to ensure that we are not promoting a generic, white-dominated teaching approach, but rather, modeling curiosity, life-long learning, and humility."
Since 2015, our Young Leaders in Action participants have been raising the bar for what it means to be a global citizen in the 21st century.
Throughout the 2018-2019 school year, participants have participated in bi-monthly workshops, leadership training, community service, networking, and team action projects to facilitate WorldOregon's annual Youth Forum on March 15th. Their passion for learning and finding their place within the global landscape gives us hope for the future generation of world leaders.
As their participation comes to a close, our YLA participants reflect on their leadership journey in their own words.
What did you like most about participating in Young Leaders in Action?
"I think the best part of YLA is definitely the action project, it really helps show how a global issue can effect us locally and how to start solving the global issues in our own community."
"Meeting the [International Visitor Program] students from Iraq, Africa, and Latin America was eye opening."
What skills did you learn in YLA that you will continue to use in the future?
"I definitely learned a lot of helpful teamwork skills along with [discovering] my role in teams. Also...learning the steps for how to address a problem locally was definitely a life lesson and something I could apply to anything I'm passionate about."
What personal lessons did you learn about yourself as a leader?
"I learned that being balancing between being a productive [leader] and kind leader is really hard, and that I want to continue actively improving as a leader."
What was it like working with organizations to coordinate your youth forum workshop/ action project?
"I think that was one of the best parts of the action project because we got to meet with and see how real organizations are tackling these issues and collaborate with them. Seeing how you can turn something your passionate about into a profession, especially locally, is really amazing."
What advice would you give to incoming YLA participants?
"Put yourself out there and be kind, but willing to embarrass yourself to learn!"
|"Remember that you have a team. This is one of the only times you'll have a team where everyone is a leader and is dedicated to achieving your end goal. Dont be afraid to ask for and make sure your utilizing everyone's strengths because team work is a skill that can be applied to every career."|
"Stay in contact with your YLA friends!"
Generously supported by:
How do we empower youth leadership and provide a platform for social change?
The Young Leaders in Action program works to answer that question and prepare the next generation of global leaders.
Young Leaders in Action (YLA) is a youth-directed program that brings together approximately 20 high school students from across the greater Portland area. Participants meet twice per month from June-April to network with professional resources in the community and take part in global workshops, leadership trainings, and community service activities, and action projects. Their leadership training culminates in the annual spring-time Youth Forum which invites schools from around the greater Portland area to engage in action workshops.
In the past, the Youth Forum focused on one topic and was largely organized by staff in the Global Classrooms program. Inspired by the recent wave of youth-led initiatives surrounding climate change and gun control--the Global Classroom team decided to pass on the torch and shift focus to a youth-led program.
"We wanted to honor their process [of choosing topics] and pilot this new structure where YLA's could organize and run their own workshops as subject matter experts."
In this way, Youth Forum could transform into a space that was led by youth, for youth. YLA's were encouraged to choose their own topics based on their interests and passions--ultimately focusing on five thematic areas: climate change, immigrants and refugees, mental health, global aging, and women and girls' education. With the topics now set, these youth leaders began to expand on their initial ideas and craft workshops for the Youth Forum at Concordia University on March 15th.
Through their bi-monthly meetings, these students networked with various community organizations to explore local to global issues. These meetings exposed YLA participants to a variety of perspectives and the work being done to create meaningful solutions. They also helped to connect these young leaders with professional resources in various fields related to their Youth Forum topics.
On March 15th, students from around the greater Portland area gathered at Concordia University for the culminating Young-Leaders-In-Action Youth Forum. Many students sought out community organizations including Child Aid, Friends of the Colombia Gorge, Portland State University, Portland Refugee Support Group, Africa House, and Rethinking Schools to help facilitate their various programs at Youth Forum.
Many YLA participants also chose to lead their own workshops, using their own research to help guide students in educational classes. From simulation exercises to international skype calls--these young leaders took advantage of their experiences to provide meaningful workshops for their peers.
At the end of the day, one Youth Forum attendee from Skyview High School commented, "The Young Leaders in Action students selected relevant and engaging speakers and presentations. There was a lot of passion, expertise, and empathy!"
Youth Forum is a testament to the unlimited potential of youth leadership.
Bringing Language to Life | Culture Boxes Help Teach Bi-Lingual Students at Jennings Lodge Elementary
When Jennings Lodge Elementary in Milwaukie transformed into a bilingual immersion program last year, educators understood that language doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Their goal was to prepare students to become not only bilingual in both English and Spanish, but also bi-cultural through a variety of multicultural studies and developmentally appropriate curriculum. But with a limited budget and notoriously short attention spans, how do you find reference materials for cultural learning?
Jennings Lodge needed a cultural toolkit to bring this new language to life. Each classroom was encouraged to select WorldOregon Culture Boxes which represented a different Spanish-speaking country to supplement their mandated curriculum. The selected countries spanned three continents to include countries such as Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba, and Guatemala. Teachers then set about exploring their country's unique cultural heritage by reading Spanish storybooks, playing with homemade toys and musical instruments, exploring new currency, and even trying on traditional clothing. With tangible cultural items ready at hand, the opportunities for curriculum creation were endless.
Second grade assistant teacher, Tracy Deakin, was eager to share her own experiences traveling in Guatemala. In addition to the culture box items she was given, Tracy also incorporated her own handcrafts and photos which she had collected from her time living abroad. Being able to speak first hand about her experiences with students helped them to connect with foreign lands in a way that was not only accessible, but familiar. By using culture box items to explore the Spanish language, students began to form a kind of bi-cultural identity.
At the end of their studies, hundreds of friends, family, and comunity members gatherered at Jennings Lodge for the culminating Multicultural Night celebration. As students moved between the classrooms they carried a "passport" as a record of their cultural travels. Visitors were then encourages to explore the various classrooms to discover WorldOregon culture box items, class projects, artistic works, and sample relevant food from that country. Several students arrived with brightly colored traditional clothing to pay tribute to the country they had studied. As students rushed between classes with their friends, there was a palpable feeling of cultural celebration in the air.
Jennings Lodge students were eager to take on the role of "teacher" and share these new cultural insights with their parents. Their confidence began to grow as they freely interacted with teachers in both Spanish and English, all the while looking over their shoulder at their parents with pride and curiosity in their eyes.
"¿Lo entiendes, mamá?"
Do you understand, mom?
WorldOregon Culture Boxes
K-12 Students Interacting with Culture Box Cirriculum