By connecting international classrooms through modern technology, the student-led One World Youth Project aims to cultivate global thinking on and off the Hilltop.

Founded by Jess Rimington (SFS ’09), the initiative focuses on bringing college students to public middle and high schools to encourage cross-cultural, global and community awareness, according to communications director Anjali Daryanani (SFS ’11). As part of the learning process, student leaders facilitate face-to-face connections between domestic and international schools via social media platforms such as Skype, Yammer and Chatfe.

While the idea originated in Rimington’s high school, the current version of the program, backed by Georgetown University and the University of Prishtina in Kosovo, began in 2009. Georgetown now partners with Hart Middle School and Columbia Heights Education Campus, while the University of Prishtina connects with Elena Gjika Elementary school in Kosovo.

“[The project is intended for] Georgetown students to feel a sense of community with the entire city, not just Georgetown,” said Zenen Jaimes (SFS ’13), the project ambassador. “Sometimes we get caught up in our own little bubble and fail to see how our talents can help benefit the community,” Jaimes said. “A lot of us can spout off the challenges facing South Sudan or recount the details of the Libyan conflict, [but] many Georgetown students still see anything beyond Georgetown as one big mystery.”

Peer leaders involved do not take the commitment to breaking out of the Georgetown bubble lightly. New recruits are subject to an extensive training program to ensure high-quality instruction. Participating university students engage in three training sessions over two semesters, including a summer session, site visitation and remote instruction via social media.

Despite comprehensive training and general support from schools involved, One World Youth Project has faced several setbacks to its growth. Jaimes cited bureaucracy and budget cuts within the D.C. public school system as recurring problems. Unruly conduct within the classrooms also disrupts the virtual learning process, although some of the volunteers have found ways to counteract bad behavior.

“Many of the students love music and would break out into song during class, so instead of always reprimanding that, we try to incorporate music in a more productive way within the lesson plans,” Avila said.

Avila recounted a time when a Kosovan student on video chat with her classroom began singing Beyoncé’s “Halo” and the entire D.C. classroom joined in.

“It’s really an enlightening moment for them to see how much they share with someone halfway across the world, but also how much they can learn from one another,” she said.

In January, the program plans to add eight more international universities, including Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology, France’s Ecole Normale Supérieure and South Africa’s University of Cape Town, along with domestic partnerships with Franklin & Marshall College, Boston University and College of the Menominee Nation.

According to Daryanani, the organization is also arranging to integrate the program in over 100 cities worldwide, with a target network of over 1,500 university students and 8,000 secondary school students by 2015.

“Our global perspective needs to come from a local focus. Learning more about our own community can only help us as we try to tackle the challenges of the modern world,” Jaimes said.

Courtesy Audrey Avila Through the One World Youth Project, Georgetown students work to connect local middle and high schools to global classrooms and cultures.
Courtesy Audrey Avila
Through the One World Youth Project, Georgetown students work to connect local middle and high schools to global classrooms and cultures.

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