“It’s just like ‘High School Musical!’”
According to Courtney Brooks, Executive Director of Global Ties KC, this is one of the most frequent, and her favorite, quotes she hears from students coming to the U.S. through Global Ties KC.
Fifteen students and three supervising teachers from three countries in Africa will be visiting East as part of the Pan-African Youth Leadership Program from April 10-23. The Kansas City portion of this program is part of a larger exchange of around 50 students occurring across the country during the month of April. Students will be participating in workshops around Kansas City focusing on leadership and service, according to the U.S. State Department.
The Pan-African Youth Leadership Program is designed for high-achieving students who went through an extensive application and interview process conducted by the U.S. embassies in their respective countries, according to Global Ties KC Executive Director, Courtney Brooks. The Global Ties KC flyer for potential hosts says, “Host A Future President.”
“These students represent the best and the brightest of their countries,” according to information provided by Global Ties KC. “They are future lawyers, doctors, artists and scientists, who are coming to the Midwest to learn about what life is like in an America high school.”
Brooks says that for the students coming from Mauritius, Ghana and South Africa, seeing an American high school in real life compared to a TV show or movie is an incredible experience for the exchange student, but she hopes the exchange goes both ways.
“These students have the chance to share about their own cultures too,” Brooks said. “I think in America we often think of Africa as safari and lions. The reality is the Mauritius, Ghana and South Africa are three very diverse places and I hope that the students at SM East are open-minded and excited to engage with these students and learn about their cultures as well.”
Though the exchange students will only be at East for a few days out of the duration of the program, while here, they will be giving presentations about their countries to East government and geography classes.
Freshman Sydney Beck, whose family has committed to hosting a student for the program, is excited, but nervous to interact with students who have already been deemed future community leaders.
“I’m kind of nervous because all of the people were picked by the government, so I’m assuming they are going to be like really good kids and really smart,” Beck said. “They are probably going to think I’m not smart or really weird. I think it will be fun, and I’m interested to see their culture.”
Though Beck is intimidated by the caliber of students in the program, she and her family wanted the experience of hosting an exchange student for a short time before committing to one for a full academic year, so they volunteered to host.
Brenda Fishman, the East coordinator for the program, has several families currently committed to hosting students but is still looking for more to participate.
While not at East, the exchange students and teachers will be participating in leadership and service activities around Kansas City. They will be visiting the Kauffman Foundation, meeting with the mayor of Shawnee and visiting Topeka to learn about Supreme Court caseBrown v. Board of Education. All of these activities will culminate in a final project that will be implemented in their respective home communities.
“A big piece of the program is that they will all be creating community projects for when they go back home,” Brooks said. “Individually or in a country group, they will be designing projects to improve upon different things in their home communities.”
Projects will vary based on the needs for the students’ home communities, so they cover a wide range of topics from environmental clean-up to drug education, according to Brooks. This program is aimed at giving already successful students a unique experience to help them become leaders in their home communities.