“I wish I could repeat the Conference again and again. Constant global issue discussions, hundreds of solutions, incredibly fun activities are all about these awesome 3 days.” – Aigul Saparova (Kyrgyzstan/CA)
World Link once again held it’s Midterm and Diversity Immersion Conference over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Our FLEX and YES students gathered together in four different regions across the U.S. During their conferences they reflected back on the first half of their exchange year and re-set goals for the upcoming semester. Students took part in activities focused on learning the importance of working as team. This skill will come in handy along with other project mapping and organization skills they learned at this conference, when they begin to plan and implement their own Global Youth Service Day project.
Making this conference truly unique is the Diversity Immersion experience for each World Link student. We hold this conference over this important weekend and special day to give our students a chance to not only learn about the significance Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his methods of protest had, but to also think about discrimination in their own country still today.
To continue reflecting on their diversity immersion activity (described below), students will take this experience, along with any other of their relevant U.S. experiences, and tell us how they can help solve a discrimination issue in their own country through an enhancement activity called, “Melting Pot”. Students who best tie their personal diversity experiences to a possible solution to a discrimination issue in their home country, will be selected as winners or finalists in World Link’s Melting Pot Activity Competition 2018. Results will be announced later in the year.
Iowa/Minnesota Diversity Immersion Experience:
“I learned about diversity and how we can live and work together being different from each other. That the religions have the same base they all believe in kindness and in love. And that’s what gathers us together.” – Anna Andreasyan (Armenia/IA)
Students placed in Iowa traveled up to Minnesota to meet the World Link Minnesota cluster. Sunday morning consisted of three separate immersion experiences. They first took a tour of the Islamic Center of Minnesota, followed by learning about Islam and it’s traditions. Next they traveled to Zion Baptist Church, where they were surrounded with joyous singing and dancing. Their last immersion experience took them to Bet Shalom where they learned about Jewish culture and their religion. In one morning, students were able to see how different, yet similar, these prominent religions are.
Colorado/Texas Diversity Immersion Experience:
“Discussions about “Melting pot” made me think about the issues going on in my country and how I can play my role in making a change. I never thought that I would ever take such a big step and jump into this great mission of making a difference.” – Maryam Zahid (Pakistan/CO)
Students placed in Texas flew to Denver where they met the rest of our World Link Colorado exchange students. Unfortunately the weather in Denver on Monday of the conference resulted in the inability for our students to volunteer for the Marade; a special parade in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The students though were able to participate in the training earlier in the weekend, where they learned about the man of honor himself, his actions, and his legacy. Much time on Sunday was also spent learning about the Civil Right’s Movement and identifying groups who are discriminated against in their own country. Sunday night, in preparation for the Marade; students made posters highlighting some of Dr. Martin Luther King’s powerful quotes.
California Diversity Immersion Experience:
“We went to the Museum of Tolerance which really amazed me a lot. As a student from South East Asia, I have little knowledge about the Holocaust, and by witnessing all of the things inside the museum, it really woke me up, that our world faced a lot of problems since then and even now. And some of the roots of those problems were misunderstanding, stereotyping, racism and many more.”- Narisa Lumambas (Philippines/CA)
The California Midterm is held in Los Angeles; home to the Museum of Tolerance. In recent years, World Link students placed in California have had the honor to visit this moving museum and learn not only about the atrocities of the Holocaust, but also about atrocities happening all across the world today. They also get to hear sad, but inspirational stories from Holocaust survivors themselves. This year, students listened to story of Holocaust survivor Peter Heiman followed by a debriefing session of all they heard and experienced that day. Students were also able to reflect back on their home country, now seen through a new lens, to identify a discriminated group for their Melting Pot Activity and one they hope to help when they return home.
Illinois Diversity Immersion Experience:
“As I grow everyday as a proud World Linker, I realize how important the perspectives we gain from getting to know different cultures are. They help us see the world through a global lens, to seek a positive change using what each culture does best.” – Yara Hamad (Kuwait/IL)
This year, students placed in Illinois were invited to attend a church service at St. Paul Baptist Church in St. Louis, IL. Students loved being surrounded by a community full of joy and spirit. They experienced loud singing and dancing in the aisles, something none of them have experienced at their own religious services back home. After the energetic service, students were warmly welcome for a pot-luck provided by the congregation and a question and answer panel discussion about discrimination church members themselves had faced. After hearing real-life stories, students were able to open up about their own home country and it’s discrimination of certain groups of people.
Students return from this conference, refreshed and motivated to give 100% to what’s left of their exchange year. This three-day conference builds the student’s confidence along with the skills and tools they will need to successfully complete their Melting Pot and Global Youth Service Day projects . It is through these enhancement activities students will hone the leadership skills they have learned and will then be prepared to return home, ready and willing to better their society.
As World Link Illinois Coordinator Nickie wrote, “It’s hard to put into the words what this past weekend has embodied. These kids always amaze me with their drive to be the change. They’re so motivated and driven. I love knowing that they will go back to their countries and make a difference.“