World Link students learn about diversity and discrimination, then reflect upon their experience.
Each year, World Link FLEX and YES students celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by getting together to learn about diversity and discrimination during their Midterm and Diversity Immersion Conference.
The objectives of this conference stay the same every year: 1) have students assess where they are in their program goals and develop a plan to meet their goals by the end of the year, 2) give students the skills and tools they need in order to successfully plan and implement their Global Youth Service Day projects, and 3) to immerse students in an activity that allows them to experience a diversity issue first-hand and then use this experience to take a step back and look at their own home countries with a critical eye. It is our hope each student can identify an issue in their own home country, and take the first steps toward solving that issue to make it a better place for all.
Gohar Piliposyan (Armenia/IA) put it perfectly in her Midterm reflection:
“I realized [discussing a discrimination issue in my home country] doesn’t harm my county’s reputation, vice versa, every country has a problem, even the US… Talking about the problem means you are strong enough to acknowledge it and you are brave enough to be a leader that can do something about it!”
This year, World Link Texas cluster drove up to meet the Colorado cluster in Denver, Colorado to volunteer at the MLK Marade and hear from speakers on their experiences with discrimination. The Iowa cluster headed north to Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend a service at the Zion Baptist Church; having a session with the elderly African American church members before the service about discrimination. The California cluster listened to the brave story of Holocaust Survivor Dr. Henry Oster during their immersion activity at the Museum of Tolerance. Weather in Illinois did not cooperate over MLK Jr. Weekend so the group was unable to travel to Memphis, Tennessee to tour the National Civil Rights Museum. Instead, their conference was pushed to a week later. The cluster watched the St. Louis Woman’s March and then met with people from all walks of life to learn and discuss how discrimination has affected them.
Read the student reflections below to see the impact the Midterm and Diversity Immersion Conference had on them. With this new inspiration and motivation, World Link looks forward to the 2nd half of the 2016-2017 program year. There will be more successes to come.
Student’s Midterm 2017 Reflections:
“This mid-term orientation is so far the highlight or my year! It was a chance for me to see how far I’ve gone and changed after 5 months here. I had the chance to take a moment and appreciate all the progress that I made and be more excited about what’s still coming… I have never thought I’d to go to a museum and cry because of history. I have never thought that within a day I can change my whole way of thinking! I have never thought that someday I would meet one of the survivors of the Holocaust… I have never thought this would be an emotional experience for me as well as really enriching! Today, I got inspired. Today, I got motivated. Today, I opened up to a different history. Today, I got the chance to feel other people’s empathy. Today, I feel like I’m a more tolerant person.” – Hiba Kammoun (Tunisia/CA)
“This weekend helped me so much in my journey throughout this year. I had lost myself and my motivation. This weekend helped me to find my motivation again… all the workshops really made me want to make a difference in this world, help people and fight against discrimination and last, but not least, taking part at the M.L.K Marade made me feel like part of this society or maybe even part of something bigger. I think this weekend make me realize some things I wasn’t even thinking about and made me more mature.” – Nia Lomsadze (Georiga/CO)
“This weekend was so influential and educational and that does not surprise me because whenever I get together with my cluster I get to learn new things and expand my knowledge about a variety of issues and aspects in life but this orientation was special and it carried meaningful lessons and ideas that I will definitely remember and do my best to accomplish when I go back to my home country.” – Baraa Sawaed (Israel/IL)
“This midterm gave me the most valuable thing – motivation.” – Anna Starova (Ukraine/MO)
“Midterm conference was amazing. It opened our minds more than what we need to know. Like the melting pot project opened our mind to recall things from home which are still going on about discrimination and also find the solution to that problem. We become more sensible and more active, all the students spoke their mind… the GYSD project also opened our mind to find something which will be helpful to the community or other places. This conference awoke us from our hidden places and [brought us] to the spotlight in order to shine with success.” – Jokha Khamis (Tanzania/IA)
“This midterm reflected not only the part of me who is living in the USA for a while but part of the girl who has to go back in her country and do something good and better for her community. Started from the inspiring for melting pot and GYSD, ended with the Museum of Tolerance… Meeting Dr. Henry Oster made me think about many things, things that I have not paid enough attention before, things that can change not only one or two person’s lives, but the whole world’s.” – Tamari Giorgadze (Georgia/CA)
“I learned that it’s never too late to begin working on yourself and achieve everything you wanted. I enjoyed being with other exchange students and talk about our experiences, discuss something in teams… I definitely can use this experience back in Ukraine in order to help a diversity issue, because I heard a lot about Martin Luther King, his work, achievements and I also heard about Melting Pot activity during workshops, lectures. I’m so excited about that! And I’m really inspired to do a Global Youth Service Day Project.” – Yaryna Peretyatko (Ukraine/CO)
“During our sessions, we listened to speakers who faced, and were targets of discrimination. Personally, I felt how my education achieves a higher level, and my comfort zone increases in volume. I learned that we all are equal and that there is only one race–the human race. Now, I am not afraid to explain to somebody why it is important to have differences among groups of people based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, language, etc. We have learned that in order to make a change, we should become the change. Nonetheless, we were inspired to do our best to create a Global Youth Service Day Project.” – Dan Antoci (Moldova/IL)
“Words cannot describe what this experience meant to me, it was truly mind-opening and life changing, it changed my view of life and all the thoughts in my mind… My whole life took a turning point today, I have never been touched by a speaker until I met Dr. Oster and he touched my heart and my soul and became an inspiration and a motivation to me. And this what an exchange year is all about, changing our view of the world and showing us the truth about everything and opening our hearts, and I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful to how lucky I got to be able to experience all of this.” – Jana Alghoul (Lebanon/CA)
“I had the best time at Mid-term! We have seen a lot, we learned a lot. We had the opportunity to try our public speaking skills. We had the opportunity to listen to the different stories that made us realize how discrimination affects people’s lives. I got to know how to start solving problems in the community. And that it is possible to organize a project. Also, we had a lot of fun!” – Yrys Ashyrakmanova (Kyrgyzstan/IA)
“We had an amazing meeting with African-American couple, they told us about discrimination. A week passed but I still remember the sentence the Mrs. Johns said. “There is no white, black or other races, there is only one race in the world, the human race. This sentence is kind of imprinted in my brain, it makes me think how I lived my whole life and how I will live it. Discrimination is a huge problem in the world and we the future leaders must understand and teach others not to hate someone, not to separate them from others, we all are the same; we are HUMANS.” – Yurik Yolyan (Armenia/IL)
World Link believes the objectives of this conference were achieved. Student’s left the weekend understanding how they can make the world a better place for all to live.