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Global Scholars gives students world-class perspectives

5/9/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Saud Al Nowais, commercial counselor for the United Arab Emirates to the United States, is shown fourth from left as he engages with Michael McCoy, of Ellet High School; Breanna Manley and Kayla Wilson, of Buchtel High School; and Corbin Gearhart and James Dang, of Firestone High School.
WEST AKRON — Students from Akron’s Firestone and Buchtel high schools are among those participating in a local program to give them exposure to foreign diplomats to expand their knowledge on global issues.

Alsaghira Al Ahbabi explains a point to Ellet High School freshman Brenna McGovern.
Millicent Ferguson, of Buchtel High School, and Dominic Musilli, of Firestone High School, at far right, listen to Saud Al Nowais during a recent Global Scholars program.
The Global Scholars Program has been coordinated by the Akron Council on World Affairs (ACWA) since 2002, according to Executive Director Jane Snider, who founded the group.

“Global education is urgent today for young people living here, and there was none,” she said. “This brings these students together in conversation and discussion with one another and with foreign diplomats.”

Firestone and Buchtel students, as well as those from Ellet High School, apply to participate in the extracurricular program, and they must fulfill certain requirements to take part, Snider said.

Working with a teacher adviser from their school and Snider, the students study news reports from major media outlets on topics such as Ohio-based employment opportunities in foreign corporations. They then get the chance to meet and discuss that topic and other relevant subjects with a foreign diplomat.

ACWA typically conducts four of the sessions per year, Snider said. Since the beginning of this year, the students met with Consul General Graham Paul from France, who emphasized France’s historic and present day relationship with the United States. In April, they met with Saud Al Nowais, commercial counselor for the United Arab Emirates to the United States, and Alsaghira Al Ahbabi, second secretary at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C.

Alsaghira Al Ahbabi, second secretary at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C., at center, spent time in discussion with Kayla Wilson and Breanna Manley, of Buchtel High School, and Michael McCoy of Ellet High School.
Photos: Krista Galloway
The students also get the chance to attend the Evening Speaker Series program later that day that is open to the public.

Darrius Alati, a West Akron resident and social studies teacher at Buchtel Community Learning Center, said 11 Buchtel students are participating in the program this year.

“They not only are engaged and learning, but they enjoy the camaraderie with students from the other schools,” Alati said. “It has tremendous impact on our students. Many of our students don’t see what goes on in the confines beyond their own neighborhood. This lets them know there’s a whole world out there to explore.”

As a teacher, Alati said he also learns a lot through his participation, and he is able to bring that knowledge into all of his classes, so even students who are not directly participating see the benefit.

“It’s important for students to understand just how big of a role these countries play,” he said.

Snider, who has a background as an executive with Proctor and Gamble, said the program would not be possible if it weren’t for the commitment of foreign governments. She has established relationships with many foreign governments, and they pay to send their diplomats here for the program.

“It’s a shared commitment between the ACWA and the students and the governments to establish a dialogue,” she said.

The program also allows students to develop leadership skills by serving as a table leader during sessions, at which they run the session.

From the diplomats, the students hear firsthand about important issues that may not be common knowledge, Snider said. She noted that when a Japanese diplomat visited, he spoke about the thousands of U.S. troops that helped in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake there.

Snider said many of the diplomats give their perspective on what is needed to achieve in the global marketplace, such as knowledge of multiple languages.

“Studying another language gives you access to how people think in that culture,” Snider said.

She added she has been impressed with the students who participate.

“They are already focused on being employed after higher education,” she said.

Snider said the ACWA has received some funding from Akron Public Schools for the program, but she is also actively seeking grants. In addition, she has hopes of expanding the program so that the students can work with local companies who wish to be involved in mentoring.

Snider said she welcomes inquiries from companies interested in establishing a relationship with ACWA to provide mentoring and information about jobs.

For more information, go to www.akronworldaffairs.com.

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