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Get to Know Stevens Initiative Alumni

Earlier this year, our 2023 Alumni Fellows traveled to Washington, DC, to celebrate their collaborative community projects that they completed during a year-long journey of personal and professional development. We sat down with a few of these exceptional young people to learn more about their virtual exchange and Fellowship experiences. Watch all six interviews below!

Holden Garrison | Morganton, North Carolina, U.S.

When Holden first joined IREX’s Global Solutions Conversations, he had no idea it would come to mean so much more to him than just an extra credit project. This virtual exchange connects undergraduate and graduate students in the United States, Jordan, and Iraq to discuss problems in their local and global communities that reflect the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Growing up in a rural community, Holden didn’t have many opportunities to interact with young people in other countries. Global Solutions Conversations empowered Holden to enhance his area of study — global affairs — and expand his network globally, all without leaving his home state. 

Lana Bahr | Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, and Amy Sit | New York City, New York, U.S.

Without virtual exchange, fast friends Lana and Amy might never have had the opportunity to make connections and learn about different cultures in the U.S. and Iraq, respectively. This lack of opportunities for American, Iraqi, and Yemeni youth to meet became part of the inspiration for AMENA Vlogs, which connected participants from the three regions to co-produce video blogs. In collaboration with their two group members, Lana and Amy built on what they learned in Soliya’s Connect and Global Circles programs to help other young people develop lasting connections similar to theirs, while also learning digital communication and storytelling skills. 

Muhanad Belhasan | Benghazi, Libya

Having lived five years of his early childhood abroad in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, Muhanad cultivated a sense of unparalleled curiosity and a burning desire to try anything new, which prepared him to one day participate in Culturingua’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Journey. In this program, Muhanad worked on a team with high school-aged peers in San Antonio, Texas, to develop a social enterprise idea that solves a UN Sustainable Development Goal. His team went on to present their concept to a panel of successful social entrepreneurs and community leaders, and were proudly named finalists in the pitch competition! 

Angelina Freeman | Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.

Angelina dedicated much of her young adulthood to connecting across cultures. In addition to participating in World Learning’s The Experiment Digital, she also studied abroad in Malang, Indonesia, and in Halifax, Canada. As a participant in both in-person and virtual exchanges, Angelina learned the importance of sharing experiences and learning with peers around the world. She also discovered that you don’t have to make the commitment of leaving your home community to do so! Today, Angelina continues to amplify the power of virtual exchange as a program coordinator connecting young people for citizen diplomacy at The Experiment Digital. 

Jamila Naboulsi | Tangier, Morocco, and Mariama Bah | New York City, New York, U.S.

Jamila, an alum of Global Education Benchmark Group’s Sustainable Development Virtual Exchange, and Mariama, an alum of Engineering World Health’s Virtual Engineering Innovation & Cultural Exchange, are both deeply passionate about environmental sustainability. However, they noticed that many climate action efforts are implemented on a global scale, which led them to wonder what would be possible if these challenges were addressed at the local level too. This thinking inspired Building Grassroots Leaders, a leadership program that empowers young people in Morocco and the U.S. to take climate action in their communities. One of their proudest moments of their Fellowship project is when they planned and successfully ran three-day bootcamps in Tangier, Morocco, and New York City, U.S., for community-focused learning and a sustainability day of service. 

Loreley Godfrey | Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S. 

As a participant in Global Ties U.S.’s MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange, Loreley learned about cross-cultural mental health issues in her local and global communities. She credits her program for helping her better understand what it means to be a global citizen and providing her with newfound skills. This experience opened doors to new opportunities Loreley never imagined, ultimately leading her to pioneer legislation with her state senator that expanded mental health education for other young people in New Hampshire. She hopes to use what she learned in her virtual exchange and the Fellowship to continue helping solve global issues with a focus on the communities that are impacted most. 

Learn more about the Stevens Initiative Alumni Fellowship!

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